The Illawarra is no longer in the grips of a housing crisis, it is an emergency, and those on low and increasingly middle incomes are no longer in housing stress, but housing distress, a property industry gathering heard in Wollongong today.
Janelle Goulding, director business development - affordable housing at Landcom, the government agency developing the former Bulli Hospital site, told those at the Urban Development Institute of Australia Illawarra luncheon the situation was dire.
"We do have a housing emergency, it's no longer a crisis," she said.
"People are in housing distress, not stress, and we need to fix it."
Ms Goulding said housing needed to be considered as priority infrastructure.
"We need to recognise that any society needs housing for key workers to work in these areas and keep them alive and thriving."
Whether the housing industry and governments have the capacity to deliver the growing need for housing, both affordable and at market rates, remains to be seen.
Managing director of Colliers Wollongong Simon Kersten said the building sector in Wollongong had decelerated in the delivery of new housing, particularly apartments.
"The news isn't great as far as supply goes, it's not a lot and way less than we need," he said.
Mr Kersten said there were a number of factors behind the slow down in new builds, including the cost of materials, access to funding and delays in approvals, but that with Wollongong expected to add population equivalent to the current size of Darwin in the next 20 years, it was a problem that urgently needed solving.
"If you think it's fine out there now, it's going to get worse," he said.
Attendees also heard it is not only the volume of housing being built but the type of it too. Chris O'Dell, director of analytics at Gyde Consulting highlighted the mismatch in what was being built close to transport infrastructure.
"The thing that concerns me is that there is still detached housing being built within 800 metres of a train station," Mr O'Dell said. "I think that's something that needs to be addressed here quickly."
Mr Kersten said land around train stations in Wollongong was "underutilised", as the transport backbone enabled more people to live closer to services, and was a more efficient use of existing infrastructure.
If the development industry and governments were going to address the housing emergency, Ms Goulding stressed it would be a joint effort.
"All of us in this room have a job, a roof over our head. But there are a lot of people working today that don't have that luxury. So this is something that requires all of us, government, developers, everybody to take action on."