THE number of dwellings approved has risen for two consecutive months, increasing by 7.8 per cent in September 2012, in seasonally adjusted terms, according to the latest data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
Dwelling approvals increased in September in New South Wales (22.8 per cent), Victoria (5.2 per cent) and Queensland (2.6 per cent) but decreased in Tasmania (-9.6 per cent), Western Australia (-2.4 per cent) and South Australia (-1.3 per cent), in seasonally adjusted terms.
In seasonally adjusted terms, approvals for private sector houses rose 1.2 per cent in September. Private sector house approvals rose in Western Australia (4.7 per cent), Victoria (3.3 per cent), South Australia (1.7 per cent) and New South Wales (1.3 per cent) but fell in Queensland (-3.6 per cent).
According to the ABS, the value of total building approved rose 3.2 per cent in September, in seasonally adjusted terms, and has risen for 2 months. The value of residential building rose 12.5 per cent while non-residential building fell 12.3 per cent.
The Housing Industry Association said the September 2012 result took the total number of approvals to 13,388, the third highest monthly result in over twelve months.
"It is pleasing to see approvals moving in the right direction, but the improvements are occurring from a historically low starting point," said HIA Economist, Geordan Murray.
"The volume of approvals in the last three months implies a rate of around 140,000 new home completions per annum, which is a low level relative to the housing requirements of Australia's population," added Mr Murray.
Mr Murray said that geographically, the improvements in September were narrowly based, with only the east coast states recording improved approval numbers.
"New South Wales was the stand out performer where it seems the state government's combination of stamp duty concessions and grants may be having an effect," he said.
"From a relatively low base in August, total approvals in NSW were up by 22.8 per cent in September. Underpinning this result was a 48.0 per cent increase in the multi-unit segment, meanwhile approvals for detached dwellings improved by a modest 1.4 per cent."
Master Builders Australia said that despite the rise in the September building approvals figures, the short term outlook remains fragile for residential builders.
Wilhelm Harnisch, Master Builders Australia Chief Executive Officer, said the September increase in the total number of building approvals does not accurately reflect industry conditions, with builders continuing to report that activity is low.
"The 7.8 per cent increase in the total number of dwelling units approved dramatically masks the ongoing sluggish housing sector recovery," Mr Harnisch said.
"The more telling statistic is the private sector housing figure, which only increased by 1.2 per cent. The overall figure is masked by a 17.9 per cent increase in residential apartments, which is still recovering from a 40 per cent decrease from July.
Mr Harnisch said that while welcome increases were recorded in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, he added that overall, the housing picture is one of a sluggish recovery and called for the Reserve Bank of Australia to make further cuts to interest rates.