Approvals for the construction of new homes hit a wall in March as units and townhouses drove a seasonally adjusted 15.5 per cent decline in overall activity.
Approvals for private sector houses fell 3.2 per cent, while the “other dwellings” category, which includes apartment blocks and townhouses, plunged 30.6 per cent.
Analysts were anticipating a seasonally-adjusted 12 per cent drop in overall activity following a surprising lift in February.
Building and construction economist for BIS Oxford Economics Tim Hibbert said the downward trend would likely continue throughout 2019.
“Negative leads (are) still coming through from property prices, turnover rates, housing finance and land sales,” Mr Hibbert said.
Friday’s figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics were a significant turnaround from February’s unexpected rise, when overall building activity increased by 19.1 per cent.
The data has added significance ahead of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s meeting on Tuesday, where weak housing conditions and low consumer confidence are sure to play a role in its rates decision.
ABS director of construction statistics Justin Lokhorst said the overall monthly decline in building activity was driven by falls in NSW (27.4 per cent) and Victoria (27.0 per cent).
Over the 12 months to March, total building approvals for dwellings fell by a seasonally adjusted 27.3 per cent.
The Australian dollar edged to a four-month low of 69.85 US cents immediately after the data’s 1130 AEST release and was 69.91 US cents at 1205 AEST.