An independent report into the housing planning system in rural NSW has identified a lack of diversity, affordable homes, and just plain shortages as the main issues in the New England region.
No regional local government area in NSW has a rental vacancy rate about three per cent, the rate considered "well-balanced between supply and demand", the report shows.
Many, like the Gunnedah region, have vacancy rates closer to zero.
"Since June 2020 rental vacancies have been falling across regional NSW," the report said. "The impacts of rental shortages on regional communities were raised as a significant concern by stakeholders, with many households struggling to find appropriate accommodation, businesses struggling to attract workers ... increasing rates of housing stress, and even some households being forced out of their communities."
The report identified five issues: housing diversity, affordable housing incentives and requirements, infill development, shortage of rental properties and the community housing sector. Homes North chief executive Maree McKenzie said the report was a good start, but she would wait until she saw some real solutions to celebrate.
"It's a fantastic time and opportunity for regional areas. Governments have tried to decentralise and there's been a few initiatives to do that over the decades," she said.
Planning minister Rob Stokes said the taskforce had heard from more than 500 people. "The report confirms COVID-19 has accelerated an existing trend of people moving from the city to the bush, and this has had an acute impact on regional housing markets," he said.
Local council staff and councillors took the opportunity to speak to the taskforce last month. Liverpool Plains planning and regulatory services manager Hannah McCauley told the probe the region has a shortage of rental accommodation so severe it has caused "rent bidding".
Tamworth Regional Council planning and compliance director Gina Vereker said the city had 3000 vacant residential blocks ready to be built - but without any progress.
The taskforce will release detailed recommendations in October.
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