Regional housing has experienced an unprecedented boom in the wake of COVID and working from home

Australia's national obsession goes regional

What changes have you seen in the housing market over the past year or so?

Tree changers discovering the joys of rural or regional living, local economies thriving with the influx of tourists and a booming property market is one side of the story.

The other side, equally well publicised, has seen some regions see long-term residents, locals, looking outside their towns for accommodation as a shortage of rental properties combined with an increase in prices starts to bite.

How can regional Australia meet the needs of both new and long-term residents?

There's no one, nor easy, answer. Earlier this month Melinda Pavey, the Minister for Water, Property and Housing announced that selling the Sirius Building in Sydney's Rocks area had funded over 330 social housing properties in regions such as Dubbo, Wagga and Gosford.

It's a start, but 330 homes is nowhere near the projected housing requirements for regional Australia's growth towns. It also doesn't provide what for many Australian's is an important consideration - the opportunity to own their own home.

Another solution is to release land for further development, but there are limits to the amount of land suitable for housing. Goulburn in the NSW Southern Tablelands currently has no residential land available for sale as demand from both Sydneysiders and Canberrans pushes the market there ever higher.

If you drive through regional towns sitting an hour or two from a capital city you'll witness the boom in construction, with subdivisions turning farmland into suburbs. But is it enough? And is this what people moving out of the big cities want?

It's certainly not what Howard Porter and his family were looking for when they swapped Bondi Beach for the Byron Bay Hinterland. They've bought a church and are converting it into the family home.

For them, it was important to maintain that community feel of being able to walk to the local shops and cafe. Other treechangers have gone for size. Revelling in moving from small apartments or cramped terrace houses to small acreages allowing enough space for veggie gardens and chooks.

Jane Thompson was an early treechanger, swapping Sydney for the Byron Bay Hinterland 18 years ago after the birth of her first child. She has embraced the country lifestyle whilst running a nationwide events company, the Fabulous Ladies Wine Society, from the family farm.

Sounds idyllic? Well it is for those that can still afford it. The latest CoreLogic figures show that rental properties in the Richmond/Tweed area of NSW which incorporates Byron Bay, Lismore and the surrounds have seen prices leap by 19% for the past financial year.

As steep as this sounds, it's nothing on the price hikes areas of Tasmania have witnessed. For the past few years Hobart has been touted as a hot market, with the shortage of rental properties causing significant problems with housing insecurity and homelessness. Well other areas of Tasmania are joining in, with prices up by 23.7% in the South-East, an area which includes the world famous Bruny Island.

Of course, for people moving from Melbourne or Sydney, the prices that seem unaffordable for some seem like a bargain. The question is how can we offer enough housing and support services for both new residents and old?

This story Australia's national obsession goes regional first appeared on The Canberra Times.