Housing crisis

South Australia’s regional housing crisis continues, survey finds

A survey of towns in South Australia’s industrial north shows that housing availability is falling short of projected population growth for the region.

The survey by Spencer Gulf Cities, an organization comprising the councils of Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla, revealed projected population growth of 9% over the next 10 years.

However, the demand for housing far exceeded the area’s capacity, said Spencer Gulf Cities President and Port Pirie Mayor Leon Stephens.

Earlier this week, a family of five from Riverland told the ABC they planned to pitch a tent along the Murray River to live in, after they were continually blocked from securing a rental.

Tackling the housing crisis

Cr Stephens said the results showed a number of issues that have slowed housing development, including supply issues and higher bank deposit ranges in smaller areas.

“You know, I remember about three years ago in Port Pirie, the average time for a house to be on the market was probably 30 months, and now we’ve sold them in 30 minutes,” a- he declared.

Cr Stephens said the survey also found that young people and low-income workers were struggling to pay their rent and put food on the table.

He said regional areas like Port Pirie were under additional pressure with workers moving into town and taking up rentals or temporary accommodation that would generally be available to tourists.

The survey showed that tourist accommodation had up to 98% worker occupancy.

Port Pirie Mayor Leon Stephens said paid Centrelink workers were struggling to pay their rent.(ABC News)

Not done enough

Ahead of the South Australian state election, Cr Stephens said he had been talking with government sectors about how housing issues could be addressed.

“There were a thousand houses promised by the state some time ago and of that number, maybe 10% would be built in the area, and if you divide that 10% by three major cities … we’ll probably get about 33 houses built in our area on this part.”

Cr Stephens said there was state and local government land that could be freed up to build more homes and meet demand.

“Freeing up crown land is probably a good start, but then trying to put programs in place with builders who actually find it interesting to build in the areas. [is also needed],” he said.

Whyalla from the air
Housing demand is not being met in regional towns like Whyalla.(ABC News: Isabel Dayman)

What must change?

The state’s top body for service providers, the South Australian Council of Social Service, has listed housing pressure among its priorities for the upcoming state elections.

Without commenting on the Spencer Gulf Cities report, CEO Ross Womersley said more investment in public housing is needed to ease pressure on the rental market and provide homes for more people.

“Not only do we get the benefits of the houses being built in our areas, but we also get the benefits of all those jobs that would be circulating and…it would also drive down the prices in the broader rental market in the areas because the availability wouldn’t be be quite so tight.”