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Landmark housing research lifts the lid on regions and what needs to change

May 10 2022


New research released today holds the key to meeting the growing demand for housing in regional towns and cities around the country, according to the Regional Australia Institute (RAI).

RAI CEO Liz Ritchie says understanding the six new markets identified in its latest report – Building the Good Life: Foundations of regional housing, will help deliver more affordable and appropriate homes.

“Regional Australia is experiencing a moment in history like no other. In the decade to 2020, its population grew by an average of 76,500 people per annum. A life in the regions is now more attractive than ever before,” Liz Ritchie said.

“As millions of Australians either choose to stay in the regions, or make the move, this surge in popularity brings with it growing pains that need addressing as we contend with the unique settings facing our regions,” Ms Ritchie said.

Our research aims to provide policymakers, industry and regional leaders with new information about the six different housing markets in Australia and highlights the need for place-based initiatives moving forward. The six housing markets identified in the report are:

 Housing Market  Characteristics  Number of LGAs
 1. Stalled  Small, stalled, inland and low-cost  31 LGAs
 2. Volatile  Small, stalled, low-cost and volatile  23 LGAs
 3. Stable  Mid-sized, agricultural  157 LGAs
 4. Coastal  Larger, average cost  58 LGAs
 5. Growth Zone  Peri-urban, urban, major regional cities  87 LGAs
 6. Most Expensive  Sydney and Melbourne  40 LGAs


“Failure to recognise the distinct regional housing markets in Australia and respond accordingly will see the current pressures continue to escalate,” Liz Ritchie said.

“With the drivers of markets quite different in respective markets, responses need to be calibrated accordingly to ensure they improve the situation.

“If blanket policies are introduced to incentivise new builds within stalled markets (31 inland LGAs) these may also exacerbate land-supply pressures in the more active growth zone markets (87 LGAs).

“Conversely, policies that bring more land to market should help alleviate undersupply in fast-growing regions but will have no impact on low-growth regions where land supply is already plentiful.

“The way forward in Lismore may need to be vastly different to meeting the housing challenges in Byron Bay. Adhering to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ plan could see locals priced out of the market, regional economic growth constrained, a further tightening of the rental market, and/or the most vulnerable in our community bearing the brunt of the housing challenge.

“With more than 84,000 jobs advertised in March 2022 – yet another record broken – regional employers are looking for staff and they need appropriate housing to accommodate them,” Liz Ritchie said.

The latest research focussed on historic and current housing initiatives domestically, as well as the responses internationally in Scandinavia, the United States, Canada and the British Isles.

“By looking at what has worked over overseas, this new research provides a new way forward for Australia and its growing regions,” Liz Ritchie said.

“In the US, failed housing markets have been associated with long term, entrenched disadvantage for more than a century. To ensure our regions can meet their potential – housing must be reassessed,” Liz Ritchie concluded.

Building the Good Life: Foundations of regional housing was launched today by South Australia Minister for Regional Development, the Hon, Claire Scriven MLC at the RAI’s Regions Rising SA Australia event. To view the report, please click here.

This report was undertaken as part of the RAI’s Intergovernmental Shared Inquiry Program and sits within the RAI’s Housing Research series, Building the Good Life. The first report of this series was a discussion paper, Building the Good Life: meeting the demand for regional housing. The Shared Inquiry Program is funded and directed by a group of Commonwealth, State and Territory governments.