Regional settings miss mark

12 May 2023

In May 2022, the Regional Australia Institute for Australia published the “Building the good life, foundations of regional housing” Report, which discussed the growing popularity of regional Australia as places to live and the need for place-based solutions to address Australia’s regional housing problems.

In particular, the report highlights that the regional markets are not well served by the current policy settings, and argues that the current government's policy position limits new housing supply and fails to address affordability in the regions.

Housing affordability is at the core of our nation's cost of living crisis, and the report recommends several measures to meet the crisis head-on, including introducing financial specialists for rural and regional areas in need of assistance and activating supply and demand for rural housing in our regions.

Whilst we are aware of measures moving through the Senate to increase housing affordability, which we encourage all members to support, we believe there has been a missed opportunity in the budget to address measures that impact investment by rural businesses in affordable housing, in conjunction with broader reforms at state and local level.

To accelerate investment in the local housing market, we must streamline the planning and approval processes for local builders, landowners, and homebuyers. This includes providing them with easier access to financial assistance that meets their needs. By doing so, we can encourage more people to invest in local housing stock and contribute to the growth and development of the community.

To address the challenges faced by our regions, it is imperative for both state and federal policymakers to review our current population forecasts and take necessary measures to remove regulatory barriers in the areas of housing and social infrastructure.

We have received feedback from our members about the difficulties they face in accommodating seasonal workers due to the existing tenancy laws, and the need to repurpose their properties for alternative rental uses during off-seasons.

Rural landowners in Tasmania face further challenges when it comes to building accommodation and rentals due to zoning regulations. In many cases, rural land is zoned as either agricultural or conservation land, which can restrict the types of buildings that can be constructed.

Landowners are again frustrated by the lack of flexibility in regulation if they seek to build additional accommodation or rental properties on their land, particularly if they want to do so for commercial purposes.

Zoning restrictions can also limit the size and location of buildings, which can impact the viability of rental properties. Additionally, local councils may have specific by-laws or regulations to be followed when building on rural land. As such, rural landowners may need to navigate a complex set of regulations and requirements in order to build new accommodation or rental properties on their land.

These issues require urgent attention to help address the shortage of rural and regional housing and we urge law and policy makers to take proactive steps to address them.

By addressing these issues, we will see stimulation of the regional housing market, we can boost local employment opportunities for our younger community members and address the housing affordability issues in this state and across Australia.