Shortage of rentals could halt growth

IF YOU are a lone renter in Dubbo, chances are you have become part of a rare and enigmatic breed at the envy of hundreds affected by the city's accommodation shortage.

A new report published by Easyroommate.com suggests people have become less fussed about personal space and more intent on sharing their diggings with other people.

The property site's latest findings claim there were 18,955 registered members looking for rooms across the nation's major cities but only 6931 properties available. The worst-affected city in Australia was Sydney, with 4953 individuals vying for 1152 properties.

Each property in Sydney had an average number of 4.3 applicants per room, compared with Melbourne, which had three and Brisbane two.

Local real estate agent Bob Berry said the latest figures were indicative of the rental shortage gripping Dubbo.

The report claimed young professional were the biggest driver of higher shared accommodation figures and rental increases, but Mr Berry said Dubbo's lower proportion of available housing had forced prospective renters to rethink their living arrangements.

Mr Berry said a 20-year low in local building approvals, coupled by growing costs, taxes and council-enforced land covenants were the most moderate factors impeding the rate of development in Dubbo.

Mr Berry said council's mandatory building covenant of 180 square metres was forcing investors and developers to look outside Dubbo to other regional centres where the return on investment was higher.

The Real Estate Institute of Australia report, out earlier this month, claimed the number of bonds held in Dubbo since 1992 only increased 73.83 per cent compared with Bathurst, Tamworth and Orange which reported increases of between 95 and 96 per cent.

"The covenants are above what investors and developers can make a return from," he said.

"We are advocating that the council is a major supplier of land in Dubbo and that the city should eliminate the 180-metre covernant and revert back to its previous building policy."

Mr Berry also supports a review of the city's residential zoning LEP, to allow expansion into areas of Dubbo where infill developments could take place.

The agent said an overhaul of the LEP could allow investors to take dilapidated homes within council's existing infrastructure, knock them down and redevelop them into villas, townhouses and units without the need for added infrastructure.

"It's a no brainer," Mr Berry said.

But the city's housing headache is also underpinned by sharp rental price hikes, highlighted by the Real Estate Institute's September quarterly report, which showed increases of more than 16 per cent for an average two-bedroom dwelling in Dubbo.

Increases for three-bedroom dwellings also rose more than 8 per cent in the September quarter - eclipsing the rate of growth for neighbouring centres like Bathurst (3.4 per cent) and Orange, which recorded no change.

While Mr Berry admits he had never been one to "subscribe to the idea of a rental crisis in Dubbo", he agreed the lack of housing availability would soon become "detrimental" to the city's future.

"The figures we are seeing for Dubbo are unsustainable ... and we are effectively pushing potential new residents away," he said.

"We've noticed an increase in the number of new renters filling out multiple applications, and I guess that really gives you a sense of the urgency out there in the rental market."

But it's not all bad news for the city, and while development on the Cobbora coal mine has some investors nervous, the overall volatility of the global stock market has equated to gold for local agents and developers.

"People are coming back to bricks and mortar," he said

But where it will all end is still anybody's guess.

reid.jermyn@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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