16 May 2023

Regional housing crisis needs Government funding to fix supply issues

The Government must invest in critical enabling infrastructure to boost housing supply in regional Australia, Dr Helen Haines has told the National Rural Press Club in Canberra.

Speaking as part of a panel on regional housing, the Independent Federal Member for Indi made the case for funding to solve housing issues specific to the regions.

“It’s important when we speak about housing issues, to define the issue we are trying to solve,” Dr Haines said.

“In Australia, especially in the regions, the heart our problem is a desperate lack of housing supply.”

Dr Haines is proposing a $2 billion Regional Housing Infrastructure Fund, which would fund critical enabling infrastructure to help much-needed housing projects get off the ground.

“We need to unlock investment in new houses by building the basic infrastructure needed for new, multi-type developments,” she said.

“And it would have the flexibility to fund social infrastructure and provide local government assistance to fast-track planning approvals, because that’s a big challenge in the regions.”

Dr Haines used examples from her electorate of Indi in North East Victoria to describe the issues in housing supply felt across the regions.

The opportunity for Government investment to kickstart the development of the former Ovens College site in Wangaratta for affordable housing was given a national stage.

The Rural City of Wangaratta has appointed not-for-profit social enterprise Nestd to deliver the project, but $2.1 million is first needed to clear the site, including asbestos removal, before it can become housing for those who need it most.

Under the current government funding programs, projects like the former Ovens College site are struggling to get the help they need, Dr Haines said.

“Under the guidelines of the National Housing Infrastructure Facility – they can’t actually access this support,” Dr Haines said.

“The NHIF has stalled because I believe its mandate is too restrictive.”

Dr Haines called on the Government to be bold to solve the problem of housing availability and affordability in regional Australia.

“With record rises in rent and mortgage stress, and a lack of housing availability like we have never seen before in regional Australia, we’ve got to think creatively,” she said.

“We’ve got to think contextually about what we need to open up housing stock at all levels. We need medium-density housing. We need social housing. We need worker housing. We need clever housing. And we need to bring the community with us.”

The full speech can be accessed here.

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