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Building Approvals, Australia

Provides the number of dwelling units and value of buildings approved

Reference period
August 2020
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Key statistics

  • The seasonally adjusted estimate for total dwellings approved fell 1.6% in August.
  • Private sector dwellings excluding houses fell 11.0%, while private sector houses rose 4.8%, in seasonally adjusted terms.
  • The seasonally adjusted estimate for the value of non-residential building approved rose 40.7%.

Main features

August key figures
  Aug 20Jul 20 to Aug 20Aug 19 to Aug 20
Seasonally adjusted   
 Total dwelling units approved13 691  -1.6   0.6
 Private sector houses  9 312    4.8 12.4
 Private sector dwellings excluding houses  4 206 -11.0-18.4

The number of dwellings approved in Australia fell 1.6% in August, in seasonally adjusted terms. The fall was driven by private sector dwellings excluding houses, which decreased by 11.0%. A significant fall in the number of apartments approved in August partially offset the rise in July. Private sector houses rose 4.8% in August, driven by strength in Western Australia and Queensland.

Dwellings approved, states and territories
Seasonally adjusted
Private sector housesPrivate sector housesTotal dwelling units approvedTotal dwelling units approved
no.Monthly % changeno.Monthly % change
New South Wales2146-0.33364-14.2
South Australia6481.4753-4.8
Western Australia115334.9130133.8
Northern Territorynananana
Australian Capital Territorynananana
Value of building approved, by building type
Seasonally adjusted
$mMonthly % change
New residential building4903.64.0
Alterations and additions to residential building784.37.0
Total residential building5687.94.4
Non-residential building4666.640.7
Total building10354.418.1

Across the states and territories, dwelling approvals fell in Tasmania (26.2%), New South Wales (14.2%) and South Australia (4.8%). Rises were recorded in Western Australia (33.8%), Queensland (8.1%) and Victoria (1.8%).

Approvals for private sector houses rose in Western Australia (34.9%), Queensland (13.9%) and South Australia (1.4%). Declines were recorded in Victoria (1.0%) and New South Wales (0.3%).


The value of total building approved rose 18.1% in August, in seasonally adjusted terms. The value of non-residential building rose 40.7%, after falling 18.8% in July. The rise in August was driven by large public projects in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

The value of total residential building also rose in August (4.4%). This was partly driven by an increase in the value of residential alterations and additions (7.0%), rising to the highest level since April 2016.


Data notes

This publication provides the number of dwelling units and value of buildings approved released in Building Approvals, Australia (cat. no. 8731.0) on 30 September 2020.

Small area data cubes and CSV files will be made available in an “Additional Information” release five business days after the main publication. These will be for Statistical Area Level 2 and Local Government Areas. Release dates are published under the “Forthcoming Issues” section of the publication and in ABS Release Advice.

A number of time series spreadsheets contain ‘np’ (not available for publication) annotations. This is due to confidential data being contained in these series

Coronavirus (COVID-19) in August

The World Health Organisation (WHO) commenced daily situation reports of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on 21 January 2020 and identified it as an international health emergency on 30 January. In March, regulations to encourage social distancing saw further impacts on the ability of businesses to trade as normal, resulting in rising unemployment and reduced household income. Travel restrictions have reduced the number of overseas arrivals to near-zero, resulting in less housing demand from overseas migrants.

After a strong rise in July, residential approvals stabilised in August following the relaxation of COVID-19 related restrictions in most states and territories. Private house approvals rose to the highest level since February 2019. However, apartment approvals continue to drag on the total dwellings series, with the total other residential series remaining close to eight-year lows. The value of alterations and additions to residential buildings was strong in August (+7.0%), the highest level recorded since April 2016 ($784m). The value of non-residential building approved rose 40.7% in August, driven by the public sector, while private sector non-residential approvals continued to fall.

Data collection activities continued to be largely unaffected in the August 2020 reference period. The ABS appreciates the support of federal, state and local government in continuing to provide the data to compile this publication.

Suspension of trend series

The trend series attempts to measure underlying behaviour in building approval activity. In the short term, this measurement will be significantly affected by changes to regular patterns in approval activity during this time, as potential home builders face on-going uncertainty. If the trend estimates in this publication were to be calculated without fully accounting for this irregular event, they would likely provide a misleading view of underlying approval activity.

It may be some time before the underlying trend in building approvals can be accurately estimated. The Building Approvals monthly trend series have therefore been suspended starting from May 2020, while the quarterly series have been suspended from the June 2020 quarter. The trend series will be reinstated when more certainty emerges in the underlying trend.

Update to seasonal adjustment methods

Building Approvals uses the concurrent seasonal adjustment method, meaning that seasonal factors are re-estimated each time a new data point becomes available. If not appropriately accounted for, unusual real-world events, such as COVID-19, can distort estimates calculated using this method. From May 2020, seasonal factors are being calculated using data up to and including April 2020, then projected from May 2020 onwards. This approach, known as the forward factor method, ensures that the seasonal factors are not distorted by COVID-19 impacts. 

Revisions this month

In this release, revisions are provided for the time period from July 2019 to July 2020. Further information about potential sources of revisions can be found in the feature article released with the January 2016 8731.0 publication - "Revisions to Building Approval Statistics".

Revisions to the total number of dwelling units approved in this issue are:



For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070. The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.

Data downloads

These data downloads are currently available in file formats that may not be accessible for users on assistive devices, such as screen readers. Request an accessible version of these files.

Time series spreadsheets

Data files

History of changes

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 8731.0

Article archive

Previous feature articles

Characteristics of apartment approvals, September 2019 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Growth in approvals, December 2018 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Change in composition of dwelling approvals, July 2016 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Implementation of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard in ABS Building Approvals collection, April 2011 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Average floor area of new residential dwellings, February 2010 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Average quarterly completion times for new houses, July 2008 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Changes in the mix of dwelling types, April 2008 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Average floor area of new residential dwellings, February 2008 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Are we building on smaller blocks?, July 2004 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Focus on the South Australian Construction Industry, June 2004 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Focus on the Tasmanian Construction Industry, June 2004 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Focus on the Queensland Construction Industry, May 2004 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Focus on the Victorian Construction Industry, April 2004 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Engineering Construction, March 2004 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Focus on the New South Wales Construction Industry, February 2004 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Average floor area of new dwellings, December 2003 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Work done on housing jobs each quarter, March 2003 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Inner city development, December 2002 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Functional classification of buildings, August 2002 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Building activity in Sydney and Melbourne, July 2002 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Changes in the mix of dwelling types, May 2002 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Construction Industry information, April 2002 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Average value of new houses, March 2002 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Largest and fastest growing areas in Australia, November 2001 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Functional classification of buildings, August 2001 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Average floor area of new dwellings, July 2001 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Identifying growth areas, May 2001 (cat. no. 8731.0)

Additional Building and Construction feature articles can be found in Feature Articles by Catalogue Number.