Our new rust-belt: Western Qld buckles under housing crisis

An area spanning 60 per cent of Queensland’s land mass is short nearly 1500 houses, leaving the region woefully exposed to community corrosion and economic stagnation.

Oct 06, 2021, updated Oct 06, 2021

The first region-wide housing market study focused on 22 council areas of western Queensland has been released revealing what residents and business operators have long feared: the region is the grip of a chronic housing shortage.

At risk is any chance the region holds of building functional communities, growing employment prospects and driving business development.

The WQAC Housing Solutions Study – To Build and Grow the Potential of Western Queensland compiled by the Regional Australia Institute (RAI), has revealed a 1480 dwelling shortfall in the region.

The shortage does not include council-supplied housing, which the report’s authors say needs to increase by 296 dwellings, with a further 248 council-owned dwellings needing major refurbishment.shortage of study.

Without urgent intervention, the report argues, conditions in sub-standard housing and availability will continue to worsen.

Longreach Mayor Tony Rayner said sourcing affordable and suitable housing, finance and trades for renovations and works, was proving to be a major roadblock in a region ripe with potential.

“Western Queensland is a great place to live and work and there are many opportunities to kick start or advance careers, business and industry,” he said.

“While there are still ‘for sale’ signs in yards across the region, it’s the quantity and quality of available housing that is not keeping pace with market demands and has existed for some time.

“The current COVID-19 environment has further highlighted its significance as well as its adverse impact across our communities and businesses.”

The report also highlights the disparity in housing investment between the city and the bush.

The per-capita level of investment into housing in Western Queensland is less than one fifth of what occurs in Greater Brisbane.

Over the three years to June 2020, the average value of approved residential building work – whether new home building or renovation work – was a mere $320 per capita across the 22 LGAs that make up the region the RAI investigated. In Greater Brisbane it was $2675.

Balonne Mayor Samantha O’Toole, who has previously been profiled by InQueensland for spearheading a locally-driven digital connectivity project, said that housing, along with other infrastructure deficits such as roads, water, energy had emerged as a key barrier to Western Queensland fulfilling and growing its economic and social potential.

“We want to ensure we can support our communities and attract new people, business and investment to the region. There are jobs going unfilled in Western Queensland simply due to a lack of suitable housing,” she said.

“With the current environment and more Australians looking to ‘move to more’ in regional Australia, we are in a prime position to capitalise on our many assets.

“The chronic shortage of housing is a major barrier to the success and growth of our communities, employment and businesses.”

Carpentaria Mayor Jack Bawden said the housing shortfall in the west had a far-reaching impact beyond the region’s boundaries.

“The lack of growth in our region also constrains the growth potential of the State and nation which relies on the productivity of regions such as western Queensland to generate wealth for re-distribution.

“If we’re to keep up our contribution, something needs to change.,” he said.

The study comes amid a reported regional migration boom, which is seeing pandemic weary city dwellers look for more open spaces in rural and regional locations.

RAI chief economist Dr Kim Houghton said the new demographic required diversity of housing, presenting an enormous opportunity for regional towns and cities.

“The RAI uncovered that half the demand for housing in Western Queensland is for townhouses and apartments which opens up the door for new investment opportunities for builders and developers,” Houghton said.


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