Australia’s architecture profession is calling for more stimulus as a new survey showed that almost two-thirds of architects have seen projects stall and almost one in eight have been either laid of or had a change in employment circumstance since COVID-19.

As Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg prepares to hand down his budget update, the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) has released the results of its June survey of 428 respondents from across the architecture profession.

Amongst survey respondents, as a result of COVID-19:

  • 87 percent (consistent across practice size) reported they have had projects that have stalled.
  • 68 percent have either become unemployed or had a change in their employment status.
  • 27 percent indicated that their practice had been forced to lay off or stand down staff. Among large practices, 69.39 percent reported forced layoffs or stand downs.
  • 18 percent indicated that their practice had lost earnings.
  • 11 percent indicated that government relief initiatives have been extremely or somewhat helpful with a similar percentage indicating they have accessed JobKeeper either themselves or through their employer.
  • There was a measurable shift in employment status with full-time employment decreasing from 69.09 percent to 59.72 percent and a corresponding increase in part-time and casual employment, to 13.58 percent and 2.35 percent respectively.
  • The increase in part-time employment status was consistent across genders. Women increased by 6.96 percent to 17.39 percent and men by 6.1 percent to 9.54 percent, reflecting the generally higher rate of part-time employment for women pre-pandemic.
  • 59 percent have negotiated a reduction in practice overheads, whilst 45.67 percent have not tried or needed to negotiate a reduction.
  • 39 percent have experienced supply chain issues due to delays from importing building materials from overseas – including, carpet, tiles, joinery, stone, steel, light fittings, windows, furniture and building facades, computers and equipment.

According to the survey, uncertainty caused by the pandemic was a significant reason for the disruption in project pipelines.

Clients’ reticence to commit and issues with financing, including a lack of investor confidence and slowing financial approvals from lenders, were key factors behind the slowdown.

However, town planning delays remained the most prevalent factor holding up project progress, despite government initiatives to fast track approvals as a way of stimulating Australia’s economic recovery.

In response, the AIA is calling for greater stimulus measures.

These would include incentives for people to upgrade the sustainability of their homes, more upgrades to public housing and more investment in social and affordable housing.

AIA CEO Julia Cambage said the survey results were consistent with recently released ABS data showing a significant drop off in residential approvals.

“These findings have serious implications for jobs, not only in architecture but also in the broader construction sector which employs nearly 1 in 10 Australians,” Ms Cambage said.

“The number of projects that have been put on hold or postponed indefinitely indicates that the pandemic will continue to have a significant negative impact on jobs beyond the short-term pain currently being felt.

“Clear opportunities exist to stimulate activity in the sector in ways that will deliver immediate and longer-term benefits, especially in the residential sector, as outlined in our Economic Stimulus submission.”

The latest call comes as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has promised is set to deliver his budget update in Canberra today.

As part of the measures, Frydenberg has promised income support beyond the expiration of the current JobKeeper scheme.

The Federal Government has also extended a $40 billion loan program which will now see the Government guarantee 50 percent of loans made to small business with a value of up to $1 million – up four times from the previous scheme limit of $250,000.