June 5th, 2021Rush to buy regional double-edged sword
ALL tiers of government need to think and act faster with Covid leading more and more people to regional lives, says REIV president Leah Calnan.
Ms Calnan said there was a lot of activity in regional Victoria, including the Central Highlands, with people particularly interested in moving into areas within a one to three-hour commute of Melbourne’s CBD.
“If you think about it, if you have employment where you can still commute into metro Melbourne whether it’s one or two or three days a week and that might be an hour (to) three-hour commute, it is a very attractive space and location to be. I think that’s just one of the contributors driving up the prices.
“Covid has really been that contributor, everyone has had this desire for a long time for a more relaxed regional lifestyle, a bigger block of land, perhaps a different type of lifestyle, a different type of employment, any of those sort of scenarios mean Covid has really given people that kick or push, whatever word you want to use, to make that decision to say: ‘Look I don’t want to continue with my large mortgage, what are the opportunities that I can see if I go back to that commuting aspect?’ “Regional centres are very attractive to people to be able to live regionally but potentially still be employed in metro Melbourne.”
Trend here to stay
Ms Calnan said she believed the trend was here to stay with just over 12 months of dealing with Covid but the desire of regional centres “getting hotter and hotter”. Which was good and bad.
“I think employers and business now see there is an opportunity for people to work remotely, albeit for a couple of days and still going into the office, but I think what this does ultimately is put a fair amount of pressure on the local governments in these regional areas because the stock shortage has been the key factor for many, many months and there has to be quicker planning and quicker land release from local government to make sure housing is available to accommodate the growing population we have.”
Ms Calnan acknowledges housing affordability across regional Victoria was a key issue and a “double-edged sword”. “We know there is a shortage in rental accommodation in the Central Highlands and surrounding areas, the vacancy rates are well under that one per cent mark, so the government needs to look at ways, really for state and federal (governments) that they can release land but also develop some affordable housing in the communities so those long term renters who have been in the community and lived through however many years, don’t get outpriced in that local area.”
Development new way of life
Ms Calnan said more housing development needed to be accepted as a new way of life for regional areas.
“That is always a really big challenge for the locals at the moment. Covid creates this ability for talent to come into local communities and then there is more money spent in the centre of town, more in the restaurants, more in the cafes and shops but with it does come a bit of development and people have to accept that the Daylesford of today is different to the Daylesford of five years ago, or 10 years ago.
“If you want to have a growing regional area where you have people that don’t just grow up there and leave to a metro area or a larger regional town to raise a family or seek employment, you need to have that level of attraction in your own area. It does create a need for locals to say ‘I may not necessarily like it but I have to look at all the positives it brings to our town’.”
Regional Victoria not for everyone
Ms Calnan said a move to regional Victoria would not suit everyone and it came down to what people were looking for, whether that was a new lifestyle, different employment or schooling.
“Again, it is a double-edged sword, because it does also put additional pressure on all the services. If you have an increase in population to your area what pressure does that put on the local hospital, the local dentist or doctors, chiropractors? There are all those facilities which you are very used to being able to get into quicker than if you have an increase in population. (Development) is a positive but does come with some negative challenges that people need to get their head around.
“I think there are far more positives than negatives, but we just have to change the way we think and look at how work operates. We have been able to adapt as a country, we just need to continue to be flexible and adapt in these changing environments.”
Ms Calnan said she believes government has started rising to the challenge of providing more developments while thinking about services to the community.
“I have been talking about the need for land release for well over six months, coming into nine months now, because we could see this time last year, particularly around the Ballarat area having such low vacancy rates, that local government as well as state need to do more. They have to reduce the red tape and make it more attractive for developers to come in and create those additional housing estates.”
Role of presidency
Ms Calnan took on the role of REIV president two years ago this October with the normal term just 12 months. But in October last year, as Covid swirled, the REIV board asked her to remain for another 12 months to steer the industry through the pandemic.
“It’s been incredibly interesting, challenging and rewarding and I have to say I used to feel the industry was like the Titanic, very hard to move and not very agile, but it is a much more flexible and agile industry now. I’ve got my own business and three teenagers who have all been home schooling so it has created a lot of chatter in our house and my kids know a lot more about real estate than they ever really wanted to.”
Words: Donna Kelly