Housing crisis

Australian Regional Institute calls on policy makers to diversify responses to housing crisis

The housing crisis is “a moment in history like no other”, says the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) in its report on the country’s residential infrastructure.

The latest RAI report says that over the decade to 2020, Australia’s regional population grew by an average of 76,500 people a year.

It comes amid fears of the housing crisis across the country and businesses escaping the grip of the pandemic.

The executive dean of the University of South Australia’s Business School, Professor Andrew Beer, said regional communities were “very, very desperate”.

“The housing problems in the region of Australia are really acute and it is a problem that has been developing for a considerable time,” said Dr Beer.

A map of Australia showing the LGAs and how their housing markets were valued in the analysis.(Provided: Australian Regional Institute)

The report analyzed nearly 400 local government areas and classified housing markets into six categories.

Fifty-four LGAs were rated 1 (stuck) or 2 (volatile), with the report saying they “could be considered ‘failing’ or stagnant housing markets.”

Some of the LGAs classified as blocked were:

  • Hay, New South Wales
  • Broken Hill, New South Wales
  • Buloke, Victoria
  • Longreach, Queensland
  • Port Augusta, South Africa
  • Kalgoorlie, WA

“Market failure means the buying and selling process just doesn’t work,” Dr Beer said.

He said it could also be due to people moving out or land being zoned for other purposes such as wetland preservation or agricultural operations.

Dr Beer said he did not think current programs and policies adequately addressed housing issues.

“Some of the programs try to address the challenges of regional Australia, but they’re too focused and they don’t really pay attention to how we build more homes,” he said.

A drone filmed rows of houses in Shell Cove, south of Wollongong.
The RAI survey recommends that policymakers take a multifaceted approach rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.(ABC News: John Gunn)

What are the solutions ?

A possible solution to the crisis came from abroad.

“In many Scandinavian countries, the government will provide a funding guarantee, that they will provide a top-up to someone who takes out a loan,” Dr Beer said.

“We know that people in regional Australia have lower incomes, more variable incomes than those in capital cities.”

He said it also depends on local and state governments.

“They need to invest in new land development, they need to invest in social housing and they need to make sure there is enough zoned land for development, Dr Beer said.

What happens if the problem is not solved?

If the situation continues to deteriorate, Mr Beer said regional Australia will suffer.

“Many of these businesses that are doing so well in the Australia region will not have the workforce they need to continue to grow and succeed,” he said.

“They might actually be forced to go to the capitals where they can find their workforce.

A man with short hair and no facial hair looks at the camera.
Professor Andrew Beer is a housing expert and co-author of the study.(Provided: University of South Australia)

“And finally, what we will also see is that many people are forced into renting private homes as cash-strapped buyers from cities buy property in thriving places such as Mudgee and Wagga and rent it out on Airbnb.”

Dr Beer said the upcoming federal election would give regional Australia an opportunity “to make its voice heard”.

“Regional Australia wants policies that will increase supply…that will ensure everyone in the community has a housing option available to them,” he said.