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Monday 30 August 2021

Port Macquarie is currently experiencing a housing supply and affordability crisis.  This is being driven by high demand, rising building costs and land supply constraints.  At present there is a limited and constrained supply of zoned land for future residential dwellings within our local government area to meet demand and maintain affordability.

Analysis of the rising demand for housing in this area has resulted in a forecast that we will need to accommodate an additional 20,000 people by 2036.  This means that the local housing industry needs to supply about 500-600 dwellings annually for the next 15 years.  The recent and ongoing COVID pandemic appears to have accelerated an exodus from capital cities to regional centres and rural areas.  The demand from this trend is likely to exceed current forecasts and put even higher demand on housing supply in our area.

As part of its existing Urban Growth Strategy Council has a subordinate document the “DRAFT Housing Strategy” on exhibition for comment until mid-September.  This document is accompanied by a Theoretical Dwelling Capacity report undertaken by specialist consultants.  This capacity report is significantly flawed in that a large number of sites within the Port Macquarie Hastings LGA have been incorrectly assessed as having development capacity.  The resultant inaccurate data fails to identify that Port Macquarie Hastings LGA does not have an adequate supply of zoned land for housing to meet the forecast demand.

To properly address the land shortage, housing supply and resultant affordability crisis the PMHC Urban Growth Strategy firstly needs to identify future land release areas to exceed predicted demand up to 2036.  This is so sufficient choice in location and price is available to purchasers, competition is maintained amongst developers as well as allowing for some areas to proceed while others are in planning phases.

Secondly, the strategy must identify the critical infrastructure needed to support release areas such as roads, water, trunk sewer and services.  Where appropriate Council should then forward fund key pieces of infrastructure to unlock development potential.  This ensures that land is made available in a timely fashion, supply to market keeps prices under control and the additional costs of lead-in infrastructure is not borne by the home buyer.

The Housing Strategy document should underpin and support the Urban Growth objectives in terms of housing types, development control settings, incentivisation and specific aims for various housing precincts.  One example of the latter being medium density in fringe CBD areas where redevelopment could yield additional supply of villas and townhouses.  The challenges here relate to replacing aging infrastructure, prescriptive development controls and high contributions making such development not economically feasible.

In new release areas where 70% of demand is for freestanding houses, the challenge is to extract the maximum yield from zoned land.  This means ensuring that development controls allow removal of scattered vegetation that is not environmentally significant whilst protecting areas that are sensitive and of high ecological value.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that those moving to our area from cities favour not only their own yard space but also desire living in an area that preserves its natural surroundings.

The local housing and construction industry supports over 3000 jobs directly and countless others  indirectly in businesses such as real estate, hardware and building suppliers, furnishing and white goods, conveyancing, legal and financial services.  A robust and considered long term strategy is required to meet our future housing demands, maintain housing affordability and provide certainty to a key local industry.

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