November 17, 2020

WIMMERA Development Association has welcomed a state government cash boost for social housing in the region. 

At least $15 million is allocated to Horsham Rural City as part of the government’s four-year, $5.3 billion Big Housing Build initiative announced this week. 

Mark Fletcher, the association’s regional development project manager, was hopeful neighbouring shires would also benefit from the initiative to increase social housing properties and replace old public housing units; build new affordable and low-cost homes tohelp low to moderate income earners live closer to where they work and provide options for private rental; and to upgrade and maintain existing housing. 

“Our region is experiencing significant shortages when it comes to housing access and availability, and this funding is a step in the right direction to ease those stressors,” Mr Fletcher said. 

Wimmera Development Association supports businesses, promotes economic development opportunities to investors and is a key link between industry and governments, lobbying for improved infrastructure and for regional priority issues.

It has conducted the Wimmera Southern Mallee Housing Study throughout this year, to gain a greater understanding of available housing for rent and purchase at entry, mid-range and executive leveldocumentingemergency housing and properties held by businesses in the region that might be underutilised; and identifying future investment opportunities.

Mr Fletcher said the study showed demand for emergency housing remained so high that agencies would utilise caravan parks and motels to provide assistance to those in need. He said people could wait many months, and up to more than a year, to access ongoing housing solutions – depending on their circumstance. 

Caravan parks would often be used for emergency housing – but during the COVID response and with shared amenities, this became an issue,” Mr Fletcher said. 

“Other times, people are living in homes that are not suited to their individual circumstance, adding pressure tothe bigger picture demands.” 

Mr Fletcher said private rentals were hotly contested, often receiving numerous applicants for one property. 

“This leads to constraints for employers wanting to attract and retain staff, due to a lack of affordable and fit-for-purpose accommodation in the region,” he said. 

Mr Fletcher said the initiative would create an average of 10,000 jobs statewide across a four-year period. The homes will meet a seven-star energy efficiency rating. 

“WDA is looking forward to potential opportunities for local trades to become involved in this project - whether for new builds or maintenance work as standards are raised,” he said. 

“There is a lot of movement from the Victorian government in relation to housing this week.” 

A new government agency, Homes Victoria, has been established to work across government, industry and the social housing sector to deliver this record housing growth and to manage existing public housing.

“Eighteen regional areas are highlighted for this work – and Horsham municipality is one of them,” Mr Fletcher said. 

“Homes Victoria will develop a 10-year strategy to manage the housing stock to meet demands, and will work with local government to learn about those demands. The WDA report will feed directly into that.” 

Results of the association’s housing study will be available soon.