Regulations in Victoria's Loddon Mallee region to appoint dedicated housing officer

Regulations in Victoria's Loddon Mallee region to appoint dedicated housing officer

Ten regional Victoria councils say they lack the skilled staff necessary to cope with the current housing crisis.

The councils are working together to appoint and finance a dedicated regional housing officer as part of a regional housing action plan.

The Victorian government has said it plans to build 152,000 more rural and regional homes over the next decade as part of its Housing Statement announced earlier this month.

Due to the pandemic-fueled mass migration from cities to regional regions, local councils have been scrambling to deal with the housing crisis that has resulted.

Low vacancy rates, construction industry problems, and planning backlogs have led to increasing homelessness in regional areas.

Some councils have even re-purposing caravan park cabins or re-zoning scarce public land to house their most vulnerable community members.

Rural Councils Victoria chair Mary-Ann Brown said the lack of safe, affordable housing faced unique challenges for rural and regional communities.

The same issues that are challenging metropolitan and regional cities, she said.

In the next 15 years, another estimated 87,400 new homes need to be built in regional Victoria.

And failing to meet that demand could cost up to $1 billion in losses to the state's annual gross regional product.

But Ms Brown said local councils were simply not equipped to deliver key housing outcomes.

To help address the problem, 10 local councils in Victoria's Loddon Mallee region are taking matters into their own hands.

The Loddon Mallee region encompasses ten municipalities, stretching from metropolitan Melbourne to the north-western border of Victoria.

Its population is about 340,000 - around 5 percent of the population in Victoria - and the majority of the region's four major urban centres are Echuca, Bendigo, Mildura, and Swan Hill.

Councillors from the 10 shires, with funding from the state's Department of Jobs, Skills, industry and Regions, together commissioned a report investigating the region's critical housing needs.

They compiled their findings in the Loddon Mallee housing action plan, which was published in November 2022.

The plan identified poor strategy planning, a lack of housing diversity, and bureaucratic hurdles as the region's most pressing housing-related problems.

The councils also identified possible strategies, including the appointment of a dedicated regional housing officer.

The proposed 12-month position will need $150,000 in funding, with the Regional Development Australia Loddon Mallee Committee and associated councils sharing the cost.

Rebecca Stockfeld, director of planning and environment at Macedon Ranges Shire Council, oversees the recruitment process.

She said the role would help alleviate housing-related burdens on local councils.

The Campaspe Shire Council in northern Victoria has committed $8,000 to finance the role.

Amos said there were common housing problems across the Loddon Mallee region and it makes sense for us to pool resources with other local governments in the region in a shared service model.

She said the timing of the project was 'terrific'.