Australians are building houses at record rates

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A huge shift towards building apartments has helped push Australian approvals to their highest level on record.

While Australian building approvals rose modestly in September, increasing 2.2% to 18,309 following an upwardly revised 9.5% decline in August, the figure was ahead of expectations for an increase of 1.0%. And it left total approvals up 21.4% from the levels of a year earlier.

A low base effect from September 2014, rather than any sharp acceleration in approval numbers, largely explains the significant year-on-year increase, but the total number of dwellings approved over the past year rocketed to 230,298.

The ABS report that house approvals fell 2.0% to 9,632, partially offsetting a 6.9% increase in approvals excluding houses – namely apartments – which jumped 6.9% to 9,268. From a year earlier, home approvals increased by just 1.1%, outpaced by a sharp 53.3% surge in non-house approvals.

As the chart below reveals, approvals excluding unattached housing jumped to a fresh record high of 114,218, fractionally shaded by a 116,078 increase in houses.

Approvals excluding houses made up 49.6% of all residential dwellings approved over the past year, the highest level on record.

Despite the bounce in approvals, the value of total building approved fell 2.1%, the second decline in a row. The value of residential building fell 4.3% while non-residential building rose 2.9% following a fall of 9.5% in August.

While the value of building approved fell for a second consecutive month, the value of all approvals over the past 12 months rose to $107 billion, the largest annual increase on record.

The value of residential approvals jumped to $73.57 billion, more than double the $33.45 billion level for non-residential approvals.

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