Western councils unite to tackle housing crisis

Regional Australia Institute to find solutions to WQ housing crisis

Agribusiness
Diwa Hopkins, a senior economist with the Regional Institute Australia, is undertaking an investigation into housing market failure in outback Queensland.

Diwa Hopkins, a senior economist with the Regional Institute Australia, is undertaking an investigation into housing market failure in outback Queensland.

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So serious is the market failure in housing in western Queensland, and the acute housing shortage that has emerged, that the Western Queensland Alliance of Councils has commissioned a study to be undertaken by the Regional Australia Institute.

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So serious is the market failure in housing in western Queensland, and the acute housing shortage that has emerged, that the Western Queensland Alliance of Councils has commissioned a study to be undertaken by the Regional Australia Institute.

The links between housing and economic development have been a topic of discussion between the RAI and various western Queensland councils for several years, but this will be the first thorough assessment undertaken.

According to the CEO of the Remote Area Planning and Development Association David Arnold, the problem stems from a mismatch between the costs of construction and renovation and the value of the existing housing stock, which results in the quantity and quality of available housing not keeping up with market demands.

While it's a well-known problem, the study aims to quantify the scale of the market failure, assess the social and economic impacts, and develop a package of responses.

Diwa Hopkins, an RAI senior economist, has met with stakeholders in Longreach and Barcaldine so far, including council planning staff, real estate agents, builders, financiers including banks and non- bank lenders, mortgage brokers and valuers as well as state government regional managers.

According to Mr Arnold, interviews will continue in May.

"Anyone fitting the description above who hasn't had an opportunity to speak to Diwa should contact RAPAD to contribute to the study," he said.

Housing shortage 'utterly crippling'

The "utterly crippling" effect of the housing shortage, which is quashing local government strategies for regional economic growth, and the difficulties being experienced to borrow to own or build a home, plus ways of dealing with it, were put to the Prime Minister when he visited Cloncurry at the end of January.

Burke Shire Mayor Ernie Camp spoke to Scott Morrison about the 'postcode discrimination' policy of banks with regard to lending policies.

The Burke Shire Council would like to see the First Home Buyers grant targeted to remote regions, and be able to be used to buy existing houses.

The inability of qualified staff such as teachers and council executives to find places to rent, and how rural development was being hamstrung as a result, was also highlighted by Samantha O'Toole, the chairwoman of the South West Queensland Region of Councils.

Councils believe the matter can be addressed by federal and state governments via a number of strategies, changing the guidelines for funding under the federal Drought Communities Program being one of them.

The acute housing shortage is so concerning to local governments throughout rural Queensland that it's one of the top three priorities for attention for the Western Queensland Alliance of Councils, which is holding its general assembly in Richmond from May 17-19.

While the results of the study will be published in July, a presentation on the study will be made at the assembly, involving leaders from an area covering 60 per cent of Queensland, along with state and federal ministers and departmental representatives.

RAPAD chairman Tony Rayner described the housing market study as a proactive step to focus on one of the west's major challenges.

"Keeping up the momentum to tackle the region's issues and open up opportunities has continued to be our focus in 2021," he said.

"Western Queensland punches well above its weight in terms of its contribution to the economy and my mayoral and councillor colleagues are ready to make sure that continues.

"Only by working together towards solutions for major issues like housing, can we truly unlock the amazing opportunities in the west."

The inability of western areas to capitalise on the opportunity brought about by the COVID pandemic, where families and businesses want to relocate to regional areas, because of the housing crisis, made the issue a priority for SWQROC chairwoman Samantha O'Toole.

"The lack of adequate and affordable housing is creating a real barrier to attracting and retaining people in our local communities," she said.

"The issues are complex and it's going to require all levels of government, the banking and finance sector as well as the building and construction industry to pull together on this one.

"And, if we can find real solutions, the long- term potential will be huge - as we've always said, if you invest in the west, it pays dividends."

The three-day WQAC assembly program themed Building Blocks for the Future will include keynote speeches and panel sessions addressing the issues of regionalisation, road network planning and investment, digital connectivity, financial capacity and capability, regional air services, and resilience and sustainable recovery.

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