By Angela Dorizas
A re-elected Labor Government would provide $200 million to boost housing in regional communities and relieve pressure on capital cities.
Speaking in Brisbane on Sunday, Ms Gillard announced that Labor would make available funding to councils to help fast track the construction of around 15,000 new homes.
Ms Gillard said the Building Better Regional Cities initiative would relieve pressure on major capital cities and address housing shortages across Australia.
“Building Better Regional Cities is a fiscally-responsible program that has been created because we know there are many regional cities that offer good jobs and an excellent lifestyle but suffer a housing deficit,” Ms Gillard said.
“Cities like Mackay which has seen 9.6 per cent jobs growth over the past five years but faces a housing shortage of more than 1000 properties.
“Building Better Regional Cities will help change situations like that by enabling councils to fast track existing plans to build housing for families in well designed sustainable neighbourhoods.”
To secure the funding, participating councils would be required to submit proposals for infrastructure projects aimed at delivering affordable housing.
Councils would need to demonstrate that there is land available for housing, community support for new development and jobs growth. The proposal would also need to show good urban design and environmental improvements.
“It is expected that about 15 cities will be successful, receiving up to around $15 million each,” Ms Gillard said.
“To meet this commitment we will reprioritise existing funding for housing – it will have no net impact on the budget.”
The Property Council of Australia and the Residential Development Council have both welcomed the proposal.
Residential Development Council executive director, Caryn Kakas, said the initiative was modelled on the successful Housing Affordability Fund which had provided much-needed housing supply.
“Housing affordability is not an issue that is restricted to capital cities,” Ms Kakas said.
“There is no doubt that regional areas have been unable to develop to their potential due to the lack of affordable housing, delivery of linking infrastructure and employment opportunities.”
Property Council of Australia chief executive Peter Verwer welcomed the proposed initiative, but added that a comprehensive cities policy was required to join together metropolitan and regional planning strategies.
“That means moving to better urban planning frameworks, and introducing a national urban planning policy that allows our cities to successfully deliver housing and key infrastructure for our growing population,” he said.
“We need long-term strategic planning that secures the strong economic growth that will fund sustainable communities that are greener, more vibrant and liveable.”
The Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW have also welcomed the campaign promise.
Local Government Association president Genia McCaffery said the plan was a viable solution for rural and metropolitan regions.
“This funding could have a range of benefits, from boosting the economy and encouraging population growth in our regional and rural centres to easing congestion and overcrowding in Sydney,” Cr McCaffery said.
“Many of our regional and rural centres already have infrastructure plans ready to go but just haven't had the funds to pay for them.
“This funding will be a great help in bringing these plans to life.”
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