THE Sentinel-Times recently put on a new journalist, a young man from northern Victoria, looking to move closer to his family in the Melbourne area.

But it has taken almost three months to find him a place, any place to live.

There just aren’t any rents available. And we’re not on our own in trying to recruit and then accommodate people locally.

The ridiculously tight rental market is now severely impacting the economy of regional areas, not to mention those looking for social housing, a situation that has been supercharged by the pandemic as people have taken the opportunity to retire or ‘work from home’ and get out of metro Melbourne.

The dramatic increase in real estate values, especially in Melbourne relative to country and coastal locations, has financed the accelerated pace of that demographic shift.

But according to the principal of a South Gippsland primary school, where enrolments have fluctuated in recent years, the practice by “Melbourne baby boomers cashing in their valuable houses in Melbourne, buying in the country and pocketing the difference for their retirement” is also having unintended consequences.

“The fact is, we’ve got young families wanting to move to this area, but they can’t find anywhere to live,” said the local primary principal.

“There were always a few vacant houses for rent in this area and we had seen people with kids moving here but that’s largely stopped now by Melbourne people selling up and moving here, or using their equity to buy a weekender.

“Certainly, we don’t begrudge people cashing in their house in Melbourne and moving to the country but it’s affecting our enrolments now and that’s a concern.”

It’s likely to be a situation that’s impacting other towns across regional Victoria, to varying degrees, especially those desirable sea change or tree change locations attracting people looking to move out of the city.

What’s to be done about it? Well, as they say in business: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”.

A starting point for government would be to get some transparent data on what’s happening with housing in rural and regional areas… and do it now!