New Zealand residential building consents rose to their highest monthly level in two years in March amid growing demand for new housing in Auckland and Christchurch.
Building consents rose by a third to 1,394 worth $415 million in March, excluding volatile apartment figures, Statistics New Zealand said.
That's the highest monthly number of new consents issued since March 2010. Including apartments, the number of issuance rose 43 percent to 1,559 worth $430 million, the highest total since September 2008.
Auckland had the biggest increase in new dwellings at 511 in March, compared to 298 a year earlier, while Canterbury issuance rose to 281 from 166 in 2011.
"The robust increase in dwelling consent issuance in March is fairly encouraging, and points to a recovery in residential building activity over the coming year," ASB economist Christina Leung said in a note.
"The improvement in residential building activity in Auckland and Canterbury should help to alleviate the housing supply constraints which have emerged in these regions."
A tight housing supply in Auckland and stalled reconstruction in post-earthquake Canterbury have bumped up property prices as growing demand struggles to find a fresh supply of available listings.
That's kept a lid on building activity, which hit a decade-low in the September quarter last year.
The level of new issuance is still tepid compared to the tail-end of the property boom, with annual approvals at 14,596 in the 12 months ended March 31, from 24,533 in the same period in 2008.
The value of non-residential building consents fell 13 percent to $299 million in March from the same month a year earlier. On an annual basis, commercial issuance fell 0.1 percent to $3.71 billion.
ASB's Leung said non-residential consents remained weak in March, though "the recovery in commercial construction intentions in recent business surveys suggests an improvement in non-residential construction activity later in the year."