Despite a deepening national housing crisis, lagging housing construction has seen 37,074 dwellings in Australia remain 'approved but not yet commenced'.   

The latest analysis from KPMG Australia shows almost half of the approved but not yet commenced dwellings are accounted for by Sydney (30%) and Melbourne (18%). 

Approved but not yet commenced homes as of 31 December 2023

Region Houses Townhouses & Apartments Total Dwelings % different to December average 2019-2023
Sydney 2,310 8,860 11,170 7.7%
Melbourne 1,740 5,100 6,840 11.3%
Brisbane 940 1,670 2,610 8.0%
Adelaide 2,180 1,280 3,460 -2.3%
Perth 1,070 930 2,000 -8.9%
Rest of Australia 4,775 6,219 10,994 19.3%
Australia 13,015 24,059 37,074 9.4%

The data for December 2023 shows the glut of ‘not yet commenced housing’ is 8% higher in Sydney and 11% higher in Melbourne compared to the five-year December average.  

KPMG Urban Economist, Terry Rawnsley explains: “There is always a lag between housing being approved and construction commencing, but current estimates show an abnormal number of dwellings sitting in this category, suggesting other market factors are stalling the pipeline of new builds.”  

Almost 80% of the stalled dwellings in Sydney and Melbourne were townhouses and apartments. Increased construction costs have hindered the commencement of many higher-density projects, and increases in interest rates are impacting buyers' purchasing power.  

Terry Rawnsley says that the last two quarters in Sydney have been particularly challenging.  

“The most recent quarter have seen more than 11,000 dwellings approved but not yet commenced. With the pool of newly approved dwellings falling, one might expect the pool of not yet commenced dwellings to be falling too, but it remained steady.” 

Melbourne’s December result of 6,840 dwellings was the second highest over the past five years. 

“Putting aside the holiday season blip, Melbourne’s higher-density developments are still facing challenges in making them financially viable,” said Mr Rawnsley. 

Brisbane (2,610 dwellings) also saw an 8% increase over the five-year trend. Brisbane bucked the trend with the increase in approved but not yet commenced dwellings being driven by detached housing rather than townhouses and apartments.  

A strong housing market in Perth saw the December figures 9% below the five-year trend. The West Australian capital has been sheltered from some of the challenges facing the east coast market.  

“The number of approved but not yet commenced dwellings has been drifting lower over the past couple of years in Perth, but this isn’t surprising since there has also been a significant fall in approvals, so the pipeline is drying up,” Terry Rawnsley said.  

The number of approved but not yet commenced in the Rest of Australia in December 2023 was almost 20% higher, driven by a record number of dwellings in the ACT (1,772) being approved but not yet commenced. This is 63.5% higher than the ACT the five-year December trend.  

The Rest of NSW has been trending upwards over the past five years and is almost 20% higher than the five-year trend for December. This highlights that the challenges in the construction sector are not confined to the major capital cities. 

Approved but not yet commenced homes as of 31 December 2023 

Region Total dwelings % different to December average 2019-2023
Rest of NSW 4,423 19.4%
Rest of VIC 1,057 2.0%
Rest of QLD 2,092 9.6%
Rest of SA 712 18.8%
Rest of WA 319 3.2%
ACT 1,772 63.5%
TAS 570 8.5%
NT 49 -2.4%
Rest of Australia 10,994 19.3%

Terry Rawnsley says despite the large number of stalled builds there are positive signs the backlog may soon ease.  

“With housing prices now rising, strong population growth, and construction costs starting to stabilise, developers could be gaining more confidence to start housing projects.”   

For further information

Hayden Jewell
Corporate Communications 
+61 423 868 454