Thursday, February 22, 2024

LGASA welcomes action on regional housing

The Local Government Association of South Australia (LGASA) has welcomed an announcement from the State Government outlining several key initiatives to tackle the issue of regional housing availability.

The Association says the issue, which was once seen only in pockets of regional SA, is now widespread across the state, “applying a handbrake to economic development and restricting the creation of jobs”.

SA Premier, Peter Malinauskas said the new Regional Key Worker Housing Scheme aims to create a continuous pipeline of homes, and in the first instance, will facilitate the delivery of housing to attract and retain police, teachers and healthcare workers in key country areas.

“We have a housing crisis in Adelaide, but in many parts of regional South Australia, rental vacancy rates are even tighter,” the Premier said.

“And that makes it even tougher for those communities to get the people and the skills they need to thrive. Not every country town has the same needs.

“This important work will be done in collaboration with each of these regional communities to ensure these measures are being rolled out in a sustainable way to address these individual needs into the long-term.”

The Premier said a pilot program would be immediately rolled out to deliver approximately 30 homes for these key services across the Copper Coast, Riverland, Mount Gambier, Port Augusta and Ceduna.

Houses delivered under the scheme may be sold to private investors under long-term lease arrangements. The construction of these houses is expected to reduce pressure on the private rental market.

Following the delivery of the pilot program, there is scope for it to be expanded to other regions and be available to organisations seeking to secure long-term access to new, fit-for-purpose housing for their workers, the Premier said.

The scheme will be run by a newly established Office for Regional Housing, which will sit within Renewal SA.

“The Office will work with local councils, regional businesses, builders, and investors to coordinate the scheme. In addition, the Office will work with these partners to help facilitate other housing projects that specifically contribute to key strategic and economic objectives, and reflective of the unique challenge faced across the state,” said Mr Malinauskas.

The Planning, Development and Infrastructure (General) Regulations 2017 have been amended to remove red tape associated with constructing or placing a temporary building or structure to be used as accommodation for key workers.

This gives the Minister for Planning the ability to designate broader kinds of work to be included in the regulation – which could include work associated with constructing replacement dwellings for those affected by the recent Riverland floods, the Premier said.

LGASA President, Dean Johnson said the new commitment was a welcome step and had the potential to unlock billions of dollars in investment opportunities and support regional liveability.

“There’s a significant pipeline of economic activity for our state, and the only way to see this economic growth take off is by State and Local Government taking action and leading from the front,” Mayor Johnson said.

“Based on research the LGA commissioned last year, we know insufficient access to housing finance, inadequate investor incentives and the absence of economies of scale in many small regional housing markets are among some of the key barriers to regional housing development.

“The success of major investments across all sectors – be it energy, health, skills, agriculture or the environment – are hamstrung by housing shortages for workers.

“Many councils are doing what they can to facilitate housing development through rate rebates, providing council-owned land for development, and in smaller townships even under-writing building contracts directly.

“However, a state-wide and coordinated approach is needed, which is why we greatly welcome the State Government’s announcement.”

Mayor Johnson said the expansion of Renewal SA’s role to assist with regional case management and identify priority projects in partnership with councils was a significant step in the right direction.

“The barriers to regional housing investment are not going to be resolved in the next few months,” Mayor Johnson said.

“For example, many River Murray townships have been devastated by the recent flood and unfortunately rebuilding homes along the river will take years and will exacerbate pre-existing trades and material shortages.

“The State Government’s resourcing of an Office for Regional Housing brings considerable assistance to help bridge the gap between councils’ local knowledge of housing shortages and the commercial knowledge needed to make housing projects viable.

“The LGA has already commenced productive discussions with Renewal SA and we will continue to engage with the Office for Regional Housing so councils have a clear understanding of how to present their knowledge of regional housing shortages and housing project proposals for commercial assessment,” he said.

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