New research from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has found that the COVID pandemic has heightened concerns about housing affordability and access to services for people living in regional Australia.
The research, “Understanding the Lived Experience and Benefits of Regional Cities”, conducted by AHURI by researchers from UNSW Sydney, RMIT University, University of Sydney and University of Australia du South, explores the lived experience of residents to better understand the pros and cons. to live in a regional city.
During the 21st century, Australia’s population has grown at a high rate, mainly due to international migration which has been concentrated in major cities, while many more remote areas have experienced population decline.
The research focused on five case study towns: Albury-Wodonga, Cairns, Mildura, Whyalla and Wollongong.
“While each city had a unique story to tell, a number of shared experiences and concerns also emerged from our case studies,” said lead researcher Dr Laura Crommelin of UNSW Sydney.
“In particular, having affordable and spacious housing was seen as an important part of regional city life and of considerable appeal to young families. Indeed, it was seen as a crucial element in maintaining the attractiveness of regional life for some participants.
“However, many participants felt that the affordability and availability of regional housing – particularly rental – was declining due to regional population growth during COVID-19.”
Area residents also feared that growth would diminish the “village” and “small town” appeal of their towns.
This sense of concern indicates that regional growth policies need to show how population growth will benefit regional communities, rather than just happening to them.
Residents of regional cities noted that it is not always possible to maintain income levels when leaving a large metropolitan area.
Some participants who had left metropolitan areas found that they had to adjust their work and career expectations in the face of regional labor markets. A resident of Albury-Wodonga said he took a 30% pay cut when moving to the area. This pay cut, coupled with a lack of available career development, was a major factor in not wanting to stay in the region.
The reality of lower wages makes assessments of the greater housing affordability advantages of regional versus metropolitan living more complex. One of the main goals of growth policy should be to improve regional labor markets, which would then attract and retain people. This must include consideration of how long-term career aspirations can be met in non-metro Australia, as well as providing continued employment trajectories for skilled workers and suitable employment for their spouses – issues which have proven to reduce the long-term success of government decentralization programs.
“Our research also highlighted the high levels of frustration that many residents felt with the provision of essential services,” Dr Crommelin said.
“There were particular concerns about the current lack of specialist health care and the wait time for GPs. People also expressed concerns about the likelihood of increased health and medical demands. education due to population growth.
“Our findings reinforce the importance of approaching policy-making from a regional perspective, with the aim of making regional Australia an attractive place to live and work, rather than just a solution to metropolitan demographic pressures. “