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Interview with Holly Stearnes, Sky News


Event: Interview with Holly Stearnes, Sky News
Date: Saturday, 13 April 2024, 4.20pm AEST
Speakers: Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: Labour shortages, Housing Accord

Holly Stearnes, host Sky News: I want to move on for now, though, and despite several federal government housing initiatives at the moment, Australia is on track to fall short of its national housing target of building 1.2 million new homes over the next five years. Now, this is all according to forecasts from Master Builders Australia. CEO Denita Wawn joins me now. Denita, thank you for your time today. What are the forecasts showing you?

Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia: It shows us that we’ll get to a million homes, which was the initial target by the government over that five-year period. But they made a commitment to go to 1.2 homes, which is what we know we need to house all Australians. And we’re saying that we’re going to fall short over that five year period pre-dominantly because of shortage of skilled labour, but also, slowness of planning changes that were part of the key commitments by national cabinet last year. So yeah, we know we can get over a million, but 1.2 at the moment is looking a bit too hard and we need all efforts to try and see if we can resolve those barriers.

Holly: Would you agree at the moment that workforce shortages and supply constraints are the biggest challenges facing the sector at the moment? I have been speaking with numerous people in the sector and the main consensus is that these are the biggest challenges at the moment.

Denita: Absolutely, every single builder and specialist subcontractor I talk to at the moment, they all talk about people. The shortage of people means that it takes longer to build and it costs more, and we’re seeing that the cost of building a home has blown out to nearly 40 per cent more than pre-COVID. The time taken to build a home has also by blown out quite significantly from an average of nine months for a detached home to 15 months, and we’re seeing high rise taking three years instead of two years. And the costs are astronomical to actually undertake that activity. So, a lot of people are not building because it’s too expensive and that is part of the reason why we’re saying that there’s going to be a shortage. So, we need to see inflation down, we need to see interest rates down, and we need to see a holistic approach by all levels of government and the industry as well, to try and ensure that we can meet those skilled gaps that we have at the moment.

Holly: I mean a more favourable investment market is beginning to near. How do you see this faring in the future?

Denita: Certainly, in the short term of the remaining of this financial year, we are concerned, but our forecasts indicate that we will see a downturn in inflation. We may see some interest rate cuts sometime next year, and so therefore, we might see a greater profitable investment market for property. Nevertheless, unless we solve this people shortage and unless we solve the issue of planning constraints, then we will still be hampered in terms of meeting our targets. So, we’re very keen to see what happens in the federal budget next month, and we’re also keeping track of the decisions being made at state and territory level in terms of those planning issues. But we’re focused very much at the moment on migration and also about training apprentices as well.

Holly: Denita, I really wanna thank you for your time today and appreciate you speaking with us about it. It’s definitely an issue at the forefront of not only most people at the moment, but specifically the building sector. Denita, thank you for your time.

Denita: Thank you.

Media contact:
Dee Zegarac
National Director, Media & Public Affairs
0400 493 071


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