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Interview with Conor Burke, ABC Riverina


Event: Interview with Conor Burke, ABC Riverina
Date: 13 February 2024, 8.50am AEDT
Speakers: Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: regional housing supply; labour shortages; Federal Budget


Sam Robinson, ABC Riverina: As you heard in local news, the Master Builders Association says more investment in staffing and not AI is needed to tackle or to help tackle the regional housing crisis. A new state government pilot programme is underway which gives town planners access to advanced AI tools to work through development backlogs. But it is a big problem, isn’t it? The regional housing shortage and making sure there’s enough places to live to meet regional population growth? MBA chief executive Denita Wawn told our reporter Conor Burke, well, what she thinks the solution is.

Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia: More houses, it’s as simple as that. We’ve got a shortage of homes. We’ve had a shortage of homes now for over a decade. We simply have not been building enough for our population. The crisis has escalated, and we now need to ensure that we remove as many barriers as possible to resolving that problem, which is both the capacity to build faster, quicker, cheaper, but also ensuring that we have investors in the market who are willing to invest in housing. But unfortunately, this is being called for now for decades. The industry has been calling out for decades that we need to focus on supply, not on demand, and we now have a situation where the shortages that were once felt in the capital cities is now extended across the country. So, we are not in a good position, and our view is that we need to ensure that the solutions that are well known are actually tackled as quickly as possible, because things will just progressively get worse.

Conor Burke, reporter ABC Riverina: So, I believe, and a figure I’ve seen kicking about is Australia’s housing shortfall is expected to be at least 175,000 homes by 2027. So obviously, the Master Builders would like to build more. But what are the, specifically, what are the barriers that are stopping us from doing that?

Denita: A couple of key barriers. One is around shovel-ready land for building. We can’t get the critical infrastructure right in the first instance and that is usually a cost or a shortage of labour. We ourselves are experiencing labour shortages. Then of course there are the taxes and costs and delays. They’re impacted in terms of getting a development through, and a building process through council. A lot of the time that’s not council’s fault. That is, in fact, just a lack of resourcing. We’ve heard complaints about portals not working effectively enough, and the list goes on. And of course, with inflation and interest rates spiking, we’re also losing a number of investors. Whether they are owner occupies or investors themselves into the housing market with building approvals going down.

Conor: So, let’s tackle one of those specifically, talking about development applications. We’ve heard I think across New South Wales, people talking about crazy wait times. People waiting a long, long time and we’ve here at the in the Riverina, I’ve spoken to developers who say that sometimes investors will just pull out. The state government are looking at a pilot to use AI to help reduce large wait times for DA approvals. Wagga Wagga Council I think are going to be jumping on that. What are your thoughts on that?

 Media contact:
Dee Zegarac
National Director, Media & Public Affairs
0400 493 071

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