NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes excited about Wollongong

BOOM TOWN: 'Big opportunities are based around the transformation of the [Wollongong] economy,' says NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes, who was the key speaker at a Property Council event at City Beach Function Centre. Picture: Adam McLean

BOOM TOWN: 'Big opportunities are based around the transformation of the [Wollongong] economy,' says NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes, who was the key speaker at a Property Council event at City Beach Function Centre. Picture: Adam McLean

Domain Group chief economist Dr Andrew Wilson predicts within 20 years the number of people renting will outweigh home owners in the Illawarra and has called for governments to accommodate change.

“People want to live here but can’t afford to buy here,” Dr Wilson said.

He believes rental properties will be seen more like commercial properties as investors will increasingly drive the property market.

NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes, who was the key speaker at a Property Council function in Wollongong on Tuesday, said though increasing supply would always help, it wasn’t the only solution.

“While the investors have an important role to play we need to make sure that homebuyers aren’t fighting with one arm tied behind their backs and we have … strategies to allow people to get access to a place that they can own,” Mr Stokes said.

“We need to ... ensure investment is directed into things that will produce a wider social benefit, we need to attract investors, we need to stimulate housing production but we can’t lose sight of the fact that housing is ultimately about people.”

Both agreed the region would see more housing variations in the future, more townhouses and apartment blocks in wider suburban areas, because not everyone wanted (or could afford) a house and land package.

This was part of local government reforms, including a focus to make planning regulations more uniform and giving councils more resources to deal with complex development proposals, Mr Stokes said.

It would mean easier pathways for developers to create more affordable housing in a mix of high, medium and low density without jumping through as many hoops.

Domain Group senior economist Dr Andrew Wilson with Michelle Mannex, account manager Illawarra, Domain Group. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Domain Group senior economist Dr Andrew Wilson with Michelle Mannex, account manager Illawarra, Domain Group. Picture: Sylvia Liber

“Many developers have told me … it’s not because of a lack of will by council but it’s because they’re too small to have the sorts of expertise needed to assess complex proposals,” Mr Stokes said.

“Councils need to be a key partner in providing housing and doing so in an affordable way and amalgamation is part of that strategy.”

President of the Real Estate Institute of NSW John Cunningham agreed allowing more variations to housing was paramount.

“[Wollongong] will go the way of other international metropolis’ where renting is more common than ownership. However, there is a way of slowing that trend down and that is through two initiatives,” Mr Cunningham said.

“First is to increase supply rapidly through a mix of high, medium and low density development through the region. The second is through regional development initiatives to build vibrant regional communities where people will want to work and live in a far more affordable environment.”

Mr Stokes said the “good news” was the Illawarra was more affordable than Sydney, had strong growth from families moving to the area which added great depth to communities.

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