by Michael Giles

IT’S an absolute disgrace that there is virtually no residential land available for immediate sale to those crying out to build new homes in Wonthaggi today.
And there’s huge demand for it, so much so that it is placing added pressure on the limited stocks of existing real estate in the town to the point now that house prices in Wonthaggi are reaching unprecedented levels – if you can actually find something suitable.
It’s alright if you own a house in Wonthaggi. Happy days.
But its hitting families through housing affordability hard and we’re also missing the boat on the strong demand for new home building and the jobs in the local area that are created by that sort of construction activity.
The economy, in reality, is missing out on the full impact of a building boom and it’s missing out badly.
And don’t think that demand will always be there.
Leongatha thought that some years ago when the councillors of the day discouraged the expansion of the town’s shopping centre.
The developers simply went somewhere else and Leongatha has suffered as a result ever since.
While interest rates are historically low now and are expected to stay that way for at least a couple of years, you’ve got to make the most of it while the demand is there and get as many new houses going as possible to carry you through the down times.
There’s also the added pressure being brought to bear on the surrounding coastal areas like Inverloch, Cape Paterson, San Remo and Phillip Island; areas that aren’t set up to handle the residential growth that has been slated for Wonthaggi.
Certainly there’s a massive, big residential growth area for Wonthaggi in the pipeline, providing upwards of 4000 new home sites, depending on how it’s developed but it’s simply taking far too long to get the blocks developed and released.
We’re told there’ll be a Boxing Day Sale type atmosphere when the next stage of the Parklands Estate is released for sale soon. Is that a good thin?
So whose fault is it that we’ve reached this parlous state of
affairs?
It is an absolutely fundamental responsibility for the local shire council to provide 10 to 15 years of residential land for new housing, especially in a location like Wonthaggi that has been earmarked by both State and Local authorities to absorb most of the growth pressures in this area.
The shire will tell you that they’ve been genuinely caught on the hop by the rate of growth over the past few years. They say we’ve grown 21.5 per cent in the period between 2007-2016 and the local economy has grown 46 per cent in the same period making this the fastest growing region in Victoria.
And local estate agents will also tell you that they’ve been frankly stunned by how quickly remaining vacant land has been soaked up.
But the fact is that it’s the shire’s job to make sure our stocks of residential land aren’t overtaken by growth. It’s a catastrophic failure of planning on their part.
The other problem is that, while the shire has now rezoned sufficient land for residential development, the private owners of that land have not been sufficiently motivated or they’ve been bound up by red tape and have failed to get on with it.
How and when they develop the land is up to them.
So it’s also a failure of government policy that when a local shire fails to act and private landowners fail to develop land for housing that ordinary families, seeking affordable housing are the ones that suffer.
Surely there’s a role for a government housing authority to force councils and developers to act in a timely manner by committing sufficient resources to the problem under threat that their planning permits will be revoked.
Forget the bloody bins if you can, the shire and developers should be moving heaven and earth at the moment to get more building blocks on to the market in Wonthaggi.