Rural housing shortage demands policy reset

Adjournment matter

Victoria needs a policy reset to resolve critical housing shortages in rural communities and enhance recovery in housing and rental markets. Fast-tracking approvals of ‘Big Build’ funding for projects like Yarriambiack Shire’s housing plan is one option.

Ms MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (18:09):

My adjournment is for the Minister for Housing.

It follows the comments made to MLCs last week about chronic housing shortages in Northern Victoria during our Bright sitting by the Alpine Shire mayor John Forsyth and other local stakeholders during a committee inquiry hearing. It also follows my regular discussions throughout this term of Parliament with Northern Victoria councils and constituents about these shortages. As Cr Forsyth said, solutions to this problem for affected communities are in need of development across all levels of government.

My adjournment matter tonight is also informed by the release last month of a detailed new report from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) titled Pathways to Regional Housing Recovery from COVID-19. That study contains a number of valuable observations and findings, including important analysis and commentary about some of the many specific, discrete housing issues and recovery needs faced by regional and rural communities in the wake of the pandemic. For some rural and regional locations in Victoria, the existence of housing shortages is relatively new.

These shortages also spill over to a range of other problems, foremost among them the inability of many employers to attract a sufficient number of suitably skilled staff to local organisations and services. As we all heard last week and, indeed, as the AHURI study lays bare specifically in relation to the impacts of the COVID experience, these housing shortages are also typical and very wrongly becoming increasingly pronounced.

Among the reasons for this are that many regional areas across Australia are now experiencing a marked increase in housing demand. The authors of the AHURI report say this increase is most likely due to changing household preferences towards regional living and the notion that this is now perceived as a far safer prospect than living in a city in a pandemic. The impacts of all of this are being witnessed in a range of forms, including in significant price rises, reductions in vacancy rates, new pressures on housing and rental affordability in these areas and demand generally very substantially outstripping supply.

The action I therefore seek from the Minister is clarification on what changes, if any, will be made to the policy settings in his portfolio to address not just the critical housing shortages in rural and regional areas but also to enhance recovery in housing and rental markets specifically.