Lack of affordable housing killing growth

Pilbara Echo, Pilbara WA

09 Jun 2012

The lack of affordable housing in mining towns is killing the prospects of growth in northern Australia.

John Shipp, director of the ANDEV/IPA North Australia Project, issued the warning in response to reports in the Australian Financial Review.

Landcorp, the state government body responsible for land release in Western Australia, only released about 40 allotments of crown land in Port Hedland last year.

As of September last year, the average three-bedroom house in South Hedland sold for about $700,000, and weekly rent on the same dwelling had grown to $1700 a week.

“Port Hedland is facing a housing affordability crisis and Landcorp simply isn’t doing enough to counter it,” Mr Shipp said.

“Karratha and Port Hedland have an estimated housing shortage of 1531 and 1402 dwellings respectively, and I think that’s a low-ball figure because it doesn’t factor in latent demand.

“In a town where housing is in such hot demand, and local renters are being forced out of town, far more crown land should be released for development.”

Mr Shipp said releasing more land would encourage more permanent settlement and less fly-in, fly-out labour. “FIFO only makes sense because it’s cheaper to fly to Karratha than to live there,” Mr Shipp said.

“If you want to encourage permanent settlement and discourage FIFO, start with land release.”

A recent Newspoll conducted exclusively for the Institute of Public Affairs found 63 per cent of Australians believe increasing the population of northern Australia would be a good thing for the area.

Only 15 per cent said a higher population would be bad for northern Australia. The same poll found 71 per cent of West Australians believe increasing the population of northern Australia would be a good thing for the region.

“At a time when Australia could be spreading its population out away from densely settled areas, governments are making this harder because of strict land release policies,” Mr Shipp said.

“Without affordable housing you will not attract human capital and without human capital the north will never realise its full potential.”

The North Australia Project is a joint project of Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision and the Institute of Public Affairs.

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