This project was an outcome from the Ageing Well project completed in late 2021 in partnership with University of Melbourne. Through consultation it was raised that not only our older people in our community had concerns around housing affordability for their generation but they also had concerns for our younger generations and how they were going to afford a house in our community.
Affordable Housing is such an important topic on the agenda for our communities and all over Australia. Covid has played a large role with the migration of people coming to regional communities, highlighting the need for conversations to discuss our infrastructure and support services into the future. Health and Support Services are already nearing capacity and we are struggling to attract workforce due to limited housing options. The median housing prices have increased in Echuca 24%, Moama 16% between 2017 – 2020. Meanwhile rentals are scarce and have also increased in Echuca 20% and Moama 6% between 2017 – 2021.
A project to understand what affordable housing looks like for our young people was undertaken in mid-2022 in partnership with Committee for Echuca Moama (C4EM), University of Melbourne (UOM) and St Joseph’s College Echuca.
The project was funded by the university’s Hallmark Research Institute and was part of an intergenerational visioning of affordable housing in a regional context.
University of Melbourne’s Professor Jenny Weller-Newton said the project team were really keen on capturing the perspectives across different generations in the community to enable local citizens to share their desires and visions for affordable housing specific to their locale.
C4EM undertook the innovative project on affordable housing in the Echuca Moama region to support strategic and sustainable housing plans for the future.
St Joseph’s College year 10 visual communication students were chosen to create models, diagrams, drawings and photos depicting what they thought affordable housing should be.
Their designs featured sustainable and affordable materials to build with, but also included elements to make the properties cheaper to live in long term, such as solar panels, and using glass for heating or cooling and lighting purposes.
Some of the designs even included communal spaces, parks and gardens, as well as multi-generational living. The students’ work was exhibited at Rich River Golf Club in June and community members were invited to view the work and vote on their preferred exhibit. More than 700 votes were cast by the community, and the three people’s choice awards were presented to Molly McLeod (1st place), Meg Alberni (2nd place) and Talya Turri (3rd place).
7th October 2022
Affordable housing in Echuca Moama and the social and economic ramifications for failing to address it were discussed at the Let’s Talk Housing event hosted by Committee for Echuca Moama on Thursday at Moama Bowling Club.
The night included presentations from social epidemiologist Professor Rebecca Bentley from the University of Melbourne and Housing All Australian’s Robert Pradolin, who revealed some startling facts on the issue of affordable housing and homelessness.
Prof Bentley released a report, Affordable Housing in Echuca Moama: An Intergenerational Vision, funded by the Hallmark Initiative Affordable Housing Seed Fund 2021 and the University of Melbourne and undertaken in partnership with C4EM.
The report revealed some sobering facts about housing in the region.
women over 55 are the age group at the highest risk of homelessness;
rentals are being lost to the short-term accommodation market, like Airbnb;
9% and 7% of residents in Echuca and Moama respectively (aged 15 years or older) are estimated to be at risk of homelessness;
there are few apartments or flats in the region (<1% in Echuca and 8% in Moama);
one fifth of Echuca residents and nearly one quarter of Moama residents live with a disability;
55-66% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents live in rented accommodation, compared to 23-29% regional averages.
Professor Bentley’s research has also shown that even addressing something as simple as the correct level of heating in a home can prevent a range of health conditions such as high blood pressure, asthma and depression.
The long-term health benefits, as well as economic savings, means as a society we could spend up to $7.6 billion to eradicate cold housing and it would still be cost effective just on health outcomes alone, without factoring in higher levels of productivity, and energy and environmental gains.
Professor Bentley pointed out that housing affordability is a societal problem, not just an individual’s problem.
‘The solutions require leadership, and it must be addressed,’ she said.
She suggested medium density developments, affordable housing initiatives and repurposing buildings for residential use were potential solutions for Echuca Moama.
Robert Pradolin agreed with Prof. Bentley. The residential property developer founded Housing All Australians (HAA), a business-led initiative dedicated to helping address Australia’s chronic shortage of low-income affordable housing. He believes it is in Australia’s long term economic interest to house all Australians, rich or poor.
And the statistics don’t lie.
According to HAA’s Give Me Shelter report, if we continue to do nothing about the affordability housing crisis, it will cost the community $25 billion annually by 2051.
‘It’s not a quick fix. It’s taken decades to get here and it will take decades to get out of it,’ Mr Pradolin said.
But he is optimistic that it can be done.
‘There is goodwill out there and I believe it is unlimited.’
The goal is to make the issue of affordable housing economically sustainable for business enterprises, including superannuation funds, who already invest billions of dollars on affordable housing projects in the United States.
HAA has already overseen the development of several short-term accommodation facilities in empty buildings in capital cities across Australia and Mr Pradolin said the potential to use these buildings was significant.
‘We need to see long-term policy change on both sides of politics before change can happen,’ he said. ‘We need to start taking risks. Otherwise, we do nothing.’
A panel of district business representatives also shared their experiences, solutions and challenges they had faced while trying to solve their own housing dilemmas.
These included Echuca Regional Health’s Angela Hussey, Shepparton Salvation Army’s Mariam Nagawa and Darren Maloney from Greenham’s, whose housing solution was to buy the Tongala Caravan Park and place workers in cabins on-site.
C4EM CEO Deanne Armstrong said housing was such an important topic on the agenda for our communities and all over Australia.
‘Covid has played a large role with the migration of people coming to regional communities, highlighting the need for conversations to discuss our infrastructure and support services into the future,’ she said.
‘Health and support services are already under pressure, and we are struggling to attract workforce due to limited housing options. This needs to be a localised discussion to talk about these challenges and plan for future growth.’
Reports and video below:
Women 55+ years are the highest demographic to become homeless.
Listen to their stories here.