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Regions need specific new build targets; more dedicated funding for critical housing infrastructure

09 February 2024

Regional-specific new build targets; bolstered and quarantined regional housing infrastructure funding; and better planning for growth are among the asks of government from the National Regional Housing Summit in Canberra today.
More than 300 people from across Australia converged on Canberra and contributed online to a solutions-focused discussion on how to ease the challenges before regional communities. These challenges include a more than 50% increase in regional home prices; average rental vacancies below 1.4%; increasing levels of homelessness; and a lack of diversity of housing types – all in parallel with record regional population growth and job vacancies.
The Summit was hosted by the Regional Australia Institute (RAI), the Real Estate Institute of Australia, and Master Builders Australia; and supported by Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, the Australian Forest Products Association, and the National Farmers Federation.
A Discussion Paper, presenting the latest regional housing stock data and featuring stories of communities who’ve successfully taken action to solve their housing issues, provided context to Summit.
RAI CEO Liz Ritchie said the Summit shone a light on the creative and collaborative solutions regional communities were devising to address localised issues.
“When Griffith City Council in New South Wales recognised the local economy was suffering due to a lack of appropriate worker accommodation, it worked in partnership with Argyle Housing to develop new affordable housing in the community. In Winchelsea, Victoria a project’s underway to build new independent living units for older residents, who want to downsize but can’t due to a lack of smaller houses in the area,” Ms Ritchie said.
“Every community in regional Australia has its own unique challenges when it comes to housing and today has highlighted how critical it is to retire policies that classify ‘regional Australia’ as a singular location and implement bespoke place-based solutions. Regional Australia is not one place, it is thousands, and the more than 9.6 million people who live there deserve initiatives and investment that recognise their localised needs.”
Today’s Summit also reiterated the importance of a National Population Plan, to ensure infrastructure planning is in line with the continued strong movement of people to the regions; and highlighted regional Australia’s shortcomings in housing diversity, with a need for more affordable, accessible medium-density housing.
“The message was clear today.  Our regional communities are crying out for one- and two-bedroom properties. Workers need easily accessible and affordable accommodation, older people want to leave their large properties for easier-to-maintain apartments, and a lot more people could get into the property market if there were more entry-level options on the market,” Ms Ritchie said.
Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said today’s Summit was an opportunity to bring together key decision makers, investors, and stakeholders who all play a role in tackling the housing crisis.
“The Federal Government has set the target of 1.2 million homes over five years and Master Builders believes this is not an ambition but a must do. From needing enough tradies to build the homes, ensuring the infrastructure is there to support growing communities, to attracting more investors to the regions, all policy levers need to be pulling in the same direction,” Ms Wawn said.

Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) CEO Anna Neelagama said the Summit found there was a need for regional-specific targets and increased funding to address challenges faced by communities, such as soaring home prices, low rental vacancies, and a lack of housing diversity.

“While there is concern of the growing impact of short-stay accommodations on regional areas, what is truly lacking is supply of smaller one-and-two bedroom homes,” Ms Neelagama said.

“With the surge in population, there is a need for thoughtful consideration and planning to mitigate potential disruptions to housing markets and the broader community in regional Australia.”

The RAI’s Regionalisation Ambition- a 10 year, 20 goal framework for an Australia where more people live in the regions- aims to see by 2032, regional rental vacancy rates increasing to above 3% and for annual building approvals to keep pace with population growth.
The regional vacancy rate decreased from 1.5% in September 2022 to 1.2% in September 2023 and monthly regional building approvals have been decreasing since August 2021.
Ms Ritchie said unless there was collaborative action by government, industry, business and community on the issues discussed at today’s Summit, realising those goals would be a challenge.
“Housing is a big, wicked issue, and the passion we saw in the room today, indicates there is a coalition of willing players who can work together to make meaningful change here. I implore those who were part of this one-of-a-kind event to maintain their dedication and drive to better the lives of regional Australians, by working together on solutions to housing. It will only be when we have that collaboration that regional Australia’s housing transformation will occur,” Ms Ritchie said.
Summit delegates identified policy, investment, and innovation recommendations including:

  • The development of a National Population Plan to inform the development of housing and other infrastructure needed for communities of the medium- to long-term;
  • Dedicated and increased funding for regional local governments for critical housing infrastructure;
  • Ensuring regional home-buyer incentive programs are targeted and directed to where there is market stagnation, to avoid perverse outcomes;
  • Support for successful local housing models;
  • Reform to out-of-touch institutional lending regulation that in many cases prohibits private investment;
  • Imposition of legacy housing and other infrastructure requirements for major regional key industry projects;
  • That the Housing Australia Future Fund be invested in regional areas to reflect the proportion of the population who live outside of the nation’s major cities;
  • Triaging of the training and recruitment of town planners, civil engineers and surveyors to regional Australia and / or developing a mobile ‘planning squad’ that can relieve approval bottlenecks;
  • That greater diversity be incorporated into future housing developments, including affordable and medium density housing;
  • Consideration be given to relocatable, kit and modular homes as immediate solutions in volatile markets to ease housing stress and attract essential workers;
  • Ensuring it is easier for tradies to migrate to Australia to fill skills shortages.

For media enquiries contact:

Regional Australia Institute 
Melinda Hayter
Ph: 0498 373 300
E: [email protected]

Real Estate Institute of Australia 
Olwyn Conrau
Ph: 0413 600 350
E: [email protected]

Master Builders Australia
Dee Zegarac
Ph: 0400 493 071
E: [email protected]