Report calls for housing re-think
Experts have called for a more diverse set of responses to Australia's housing crisis.
Australia has entered a “moment in history like no other” according to the Regional Australia Institute (RAI).
The group has issued a report into the nation's residential infrastructure, which states that in the decade to 2020, regional Australia's population grew an average of 76,500 people per year.
This growth, combined with an exodus of cities during the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to housing crisis fears across the country.
Executive Dean of University of South Australia's Business School, Professor Andrew Beer, says regional communities have become “very, very desperate”.
“Housing problems in regional Australia are really acute and this is a problem that has been building for a considerable time,” Dr Beer said.
An analysis of almost 400 local government areas was used to rank housing markets into six categories.
Fifty-four LGAs were ranked 1 (stalled) or 2 (volatile), which the report says means they “could be considered as ‘failed’ or stagnant housing markets”.
“Market failure means that the process of buying and selling simply doesn't work,” Dr Beer said.
“In some country towns the market fails because you simply can't get anyone to build a home for you in that place.”
Dr Beer says current programs and policies are not dealing with housing issues sufficiently.
“Some of the programs do try and address the challenges of regional Australia, but they're too tightly targeted and they don't really pay attention to how we build more houses,” he said.
“In many Scandinavian countries, the government will provide a guarantee of finance, that it provides a top-up to someone borrowing a loan.
“So if they get a loan of say $250,000 but in fact they receive an interest-free component of $50,000, which allows them to buy the home they can afford.
“We know that people in regional Australia have lower income, more variable incomes than those in the capital cities.”
He said local and state governments need to increase their roles.
“They need to invest in the development of new land, they need to invest in social housing, and they need to make sure there's enough land zoned for development,” Dr Beer said.
“A lot of those businesses doing so well in regional Australia won't have the workforce they need to continue to grow and continue to be successful.
“They might actually be forced into capital cities where they can get their workforce.
“The other major problem is we're going to have increasing numbers of people living rough in country towns.
“And finally what we'll also see is a lot of people forced into private rentals as cashed-up buyers from the cities go and buy property in successful places such as Mudgee and Wagga and rent them out on Airbnb.
“Regional Australia wants policies that will add to supply … that will make sure everyone in the community has a housing option available to them.”