Housing affordability in country towns and regional cities will come under the spotlight at the Third National Country Towns Conference in Bendigo this month.
Rural and regional housing market analyst Andrew Beer says that in some country areas, housing affordability is as big a challenge as it is in metropolitan areas.
“The assumption is that housing is affordable in rural areas but the reality is that it’s not the case at all,” Prof Beer said.
“The cost of living can be just as high as in metropolitan areas and incomes are usually lower.”
Prof Beer, of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Adelaide said two Federal programs to increase housing affordability and boost the amount of public housing in Australia, had especially poor take-up rates in rural areas.
The National Affordable Housing Agreement which began last year and offers $6.2 billion in social housing over the next five years.
The National Affordable Rental Scheme which gives housing investors subsidies of up to $10,000 a year for 10 years in return for providing houses for rent at 80per cent of current rental rates.
“Not only do these programs have little appeal but in most instances rural people have never heard of them, thanks largely to the assumption that housing prices are lower in rural areas and therefore are more affordable.”
Dr Beer will present several case studies - the Tasmanian mining town of Zeehan, the South Australian fishing town of Port Lincoln and the northern NSW town of Lismore - to make his case for increased focus on housing affordability challenges in rural areas, when he addresses the Country Towns Conference on Friday October 1.
The two-day conference (Sept 30-Oct 1) will discuss big issues affecting country towns including the re-emerging decentralisation debate, the power of social capital the impact of refugee intakes, the lifecycle risk for boom/bust mining towns, growth in water-limited areas and planning for ageing populations.
Conference convenor Professor John Martin, who heads the Centre for Sustainable Regional Communities at La Trobe University, said social and environmental scientists , planners, water managers , policy maker and local government representatives would deliver 50 papers on how Australia’s towns are adapting or not to change.
The conference theme is sustainability, a theme that applies to country towns losing population as much as it applies to regional cities growing in water and resource-limited areas.
For conference details and to register, check www.latrobe.edu.au/csrc