Builders in Northern Tasmania expect up to 7000 building and construction industry jobs to be shed in the state during the next 12 months if governments fail to urgently increase demand for new housing.
Apprentice and contractor positions will be among the first to go if more government funding isn't temporarily given to people who want to build new homes, Launceston-based builder and Housing Industry Association Northern committee chairman Ty Turner fears.
Mr Turner said if the HIA's forecasting was right and there was a 40 per cent decline in the number of new slabs poured between now and July next year, the consequences would hit hard.
"We'll be a bit skinnier on workload and we might have to reduce the amount of contractors we use and try and just hold onto our directly employed staff," Mr Turner said.
Mr Turner said the industry was anxiously awaiting an announcement about a government support package, expected to be unveiled this week.
Premier Peter Gutwein has pledged to launch the "most aggressive" construction program in Tasmania's history - a move Mr Turner said would help alleviate uncertainty.
The bleak outlook the industry faced was not being helped by uncertainty surrounding the government's intentions, Mr Turner said.
"The banks are still lending money, but they are very nervous about people's situations, particularly casual employees so it's harder for consumers to get their loans now.
"I think it's just as damaging to have uncertainty around stimulus."
Mr Turner said the industry supported many small businesses who would benefit from more help or suffer without it.
"The benefits of a buoyant building industry just flow through the economy, from your local takeaway shop to safety shops in town, suppliers, manufactures down to the delivery drivers who are running materials around."
In addition to providing cash incentives as a form of stimulus, Mr Turner said other barriers to new home construction - like land shortages, inconsistent regulation across councils and unnecessary bureaucratic red tape - also needed to be urgently addressed.
"Land shortages are a huge problem. Everything that is titled at the moment is pretty much sold.
"With the process now, planning requirements require developers to provide so much information to councils around applications, before they can even get a 'yes' or a 'no' and that's really slowing down land developments."
The HIA's Tasmanian executive director Stuart Collins said the COVID-19 created challenges confronting the industry were "dire".
"People use the terms 'unprecedented', 'profound' and 'extraordinary' and I think they are all apt in describing the current situation," Mr Collins said. "We've been through recessions and a global financial crisis, but the economic potential now for adverse impacts is probably greater than anything we've faced previously."
Mr Collins said the HIA also needed more help to increase demand for renovations, as well as new homes.
"There's no point bringing that demand forward when people run into blockages or impediments that delay projects," he said.
"We're not saying it's open slather but there's certain projects that lend themselves to being pushed through the system and our view is that if it's standard housing in land developments that have already been zoned residential, they should not be held up."
Organisations release new plan to preserve jobs
About 500 construction projects in Tasmania have already been cancelled, delayed or adversely impacted because of COVID-19, according to the Civil Contractors Federation and Master Builders Tasmania.
The organisations have launched a joint plan they want the state government to support as part of a bid to rebuild Tasmania.
An increase in the first home owner grant, cash to help owners shield their homes from the impact of natural disasters and a fund to accelerate the removal of asbestos from public and private buildings are among the ideas advanced in the plan.
The organisations also want land development for new housing supply to be fast-tracked, government infrastructure spending brought forward, more red tape removed and the implementation of major projects legislation to be expedited.
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Rachel Matheson, the Civil Contractors Federation chief executive, said the plan would save thousands of jobs.
"It's one thing for the government to set bold targets and even bolder budgets, it's another thing to deliver on that," Ms Matheson said. "What we need is the government to get behind us and work with us to pull out all the stops."
Master Builders Tasmania executive director Matthew Pollock called for urgent government intervention.
"We know from previous recessions that if the government doesn't act immediately to support our industry, the workforce can drop by up to 30 per cent and it often takes years to recover," he said.
Building and Construction Minister Elise Archer said the government was working with the industry to address concerns raised.
"The Tasmanian Government understands the COVID-19 challenges faced by the building and construction sector," Ms Archer said.