Wellington builder shortage hammers home

The nation's capital city has been experiencing a builder shortage in recent months. According to the Ministry of business, this is a bigger issue that may take more than a few years to resolve.

Men on scaffolding

They say you can’t beat Wellington on a good day. So why isn’t most of New Zealand trying to move there? One reason could be because there isn’t enough housing stock – and not enough builders to build more.
Christchurch’s 2011 earthquake and Auckland’s strengthening economy, not to mention increased immigration, regional migration and house prices, have resulted in a classic accounting conundrum: more demand than supply in housing all over the country.
On top of that, much of New Zealand is in the throes of a builder shortage. Jacinda Adern’s Labour government has pledged to build 100,000 new homes to address the nationwide housing shortage. However, despite a building boom all over the country, qualified tradespeople – not just builders – are in short supply.
In February this year, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment told a select committee that the construction industry needs 51,000 more workers to keep up with demand. The problem isn’t likely to get better any time soon either, especially with the government committing to programmes like Kiwibuild.
Nicholas Leko from Refresh Renovations in Wellington says that Christchurch and Auckland have a part to play in the nationwide builder shortage.

“Builders go where the work is,” he says. “After the Christchurch earthquake, many builders headed south to help with the rebuild. There’s also a lot of construction going on in Auckland at the moment. I recently flew from Auckland to Wellington on a Friday night and was surprised to meet so many builders who had finished up a week of work in the city and were heading home to the regions for the weekend.”
Wellington’s unique geography restricts how many houses can be built in the first place.
“Wellington City is locked between a harbour on one side and unforgiving landscape on the other,” says Leko. “There’s literally nowhere to build in the city; you need to head north to the likes of the Hutt Valley or Porirua. That impacts how many new builds can be constructed, which makes renovating existing homes a great option. Nationally, the reason for renovating is often because the homeowner likes the area or the nearby schools, and they haven’t been able to find another suitable home up the road. In Wellington, homeowners don’t have the space to build from scratch anyway, so that adds to the appeal of renovating.”

But while there’s a builder shortage all over New Zealand, it’s even worse in the renovation sphere.
“Builders who specialise in renovations are few and far between,” says Leko. “If you’re a builder who’s looking for a fulltime job, chances are you’re going to go for a role with a large construction company like Fletchers or a new home building company like Signature Homes. In fact, renovations make up a third of all construction in New Zealand, and renovation-specific building companies are scarce. That’s why a company like Refresh is the ideal company to partner with when doing renovations, because all of our builders and contractors specialise in renovating.”
Leko says building for renovating is much more specialised than building new homes, another reason why working with a Renovation Consultant is essential.
“When you’re building a new subdivision, for example, each home is treated much like it’s just come off a conveyor belt. An older home that’s being renovated is a much harder job. Builders must work with many more existing building products and textiles, plus if the building has a bit of history, restoration can come into it too – and you can’t pretend you know what you’re doing when it comes to restoration.”
“Refresh Renovations understands the differences between building for new and building for renovations. All of our staff builders and contractors are renovation experts. We’re committed to providing the best service and the best results to every homeowner we work with.”

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*All information is believed to be true at the time of publishing and is subject to change.

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