A program that could help ease the housing crisis in regional Victoria appears to have been ignored by the government, according to Northern Victoria MP Gaelle Broad.
Ms Broad said the idea to streamline the planning process for secondary dwellings, such as granny flats, was a good one.
A pilot study was done two years ago, but councils are still waiting for a response from the Planning Minister. Ms Broad urged the Minister to take action.
“This program would make it easier for people to construct smaller dwellings on the same lot as existing dwellings in specific residential areas,” she told Parliament.
“A pilot program to fast-track secondary dwellings was conducted by the department two years ago. If an application met the program conditions, it was assessed under the VicSmart pathway at a reduced time frame of 10 working days at a reduced fee.
“The City of Greater Bendigo provided feedback on the program to the department two years ago with the understanding that the results of the pilot would be analysed, but they are yet to receive feedback from the government, and no changes have been made to the planning scheme.
“Regional Victoria is experiencing a housing crisis, with shortages across northern Victoria, including Bendigo, Shepparton, Mildura and Benalla. Regional Victoria’s population is growing rapidly, in part because of the COVID-19 lockdowns that saw many people moving to the regions and because regional Victoria is simply the best place to live.
“In Greater Bendigo alone the population is around 126,000 and it is forecast to exceed 155,000 people by 2036. At average occupancy rates the region will need over 13,000 additional homes to meet the demand. In Bendigo over 3000 people are on the social housing waitlist, and Seymour also has over 580 people in need of a home.
“Across Northern Victoria people are being offered great jobs only to turn them down because they cannot find a place to live. Rental prices in regional Victoria have skyrocketed. According to the Grattan Institute, vacancy rates are at record lows and rents have risen over 12.5 per cent in the past year.
“People are living in caravans, tents and cars because they cannot find a home they can afford. The floods have caused further devastation in places like Rochester, with people whose homes were flooded now living at relief centres.
“Looking ahead, the Commonwealth Games are just three years away, in March 2026. Bendigo and Shepparton are hosting events, and thousands of people will be looking for a place to stay. Federal Treasury has also predicted a migration boom in the next two years that will place further pressure on regional housing.
“It can take months for housing applications to get through council, and it is an expensive and time-consuming process.”
Ms Broad said it was now two years since the secondary dwellings pilot program had finished.
”The government needs to take action to implement an efficient application process for secondary dwellings in Victoria to help address the current crisis and provide more housing in regional areas.”