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Regional housing

Regional Australia is experiencing an unprecedented housing crisis. 

I’ve lived in the Northeast for more than 30 years and housing availability and affordability is the worst I have seen.  

Young people who can’t find an affordable place to rent, families who can’t buy a home and elderly people who can’t find an accessible place to age. Businesses who want to hire workers but there is no accommodation available close by.  I hear these stories everywhere I go in Indi.  

Since the pandemic, we have  seen an influx of people moving out of the big cities and relocating to towns in the regions. I’ve been working collaboratively with the Government to tackle the housing shortages in Regional Australia – but more work needs to be done. 

Private Members Bill

Unlocking Regional Housing Bill

I have introduced the Unlocking Regional Housing Bill which seeks to release the handbrake on regional housing. 

The Bill specifically addresses the housing crisis in regional, rural and remote Australia, by making funding for the infrastructure we need to get to first base with housing easier to access. Infrastructure such as sewerage, water, drainage, roads and power. 

My Bill would amend the rules that decide how the Government’s housing funding is spent, making it easier to access for regional councils to open up land and get more houses built. The Unlocking Regional Housing Bill would amend to the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) Act to:   

  • Require the Minister to consider what action needs to be taken so that 30% of the National Housing Infrastructure Facility’s annual funding goes towards regional, rural and remote Australia;  
  • Make the funding application process easier to access for local governments;   
  • Require NHFIC to be more proactive in helping community housing providers through the application process; and  
  • Require NHFIC to have at least one board member with regional housing expertise.   

You can read the explainer of my Bill here.

You can read the Bill itself and the Explanatory Memorandum here. 

I have heard the message loud and clear in my communities that we need the Government to step in and fund critical enabling infrastructure – the sewerage, the drainage, other amenities. 

It’s not sexy to talk about gutters and pipes, but I want to make it happen so that we can build the homes we so badly need and that is why I introduced this Bill.  

Join the calls for the Government to back this Bill and guarantee dedicated funding for housing in regional, rural and remote Australia.

The Regional Australia Institute is one of the organisations that has supported my Bill. You can read their media release here.

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Improving the Housing Australia Future Fund

The Government’s Housing Australia Future Fund is one of the most significant reforms to housing policy in the last decade and was a much-needed start.  

I’ve also called on the Government to ensure their proposed Housing Australia Future Fund, or as it is more commonly known the HAFF, delivers for regional, rural and remote communities. 

I successfully secured amendments to ensure the Housing Supply and Affordability Council could have a regional focus when undertaking its work.  

I successfully moved amendments to the Bill that would:  

  • Ensure at least one member of the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council has demonstrated and relevant experience or expertise in housing needs in regional, rural and remote Australia. 
  • Ensure the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council considers the impacts of geographical location (e.g. regional, rural or remote location) on housing supply and affordability and on the demand for affordable housing. 

Despite these wins, much more could be done to improve this bill for regional Australia, and, with negotiations on foot, we have the chance to do that. 

Enabling Infrastructure Fund

I have consulted widely on what solutions there could be to the housing shortage and what I’ve heard is that we need funding for critical enabling infrastructure. 

I’m talking about poles and pavement, drainage, sewerage. There is no ribbon to cut, but to build homes in rural and regional Australia we need it.  

Regional areas struggle to attract developer investment to build this infrastructure, and, with big geography and a small ratepayer base, local councils don’t have the money to build it on their own. 

That’s why I’ve put forward a proposal for the Government to set up a dedicated Regional Housing Infrastructure Fund.  

This fund would unlock investment in new houses by building the basic infrastructure needed for new multitype developments—private housing, built-to-rent social housing and essential worker housing. It would have the flexibility to fund social infrastructure and provide local government assistance to fast planning approvals. 

Enabling infrastructure is the first step in unlocking the potential for housing in the regions.  

Wangaratta Ovens College Redevelopment

The old Ovens College site on Greta Road in Wangaratta is a prime example of an opportunity to unlock social and affordable housing.  

Not-for-profit social enterprise and housing developer Nestd has been contracted to deliver 200 safe, quality, energy-efficient homes for young people, pensioners, women at risk of homelessness and essential workers. 

In August I secured a meeting with the Housing Minister and a representative from Nestd to present their plans for the former school site. I also welcomed Nathan Dal Bon, CEO of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) to Wangaratta to inspect the proposed site. Now we just need the funds to go ahead with the project.  

We desperately need more affordable housing in Wangaratta. The proposal for the Ovens College site would go a long way to addressing the lack of social, affordable, and key worker housing and my bill is exactly the kind of legislation that could make it happen