Two G21 municipalities have declared a housing crisis in response to the lack of affordable accommodation for key workers in towns along the Great Ocean Road.
Colac Otway Shire councillors voted to declare a ‘key and essential worker housing crisis’ as a lack of affordable housing starts to significantly impact on the region.
Pressure is being felt across the whole community with essential service providers such as doctors, teachers and police unable to take up work Colac Otway.
The shortage is also affecting economic activity with small businesses unable to open their doors, as they struggle to find workers.
There is a need for a diverse mix of rental and market housing suitable for professional services workers, hospitality and seasonal workers, and timber and meat industry workers.
Apollo Bay and other coastal towns offering a long-distance commute, are at particular risk due to their remoteness and a growing trend for short-term rental of properties on platforms like Air BnB.
An investment in more affordable, safe, secure housing stock in these areas will help grow their permanent populations, accommodate seasonal workers during peak tourism periods and provide a more stable local economy.
Colac Otway Shire is already making preparations to build social and key worker housing in Colac and address the shortage in coastal towns. Council will deliver a report on proposed solutions for the coming summer.
Surf Coast Shire faces a similar challenge and declared a ‘key worker accommodation crisis’ in May.
Tourist hotspot Lorne was used as a case study for the municipality, demonstrating the effects of a high turnover of staff, a lack of international backpacker and student workforce (95 per cent of Lorne’s seasonal workforce) and lack of suitable accommodation.
Businesses there are reducing their trading hours or closing for days at a time due to a lack of staff, which is reducing the quality of the visitor experience.
One business in Lorne said the nearest accommodation option for staff is in Armstrong Creek, which also has high demand and prices. It is not viewed as a long-term option given the late hours in hospitality and the long commute time.
Surf Coast Shire has allocated $60,000 for an Action Plan to explore ways to address the issue.
There is an opportunity here for all three levels of government to put together a creative solution in collaboration with the private sector, and not just for our region.
Other regions in Victoria and nationally are experiencing the same pinch and the problem looks like it will be with us for a while.