There is a clear freefall in the rate of housing activity, which comes at the worst possible time on the back of Net Overseas Migration rising to rates not seen since post world war 2.

Housing and particularly the money shot solutions being a key in a door or a housing estate with a ribbon to be cut is clearly what is represented as the measure of the success. The reality however is that it’s what you cannot see that is possibly more critical to solving the housing crisis than what you can.

It’s the water, sewerage electrical and utilities infrastructure it’s what sits in the ground as well as the more visible roads prior to any chippie turns up on site.

In advance of any slab pour, finishing trade or handover to the waiting homeowner there is an army of high viz civil work that is often not prioritised and rarely seen to the general public. Nor its role elevated to the national focus that can bring community infrastructure such as housing out of the ground quicker.

In simplest terms not one dollar in housing can be spent until a dollar has been spent in civil and we are just not getting our head around this as a country.

New home builds are in record freefall since 2017 with completions to fall under 170,000 in the FY2024 year which is responsive to a mixture of planning red tape, infrastructure delivery procurement timeframes, and skills gaps associated with construction particularly civil.

The future forecast of 1.2 million homes over the next five years to 2029 seems dead in the water under the current settings, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

According to recent Jobs and Skills Australia reports, we see key civil infrastructure occupations such as civil engineers, draftspersons, and technicians, as well as earthmoving plant operators and key other civil roles falling into national shortage with future demand status.

That said there are government funded apprenticeships for farriers, Jockeys and watchmaking, yet such occupations such as Civil Construction design or operations supervisors, bridge construction, pipe laying, road construction are not funded apprenticeships yet they play a vital role in delivering housing.

Whilst a deficit in future civil skills training incentives has been frustrating and longstanding, this strategic review is perfectly placed to start to focus on the training for future communities that require bridges, roads, rail and other civil infrastructure that enables communities.

We are heading towards a period of rapid transformation where Australian Apprenticeships incentives are not focusing on many skills that provide the vital infrastructure that builds communities. It is an underlying reason that Australia is falling behind by up to 70,000 homes of the 240,000 FY2024 target.

“The release of the latest population numbers present a shocking reality that the nation simply is busting at the seams with not enough housing and the infrastructure that precedes it to cope with what is shaping up to be a Cost of Living Catastrophe for many in FY2025,” said Nicholas Proud, Chief Executive Officer, Civil Contractors Federation National.

“The latest Sept 2023 ABS numbers show a Net Overseas Migration number of 548,800 which when overlaid with a housing completions number of around 172,000 new homes for the period only places upward pressure on those finding a house to rent or buy which equates to further costs for a roof over the head.

“With Federal Budget NOM forecasts revised up from May 2022 (180,000), October 2022 (235,000), May 2023 (400,000) and 548,000, today there is a compounding unexpected forecast that can only add more pressure on the Australian housing market and the infrastructure required. Coupled with a downgrading of the FY2024 and FY2025 dwelling investment there will be less than enough housing coming through exacerbated a mixture of planning red tape, infrastructure delivery procurement timeframes, and skills gaps associated with construction particularly civil.

Many civil occupations are playing a key role in delivering energy transition creating green energy yet not prioritised as apprenticeships a point that will be critical for the attention and realignment under the strategic review of the Australian Apprenticeship incentive system led by Federal Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor.

If civil skills which are critical to cost of living and affordable housing are ignored, yet changing horses hooves is we really haven’t got our priorities right in 2024.

When there is non-prioritisation and lack of skills funding for civil occupations to catch up with the shortfalls its no wonder subdivision, water, sewerage, roads, energy transformation and essential infrastructure is compounding the lack of housing underway.

The delivery of infrastructure takes significant time and the planning timeframes are extending these delays. Bringing the planning time frames down is critical. Having those occupations that are delivering the infrastructure recognised and provided trade status in cases is critical and of course investing in those skills is needed now.

Government infrastructure investment plays a pivotal role in fostering a robust economy, driving industry investment and job creation. But smaller funding infrastructure commitments under $50m by the Federal, State and Territory Governments over the next decade is vital also to ensure housing makes its way to regional Australia.

Rethinking, the public provision of funding for infrastructure, rather than pass on to developers who simply shift this onto buyers is also pivotal to reducing the cost of a home and tackle significant demand as exacerbated by the current migration boom.

“The challenge we have with blockages in housing supply and community infrastructure is the shortcomings of not having invested and prioritised the upskilling of the local workforce.

“Fast tracking of visas to increase the labour pool can meet the gaps, but really doesn’t fix the longer-term systemic problem of skilling a sustainable civil workforce that needs to be in place before every, hospital, school or home can be delivered.

“After decades of neglect culminating in a housing crisis, the Federal government has a once in a generation opportunity to provide increased government funding toward civil training and an ABS review of the ANZSCO Codes to include relevant and non-prioritised civil occupations.