Accessible, affordable, and secure housing is critical to the wellbeing of Victorians and is a key enabler of economic growth. However, over the past couple of years, many parts of regional Victoria have seen house prices increase significantly and a lack of homes available to purchase. Some regions have also experienced rapidly rising rental prices, worsened by very low rates of rental availability.
According to research undertaken by the Regional Australia Institute, the pressures facing regional housing markets are almost universal across Australia for rental and purchase markets. While pressures are partly driven by factors largely stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, regional home building has not kept up with population growth.
We see these challenges to Australia’s regional housing reflected across regional Victoria. Housing market gaps have increased as supply has failed to keep up with growing demand. In Victoria the longer-term challenges have been exacerbated by unprecedented growth in net migration to our regions – largely driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and supported by lifestyle changes such as increased flexible working policies. It remains unclear how these trends will play out in the long term.
Victorian Government response
The Victorian Government has made significant investments in new homes and infrastructure, policy reform to increase access to housing, and in other programs to support more Victorians into homes. These investments include the historic investment in Victoria’s Big Housing Build, planning reform, financial support for homebuyers and targeted programs and pilots in regional locations.
Big Housing Build
The Big Housing Build (BHB) delivers on the Victorian Government’s housing vision of expanding housing supply and diversity. The BHB program will deliver 12,300 homes of which 9,300 will be social housing (including replacing 1,100 out-dated dwellings) and 2,400 will be affordable homes. At least 25 per cent, or $1.25 billion, of the $5 billion program is committed to regional Victoria. Eighteen rural and regional LGAs have been identified for the Minimum Investment Guarantee, with $765 million committed across these LGAs.
Affordable Housing Rental Scheme
Delivered as part of the BHB, the Affordable Housing Rental Scheme will offer eligible income earners an affordable rental property for at least three years, backed by the security of Government ownership. At least 500 of the homes will be in regional Victoria to address the challenge of finding affordable rentals in country areas. Essential government funded service delivery workers will also be eligible in areas of workforce shortage in regional Victoria. Homes Victoria is developing sites in Wodonga and Warrnambool and business cases are well developed for sites in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. The first affordable rental properties are expected to be available in regional Ballarat, Greater Geelong and Bendigo. In regional Victoria, rents will be set at the median market rental price for that area and cap set at 30 per cent of a median income in regional Victoria.
The Victorian Government has also committed $1 billion in low interest loans and government guarantees to community housing agencies to deliver social and affordable housing. This is expected to create up to 6,000 new social and affordable houses, providing accommodation for some of our most vulnerable Victorians.
Regional Workforce Pilots
With regional Victorian unemployment at historic lows, a widespread challenge for Victorian’s regions is high job vacancies and shortages of homes to rent and buy is exacerbating the problem.
In response, the Victorian Government is delivering a $5 million investment in Regional Workforce Pilots strategically located across the state to help regional and rural communities attract more skilled workers which they need to grow.
Funded Regional Housing Projects
The Regional Workforce Pilots build on and complement work already underway, where local councils or groups of councils have banded together with the support of Regional Development Victoria, to collaborate on programs of work exploring housing issues and opportunities.
Opportunities Pyrenees, Ararat and Northern Grampians
The Opportunities Pyrenees, Ararat and Northern Grampians (OPAN) project is supported by the Victorian Government and jointly led by the three LGAs and seeks to directly address existing and future shortages of workers by focusing on workforce planning, migration, transport and housing. This project has been supported by $550,000 funding through the Central Highlands Regional Partnership, which involves mapping existing and future housing and skills shortages to support business needs.
Swan Hill Worker Housing project
The Swan Hill Worker Housing project is set to deliver four houses thanks to a $500,000 investment from the $2.7 billion Building Works package, as part of a plan to attract more professional workers to the region in industries including healthcare and education. The project is being built in Ronald Street, Robinvale with the Swan Hill Rural City Council planning to further develop the site.
Mildura Working Housing Project
The Mildura Working Housing Project is set to deliver stage two of the Ramsay Court Worker Accommodation which will include the refurbishment of 25 rooms and purpose-built worker accommodation for the regions migrant and seasonal workers.
Unlocking Housing Projects in Simpson and Timboon
The Victorian Government is supporting the Great South Coast with $2 million from the Regional Workforce Pilots. The funding will enable Corangamite Shire Council to unlock residential development by providing essential infrastructure including water, power, telecommunication and sewage connections, footpaths, and drainage at two sites in Timboon and Simpson. The project will develop up to 140 residential blocks across the two sites for the Great South Coast’s growing population and for workers during peak tourism periods.
Seasonal Worker Accommodation Program
The Seasonal Worker Accommodation Program (SWAP) is a $6 million program to support the safe accommodation and transport of seasonal workers across Victoria during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date there have been 13 projects approved with $3.1 million in grants allocated. First approved projects commenced in late February through to June 2021 and all projects will be complete by 30 June 2022.
Other RDV Housing investments
Since 2018, Regional Development Victoria has committed nearly $25 million across 24 projects to support creation of accommodation to home nearly 800 regional Victorians, as well as investing in the infrastructure and strategies needed to support far more private market development of housing in regions.
Refer to the table below, Housing projects funded by Regional Development Victoria, for a full list of investments.
Land use planning initiatives are vital in efforts to increase rural and regional housing availability and affordability. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has a number of initiatives underway to address land supply challenges and help ensure the pipeline of greenfield residential land is delivered and to facilitate the development of precincts in major regional cities. This includes reforms to improve the efficiency of the planning system, through streamlining of planning processes, fast-tracking of planning approvals and support to councils.
Funding is provided to the Victorian Planning Authority (VPA) to support precinct planning for high-priority areas to maintain land supply in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. This initiative contributes to DELWP’s Planning and Heritage output.
For more information visit:
- Regional Planning Hub
- Streamlining for Growth Program
- Planning for affordable housing
- Precinct Structure Planning Guidelines
- Development Facilitation Program
Financial support for housing affordability
The Victorian Government provides financial supports for housing affordability, including land tax concessions for build-to-rent projects, Homebuyer Fund to assist homebuyers by sharing in the capital cost of purchasing a home, the First Home Owner Grant to assist in the purchase of a new first home, and a range of land transfer duty concessions and exemptions for cohorts including first home buyer exemptions and concessions, off-the-plan concession, pensioner concession and principal place of residence concession.
2026 Commonwealth Games
The 2026 Commonwealth Games will have an immense and lasting impact on the economy of regional Victoria. It is estimated the 2026 Commonwealth Games will contribute more than $3 billion to Victoria’s economy, creating more than 600 full-time equivalent jobs before the Games, 3,900 jobs during the Games and a further 3,000 jobs beyond the Closing Ceremony.
The 2022-23 State Budget invests $2.6 billion to run the games and build and upgrade sporting venues, accommodation and supporting infrastructure which will serve regional communities for years to come.
Housing infrastructure required for the 2026 Commonwealth Games is expected to be repurposed to boost regional housing supply. This housing infrastructure — such as the athlete villages that will be created in each of the regional hubs — will deliver a legacy of social and affordable housing for the regions. For example, the 2006 Commonwealth Games village in Parkville has since been used as 1,600 dwellings, including 20 per cent social housing.
This boost in housing infrastructure from the 2026 Commonwealth Games will help further ease pressures on housing supply in Victoria’s regions, allowing regional communities and industries to grow and reach their full potential.
Housing projects funded by Regional Development Victoria
|Mildura Worker Housing - Ramsay Court Mildura Worker Accommodation Phase Two||Address the shortfall in housing for the seasonal worker population in the region. The Ramsay Court Worker Accommodation will include the refurbishment of 25 rooms purpose-built worker accommodation for the regions migrant and seasonal workers.||$800,000||2020|
|Swan Hill - Worker Housing||Address shortage of housing suitable for professional staff in Robinvale which is limiting the town's economic development and population growth. The project will deliver a subdivision of 8 lots and construction of 4, 3-4-bedroom houses for on-selling to help stimulate the market in Robinvale.||$500,000||2020|
|RIF 2019/20 - NGSC - Stawell Housing Development||The Project involves construction of utilities and essential infrastructure at a greenfield site on the corner of Sloane Street and Cahill Road, including water and sewer infrastructure, footpaths, street lighting, drainage, road and curb works and the installation of a pedestrian crossing at the intersection of Cahill Road and Cooper Street, and electrical service connection. The plan aims to deliver 100 dwellings to the estate.||$500,000||2020|
|OPAN - Opportunities Pyrenees, Ararat and Northern Grampians||Opportunities Pyrenees, Ararat and Northern Grampians (OPAN) will directly address the existing and future shortage of skilled and unskilled workers across the local government areas of Pyrenees Shire, Northern Grampians Shire and Ararat Rural City, by focusing on Workforce Planning, Housing Demand, Transport Services and Migration.||$550,000||2021|
|ARCC - Ararat Housing Transition||The funding will support the development of sewer works to support Transitional Worker Housing in Ararat.||$300,000||2021|
|Delivering Key Worker Housing in Barwon South West Region||This project will develop a road map to advance the findings and recommendations from the Key Worker Housing report (Sept 2020) to address housing pressures and improve the region’s ability to attract and retain key skilled workers to the region.||$80,000||2021|
|Ararat East Development Zone Trunk Infrastructure – Grampians Pilot||Contribution towards Stage 2 of the Ararat East Development Zone (Greenhill Lake East Activation) for enabling infrastructure. This is anticipated to trigger the private sector to fund the additional residential development costs. The pilot will develop homes for an additional 317 people, creating 134 full-time equivalent jobs during construction.||$950,000||2021|
|New Arrival Settlement Programme – Grampians Pilot||Funding to Ararat Rural City Council to deliver a rural migration and resettlement program in partnership with the Wyndham Community and Education Centre. The program will include high-level support and relocation assistance for migrants.||$650,000||2021|
|Implementing Affordable Housing Solutions in Wimmera Southern Mallee||This project will establish a specific Wimmera Southern Mallee Registered Housing Association (WSMHA) in partnership with the Wimmera Southern Mallee local governments and developers. The WSMHA aims to increase housing development in the region, by using developable land across local government areas, facilitating both commercial and affordable housing activity. The WSMHA will also focus on ensuring local supply chains for design, planning and construction, skilling and attracting local workforce, retention and development of trade skills and apprenticeships, development of workforce programs in collaboration with local contemporary Aboriginal organisations.||$500,000||2021|
|Unlocking Housing- Timboon & Simpson – Great South Coast Pilot||To catalyse private sector development in the region, funding will be provided for new residential enabling infrastructure projects to unlock the development of key worker accommodation.||$2,000,000||2021|
|Koroit Caravan Park Workers Accommodation||The project will support provision of 5 affordable housing units at Koroit Caravan Park (council as Committee of Management) with a focus on accommodation for itinerant workers.||$465,000||2021|
|Key Worker housing pilot program – Alpine Pilot||The key worker housing pilot program will be delivered by Alpine Shire Council to match key workers to accommodation. As part of the Pilot, the program will ask property owners to release unused or underused property, establish a register of key workers needing accommodation and match key workers with accommodation. This initiative also explores medium to long-term solutions to worker housing in the region.||$260,000||2021|
|Tourism North East Seasonal Workforce Management & Affordable Housing Solution – Alpine Pilot||The project aims to address systemic challenges associated with workforce planning and management, affordable accommodation and population planning. The project will be delivered by Tourism North East in collaboration with the Rural City of Wangaratta, Indigo Shire, Mansfield Shire, Benalla Rural City, Alpine Shire, Towong Shire, Regional City of Wodonga and the three Alpine Resorts of Mt Hotham, Falls Creek and Mt Buller / Mt Stirling will coordinate and deliver the project.||$325,000||2021|
|Seasonal Worker Accommodation Program – Robinvale Pilot||Agriculture Victoria will provide up to $250,000 from the Seasonal Worker Accommodation Program (SWAP) for a cross-Government and industry partnership approach to explore, prioritise and facilitate accommodation options in the region.||$250,000||2021|
|Loddon Mallee Housing Revitalisation Strategy||The project will provide a regional housing action plan to address housing challenges and opportunities, three business cases to support implementation of priority initiatives identified within the housing action plan and a business case to revitalise key sites in Robinvale for seasonal worker accommodation.||$230,000||2021|
|The Peaks Eco Retreat Pty Ltd – Grampians Off Grid Eco Retreat||Provide much needed high-end accommodation to users of the Grampians Peaks Trail and more broadly to visitors seeking quality accessible accommodation in the Northern Section of the Grampians National Park including groups such as cyclists.||$32,240||2021|
|Colac Otway Shire: Colac – Deans Creek Growth Corridor Outline Development Plan||Conceptual urban development layout for the priority growth areas in Colac West and Elliminyt.||$425,000||2022|
|Indigo Shire: Indigo Caravan Park Masterplanning||Develop comprehensive master plans for each of the four caravan parks within the Indigo Shire that are managed by Council on a lease agreement||$50,000||2021|
|Colac Otway Shire: Support New Residential Land Release for Colac via Elliminyt Wetlands||The activation seeks to support economic development and regional recovery through growth of the industrial sector in Colac by facilitating new housing stock to attract workers to the region.||$3,000,000||2022|
|Yarriambiack Council: Easing Yarriambiack's Affordable Rental Housing Shortage||The project will meet twin objectives of retaining ageing residents in region whilst freeing up existing large dwellings into the rental or market space helping to attract new residents into the local employment sector.||$2,800,000||2022|
|Buloke Council: Cabins Infrastructure for Tourism and Short-Term Accommodation||Improve the diversity of accommodation available to tourists in Buloke Shire and help alleviate rental housing pressures by offering occasional short term seasonal worker accommodation during quieter months at the lakes (particularly June to September) which are usually busy periods for short-term construction workers.||$2,340,000||2022|
|Samaritan House and FormFlow Housing Project||Samaritan House Geelong is building 7 single small dwelling units to increase their provision of accommodation to homeless men in the Geelong region, utilising a prototype small house unit developed by innovative Geelong-based manufacturer FormFlow and Deakin University School of Architecture.||$500,000||2020|
|ACIF – Longerenong facilities||Building of student studio and apartment accommodation for at least 41 people, a communal building for conferences and student gatherings, parking and landscaping at Longerenong College.||$6,500,000||2021|
|Wimmera Southern Mallee Caravan Park Upgrades - Hindmarsh||This project will result in the design, installation and fit out of 6 new 2-bedroom accommodation units at four caravan parks within Hindmarsh Shire.||$650,000||2021|
|Robinvale Housing Strategy (RP)||The Robinvale Housing Strategy project will enable the Swan Hill Rural City Council to engage a specialty consultancy to review Robinvale’s current housing situation, ascertain workforce staffing projections, determine short- and long-term accommodation requirements within the Robinvale region over the next 15 years and seek solutions to the identified issues.||$65,000||2018|
|Sea Lake Housing Development||Subdivision and housing development in Sea Lake at 110 Sutcliffe Street. Servicing and subdivision of 6 executive housing blocks.||$300,000||2021|