Farmers push for urgent solutions to housing crisis

25 August 2023

The regional housing issue remains a significant concern for Tasmanian farmers and a hindrance to the economic growth of our sector. In previous columns, we have spoken out on the importance of addressing regional housing challenges through targeted policy adjustments, streamlined local government processes, and removal of red tape.

TFGA has directly lobbied federal members of parliament to support funding for 30,000 regional homes within five years. We have lobbied for farmers and workers in Tasmania and nationwide for changes that would create thousands of jobs and benefit the wider community.

Farmers from the West heading to Canberra with a personal plea

The accommodation crisis forces employers to search for alternative accommodation options, ensuring that workers have affordable and suitable places to live near their workplaces.

Within a limited market, this translates to purchasing, constructing, or renting properties from the existing land and housing inventory within surrounding communities. However, this exacerbates the strain on property and rental markets, giving rise to more social issues than it resolves.

In the past, the industry has also relied on pubs and caravan parks to house seasonal workers during peak season. With the state's increased popularity as a tourist destination and the uptake of alternative accommodation for the short-stay market, this is no longer an option and the need to invest in on-farm accommodation is even more crucial.

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This week, I have proactively reached out to Minister Nic Street who also holds the position of Minister for Housing and Construction along with Minister for Primary Industries, Joe Palmer MLC, and Premier Jeremy Rockliff. I am urging them to take decisive action in addressing this as a matter of urgency.

The TFGA is asking the government to allow increased farm-led investment in worker accommodation. Given the restricted housing options across the state, we firmly believe that farmers should encounter fewer regulatory obstacles when constructing accommodation on their properties. The strategy would aim to secure housing for workers in regions where suitable housing is scarce.

The option to build should encompass the construction of housing units and accommodation blocks, providing seasonal workers with residences during peak production periods. When necessary and appropriate, transportable and demountable accommodations should be an option. This approach would also allow for housing to be relocated to different areas to meet fluctuating demand, providing a flexible solution.

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Government support is critical and the farming sector should receive support in constructing housing with direct investment and affordable capital to incentivise investment in rural and regional accommodation. In partnership with the government, we have the tools to alleviate the housing shortage in these areas. These strategies aim to provide suitable and affordable accommodation for workers while taking some of the pressure off regional property and rental markets.