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Regional housing starts hit all-time low, despite boom in the north

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Residential building approvals have collapsed to their lowest-ever level in regional Queensland with the construction-dependent Gold Coast leading the falls with a 42 per cent slide over the year to May.

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But the miracle cities of Mackay and Townsville were a standout. The coal capital of Mackay has remained buoyant throughout years of rising unemployment in Queensland and its residential housing approvals increased 25 per cent for the year from a low base. Toowoomba was also up 13 per cent.

Approvals in greater Brisbane fell 7 per cent over the year, Ipswich was down 5 per cent while Logan fell 22 per cent. The Sunshine Coast fell 15 per cent.

Residential housing is a key economic indicator because it reflects the confidence level in the economy and also points to retail performance as homeowners will spend on new furniture and white goods for a new house.

Conus Consultancy economist Pete Faulkner Queensland’s overall approvals were down 14.8 per cent with the regional areas outside greater Brisbane falling 18.5 per cent.

“The changes across the regions are very varied with Townsville enjoying a 35.6 per cent increase (albeit from a very low base) while in the Gold Coast approvals fell by 41.9 per cent year on year.  In Cairns we saw a 12.1 per cent year on year decline,” Faulkner said.

“The main point I would make is that approvals are falling fast across most regions.

“Obviously (there is) some COVID impact here, but it’s hard to tell how much and also how much it might yet impact coming months.”

He said the Gold Coast was likely to stay depressed.

“I can’t see a lot of demand for units on the beach while the tourism industry is stagnant,” he said.

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