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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 10 (19 October) . . Page.. 3306..


MR GENTLEMAN: My question is to the Minister for Planning. The Canberra Times on 17 October 2006 had a headline "Housing starts dive by 24pc, says HIA". Can the minister clarify for the Assembly the state of new housing construction in the ACT and the outlook?

MR CORBELL: I thank Mr Gentleman for the question. I was concerned to see an article in the Canberra Times on 17 October this year which referred to a dive in housing starts. It is interesting that the HIA chose to refer to a category known as housing starts when the ABS uses a somewhat more bureaucratic but more comprehensive term called total dwelling unit commencements, which includes new houses—single homes, as we understand them—and townhouses and units.

When you look at the ABS statistics, you see the real picture. The real picture in the ACT is that the total of new housing starts in all categories has increased from 955 in 2004-05 to 1,043 in 2005-06, a nine per cent increase over the previous year and a far cry from the screaming headline of a dive by 24 per cent.

It is interesting to put this in the context of housing starts by year across the country. In New South Wales, housing starts declined by 18 per cent. In Victoria, they declined by 2.8 per cent. In Queensland, they declined by one per cent. In South Australia, they declined by 2.4 per cent. In Western Australia, not surprisingly, they increased by 18.5 per cent. In Tasmania, they declined by 71/2 per cent. The Northern Territory saw an increase of 6.6 per cent. All of these are according to ABS data. The ACT saw an increase of 9.2 per cent, the second highest increase in housing starts in Australia for the 2005-06 financial year.

This is a very, very positive sign. It gives the lie to the headline "Housing starts dive by 24pc". In fact, our increase in housing starts is the second highest in the country. We are one of only three jurisdictions that have seen an increase in housing starts in the last financial year.

Multiunit residential development declined in 2005-06. This is not surprising, given the long construction time frames involved in large multiunit developments. These commencements fluctuate from year to year. It also reflects a very significant number of multiunit building approvals in the previous year. With many of these projects still to be completed, we will see a significant addition to the supply of multiresidential units in the ACT in the coming 12 months.

I was pleased to see in the Canberra Times article that, despite the headline, the executive director of the HIA in the ACT believed that the outlook for the territory's housing sector looked bright. I certainly agree with that. While other Australian states are heading for a downturn this financial year, the HIA is forecasting a 10 per cent growth for the ACT. It goes on to attribute a strong local economy and labour market as contributing to these very promising results.

The government is playing its part, too. In order to meet the demand for an increase in residential land, 1,200 dwelling sites will be released into the market in this financial

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