The increase in the cost of materials slows down the growth of construction
The increase in the cost of materials, the lack of labor and generational replacement, and the inflationary crisis in general are the main causes that have slowed down the growth that was expected in the construction sector after the covid pandemic. In the words of Joan Romeu, president of the Gremi de la Construcció del Tarragonès, "it is a sum of factors, the perfect storm", although he points out that "despite the many complications we continue to operate".
According to figures from the Higher Council of Colleges of Architects of Spain (CSCAE), the area approved for new construction and rehabilitation in Spain has increased by 3.7% compared to the same period in 2021, going from 24,668,229 to 25,578,003 mtwo visas, which represents a growth of 2.9 points compared to 2019. By sectors, rehabilitation continues to offer better data than new construction. Up to September, the number of homes approved for major rehabilitation has increased by 13% compared to last year. In the field of new construction, the number of approved homes has increased by 2.1% compared to the months of January to September of last year. 1,622 more units have been approved than in said period, reaching 79,626. The increase is slightly higher (3.7%), when compared to the first nine months of 2019. A growth that they consider, however, "moderate".
Based on the fact that "the sector is not bad, but it is in difficult circumstances to be able to function properly", the president of the Gremi de la Construcció del Tarragonès laments the lack of labor and generational replacement. "In 10 years we have not hired new workers and the ones we have have aged, so if we continue like this we will be increasingly limited in terms of labor," says Romeu, who acknowledges that one of the reasons is that "historically we have not The construction sector has been seen with good eyes ». The also businessman in the sector assures that they are trying to change this perception: "We have mechanized a lot and the physical effort is more reasonable, security is increasing, it is well paid, etc.", comments Romeu, who also regrets that "traditionally It has been said that the dumbest make popsicles, but I would like to see those who think this doing mathematical calculations or throwing away a level, it is not easy and not anyone can do it ». Be that as it may, the challenge is clear: to become an attractive sector for young people.
In addition to the lack of labor, labor costs have increased for companies, since salaries have risen due to the increase in the CPI, and this adds to the cost of practically all the materials necessary to carry out a work. On this, and after up to 370 works in Catalonia have been vacated between 2021 and 2022, 56 of which in the province of Tarragona, the Government approved Royal Decree-Law 3/2022 of March 1, by which it recognizes the contractor the possibility of an exceptional review of the prices of works contracts when the increase in the cost of the materials used has had a direct and relevant impact on the economy of the contract.
However, "in this revision of the contracts, the increase in energy and fuel prices does not enter", among others, regrets Elena Marrón, CEO of Transmaber, with which the construction companies have lost profit margin in the work they carry out . Likewise, comments Marrón, "there are no major works, two years from now, for example, the investments are rather small, so no one is committed to increasing the company's infrastructure because the future is too uncertain."
At the same time, Romeu maintains that the increase in mortgage interest also affects construction progress and "the discomfort that this causes buyers", to which he adds that "in Tarragona it is difficult to find new land at an affordable price".
All this, laments the president of the Construction Guild, "means that we are not growing as we could, but we continue to grow." «We are one of the sectors that react the fastest, because we generate a lot of employment, production of materials and we give work to all the sectors behind us that supply us, that is, around us we drag a lot of work. Sometimes it comes down to the fact that we are palettes and it is not like that, "concludes Romeu.
It will be necessary to see how the sector evolves in 2023, but the CSCAE architects are pessimistic in relation to the new construction and have lukewarm expectations regarding the rehabilitation.