Property Australia

Wollongong is becoming a world recognised city, but we can't afford to live here

Wollongong has transformed a lot over the years. What was once referred to as ‘Steel City’ has now progressed into a more vibrant cultural coastal city attracting investment and business, leading in innovation and education and welcoming major cultural and sporting events to the city.

The development of Wollongong has led to our city being given the only UCI (Union Cycliste International) Bike City status in the Southern Hemisphere. This accolade now puts us alongside world famous cities such as Paris, Vancouver and Glasgow.

Come September, Wollongong will host its largest ever event in history with the UCI Road Championships taking place along our gorgeous coastline. Showcasing our city to over 300 million viewers worldwide and bringing over an estimated 10,000 international travelers and $95 million in economic output.

This is a great win for our city and something we should all revel in and be proud of when our city takes the world stage. We hope that this event is a catalyst for what is to come, attracting jobs, business attraction and more tourism opportunities.

Recent analysis shows that the jobs are there, with over 500,000 adult workers within an hour of the Wollongong CBD, 23,000 daily commuters to Sydney and staff turn over rates being half the national average.

But what good is this if our local communities and essential workers who work in these key sectors can’t afford a home here?

Just a decade ago the dream of owning your own house in the Illawarra would on average set you back $400,000. Fast forward to the present day and that figure is just over $1 million.

Yes, this issue is statewide, but in order to have any positive effect on house prices we must address the ongoing supply deficit issue, slash red-tape and build enabling infrastructure.

According to government data we are some 50,000 homes short of where we should be across the state.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the planning system in NSW is among the most complex in the world, which Wollongong has fallen victim too.

On average, a new block of quality apartments takes over half a year to be approved in NSW, compared to less than 100 days in Queensland, and even Victoria. This is increasingly worrying when Wollongong has one of the highest apartment market densities in the nation at over 50 per cent.

Housing supply is a major issue with vacancy at an all-time low and then of course the second is that we need better support for more accessible, affordable housing in our local communities. Our essential workers can’t even afford to live and work here, so how do we keep evolving as a city if people have nowhere to live?

The NSW Regional Housing Taskforce’s Recommendations Report pinpoints a number of key asks of the Government which includes facilitating the strategic use of government owned land to provide affordable housing, introducing standard planning pathways for innovative housing options and reducing barriers to Public Private Partnerships that deliver key worker housing.

Our local councils and community housing providers need more funding to support affordable housing initiatives and better planning outcomes to deliver this type of housing. We need to think a bit more outside the box and be willing to explore innovative solutions that provide safe, secure and affordable housing for all.

As Wollongong becomes a greener and more attractive city to work, live and play in – we need to do more now and for future generations to come to ensure that we can remain living in it.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Illawarra Mercury.