ON THE UP: Wayne and Christine Magarry, directors of Morgan Homes at a Goonellabah property they have built.
ON THE UP: Wayne and Christine Magarry, directors of Morgan Homes at a Goonellabah property they have built. Patrick Gorbunovs

Tide turns in building trade

THE POST-GFC building slump is nearing the end, with the latest forecasts pre- dicting a building boom for our region over the next two years.

Economic forecaster BIS Shrapnel has predicted a 24% rise in new buildings undertaken in the Richmond-Tweed region by the end of the current financial year.

The Richmond-Tweed ranked an impressive eighth in the forecaster's Regional Building 2013-2015 report which covers every statistical area in the country.

BIS Shrapnel director Kim Hawtrey said the region still had plenty of ground to cover to return to pre-GFC levels, but the tide was turning.

The peak building boom of around 2000 homes a year a decade ago fell to a low of just 560 homes in 2011-12.

But the worst is now definitely behind us, with BIS Shrapnel predicting 800 new homes to have started by the end of 2013-14, and beyond that up to 1000 by 2015.

"The post-GFC housing slump is finished and now you're looking to a sustained upswing," Mr Hawtrey said.

Solid population growth for the region combined with lower interest rates are the key factors behind the new momentum.

Mr Hawtrey also pointed to non-residential developments including the Lismore Base Hospital upgrade as bringing more full-time jobs to the area and driving the demand for housing.

The good news couldn't come soon enough for local builders of 30 years Wayne and Christine Magarry from Morgan Homes in Wollongbar.

Morgan uses only local subcontractors and suppliers so every home they build has a multiplier effect on the local economy.

"The building industry in this area is very quiet; we can only hope their forecast is correct and things will pick up," Mrs Magarry said.

Before 2008, 30-50% of their business was from investors building units and duplexes, but Mrs Magarry recalled the exact day that business dried up.

"When the Government protected the four big banks in October, that's when the phone stopped ringing," she said.

"I'd say the last 18 months has been quietest. We've always had something to do but nothing like it was pre-GFC."

But the green shoots are gradually becoming apparent, with Morgan Homes working on an eight-unit duplex development in Goonellabah, alongside local developer Joe Giles.

If the development bears fruit, Mr Giles said he was hoping to start work on a second stage of 11 units with a completion date in 2015.

Mr Giles predicted building to gather pace in Lismore and start to gain ground on coastal areas around Ballina and Tweed which are also seeing the dawn of an upswing.

"If we have a healthy construction industry, we have a healthy local economy," Mr Giles said.