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No Place Like Having A Home

NSW Northern Rivers Housing shortage

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NSW Northern Rivers Housing shortage
Photo: Shutterstock

Calls for a solution to the Northern Rivers housing emergency are growing louder, as the latest data reveals how desperate the shortage of residential properties on the North Coast has become.

Local real estate agents, on the coalface of the crisis, are calling for the release of more residential land, otherwise they believe the situation will become even more dire.

The Domain Rent Report for the 2020 December quarter, just out, shows that housing affordability is declining across Australia, but in Northern New South Wales the situation is exasperated by an exodus of city people wanting to move to the area.

The Richmond Valley has recorded one of the steepest rent increases in the state in the last quarter, going up 14.3 per cent in one year, meaning the average weekly rental cost was $400 in December, up $50 on December 2019 – an overall increase of 37.9 per cent compared to December 2015.

Jenny Pedrini from George & Fuhrmann Real Estate in Casino says she’s experienced unprecedented inquiries from both potential buyers and renters since the pandemic hit more than 12 months ago.

“This has prompted people to really think about where they want to be. Do they want to live in a more country town like Casino or Lismore,” she said.

“North Coast housing shortage hits critical low”

Ms Pedrini says the outbreak had led scores of city people to seek either a tree or sea-change in regional Australia.

“We weren’t as affected as the metropolitan areas by Covid so a lot of people are now putting plans in place … getting out and coming into country areas,” she said.

“Clearly I would certainly like to see more residential land released.”

Ms Pedrini says the state government could look at different options to speed up the release of land in regional New South Wales, such as establishing a taskforce to identify suitable areas for building and it could also invest in fast-tracking land release in the next budget.

The Richmond Valley is not the only Northern Rivers area facing a housing crisis. In Ballina, rents have risen by 4.3 per cent in the past year, meaning the average weekly rental for a house is $550, compared to $528 in December 2019 and $460 for 2015.

Ballina mayor David Wright says the housing situation is so challenging his council is establishing its own taskforce together with local industry representatives.

“We are developing our taskforce with local real estate agencies and housing groups – that’s in the process of being done because we recognise the problem,” he said.

Mr Wright said the major challenge in developing affordable housing was the rapidly rising cost of land.

He said one of the few areas in the shire with the potential to house more people was government owned land in West Ballina near Fishery Creek Bridge – higher density housing there could create new residences.

Lismore’s average rent rose 7.5 per cent over 12 months, coming in at $430, compared to $400 in December 2019. The tourist mecca Byron Bay recorded a rent rise of 7.1 per cent meaning it costs around $750 a week for a house, compared to $605 last year.

Lismore City Mayor Vanessa Ekins said her council has researched the demand for more housing and concluded that due to the area’s ageing population and small average household size (around two people per Lismore household according to the bureau of statistics), more one and two-bedroom units were needed.

“We have identified land and reduced development costs to encourage medium density housing and it is being built in Goonellabah,” Cr Ekins said.

“Unfortunately to afford so-called affordable housing you need an income of over $80,000 a year. Obviously that is unattainable for many of us and we need another solution for renters and the growing number of homeless.

“I don’t know what that solution is but I am keen to meet with Kevin Hogan and Janelle Saffin to map out a plan. It’s important that people can stay in the communities where they have friends and support and we don’t want them pushed out because housing becomes too expensive.”

The outbreak of Covid19 has led to a record number of people leaving cities for regional areas. The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ internal migration data shows that 11,247 moved from capital cities to regional areas in the September 2020 quarter – an all-time record in the 19 years since these statistics have been recorded. In the three months to June, 2020 some 10,957 Australians fled cities – that’s double the number of urban refugees compared to the same time in 2019.

Rental vacancies in the Northern Rivers continue to shrink. The Real Estate Institute of New South Wales found the Northern Rivers has a rental vacancy of just 1.4 per cent in January, down from 1.5 per cent in December and 2.4 per cent in April, 2020 (when the pandemic was first biting).

The situation is even more dire for renters in immediate neighbouring regions. Coffs Harbour’s rental vacancy rate is at a record low of 0.5 per cent, as is the Mid-North Coast’s, while in the southern suburbs of the Gold Coast, for example Currumbin, vacancies rates are down to 0.3 per cent. House and unit rents on the Gold Coast are outperforming Brisbane, up $20 on the last quarter ($540 average house weekly rent, $445 for units).

On the Gold Coast there have been predictions that there is less than five years’ worth of land for new residential estates, putting further pressure on house prices. A study paid for by Gold Coast developers found only 11,000 dwellings had a medium to high chance of being developed, but Queensland’s government argues the land supply will last another 15 years. Metricon Queensland claims that there has been a 400 per cent increase in inquiries from interstate residents wanting to build new homes on the Gold Coast. The demand for housing in southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales continues to grow exponentially – the median property price on the NSW North Coast went up 37 per cent in 2020.

In the last state budget the NSW government committed $823 million for social housing, including $400 million for fast-track construction projects to stimulate the economy. That’s the biggest spent in 20 years, and more than 40 per cent of that is earmarked for regional projects, but will it be enough? The NSW Community Housing Industry Association approximates that 60,000 people are on a waiting list for social housing state-wide.

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Ford’s 2018 Mustang GT can do 0-to-60 mph in under 4 seconds

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Hulu hires Google marketing veteran Kelly Campbell as CMO

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