6 December 2023

Lots of opportunity but nowhere to build in Wagga

| Chris Roe
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Five people on a building site

Marty Keogh (HIA), Adam Drummond (C4W), Melanie Renkin (RDA Riverina), Rachael Whiting (RDA Riverina) and Tony Balding (HIA). Photo: Chris Roe.

According to the 2022-23 Land Monitor Report for Wagga released this week, there’s not enough land available to build on.

“The number of new vacant lots that we’re producing each year is trending downwards but consumption is remaining stable,” explained Regional Development Australia (RDA) Riverina researcher Melanie Renkin.

“We’re using existing vacant lots that have been around for a while, which is great, they should be used, but that supply is dwindling so we need to do something about it in the future.”

RDA Riverina has again collaborated with the Housing Industry Association (HIA) and the Committee 4 Wagga (C4W) on the annual survey of available residential land.

The report weighs Land and housing supply against demand and was accompanied by an economic impact analysis of the local government area. Unfortunately, the maths is not promising.

“Rental prices have gone up about 40 per cent over the last five years; the median sale price of the house has gone up about 63 per cent and the price of a vacant block of land has gone up about 62 per cent,” Ms Renkin said.

“So those are quite big increases that the consumer needs to find the money for.”

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Not only have housing costs outstripped growth in wages, but Tony Balding from HIA said the lack of land was impacting the current local economy and stalling future growth.

“Our reports have indicated that the five-year average is 313 homes. Last year we did 256,” he said.

“That’s a $57 million loss to the economy and 118 jobs by not just doing the average.

“We’ve produced this landmark report for 10 years and the hope is that the decision-makers will enable enough land and enough supply and demand forces to be dealt with.”

three men looking at graph

Marty Keogh, Adam Drummond and Tony Balding look through the new reports. Photo: Chris Roe.

RDA Riverina’s Rachael Whiting agreed that the supply and demand issues with housing were holding regional development back.

“I think there’s a huge potential for growth in the Riverina and in Wagga but if we can’t house people, then how can those businesses that have the potential growth grow?” she said.

“So our plan is to help provide the data and the intelligence to the government so the decision-makers can make the right decisions for our region.”

C4W chair Adam Drummond conceded that the timeline set in 2019 for a target population of 100,000 by 2038 for Wagga was looking less feasible, but said it remained an important goal.

“We’ve seen the tipping point in other regional locations around Australia; Bendigo, Ballarat, and Toowoomba, to name a few,” he explained.

“Once you hit that 90,000, the city does have a new heart to thrive and that’s when you do see the Civic Theatre upgrades or the convention centre move to town and you’ve got a population to support those sorts of things.

“So I think we need to remain with that 100,000 target. Will it happen for 2038? You don’t need a crystal ball to say no, it won’t, but we still need to be pushing for that to happen at some time in the future.”

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According to the three organisations involved in the report, advocacy and good planning will be the keys to getting the city back on track.

“We need to accelerate planning, accelerate some of the projects and some of the subdivisions that have been identified; we cannot wait seven or eight years for these projects to come through,” Mr Balding warned.

“We have to find a pathway through State Government, through local councils, and that’s very important.

“In 2026 we’re going to be in a real land crisis and a real shortage and all that will do is put the price of land up and put the price of housing up.”

Mr Drummond said the next step was to engage Wagga councillors around the report and put pressure on the State Government through Member for Wagga Wagga Dr Joe McGirr.

“At the end of the day, those conversations have to be more than just talk around the table,” he said.

“They have to be an alignment that actually sees incentive for developers to move to town and to build with confidence.”

You can see the 2022-23 Land Monitor Report on the RDA Riverina homepage.

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