The Registered Master Builders Federation says building consent figures released on Thursday are far lower than the sector is comfortable with.
Statistics New Zealand says the trend for the number of consents has fallen 40% since the middle of last year, and is now at a level last seen in January 1983.
Just over 1,630 consents were issued in September; 366 of those for new apartments.
Registered Master Builders Federation president Brent Mettrick says there is still a lot of uncertainty in the marketplace and he does not see an improvement in the medium- to long-term.
Mr Mettrick says the situation is unsettling, but does offer builders significant scope to innovate.
ASB Bank economist Jane Turner says the outlook for housing remains bleak.
Ms Turner says she is expecting another sharp drop in the December quarter, and for the residential construction market to continue falling well into next year.