Whitsunday MP Amanda Camm and Opposition leader David Crisafulli in Mackay on Friday.
Whitsunday MP Amanda Camm and Opposition leader David Crisafulli in Mackay on Friday.

Extent of Mackay and Whitsundays’ housing crisis exposed

Housing stock across Mackay Isaac Whitsundays has decreased 33.8 per cent in the past decade when compared to the previous decade.

Data from the Queensland government's statistician's office, which the LNP is using to argue the state is in a housing affordability crisis, shows the Whitsundays is down 59.1 per cent from 4354 housing lot registrations between 2001 and 2010 to 1782 in 2011 and 2020.

Mackay has dropped 20.4 per cent from 7803 housing lot registrations to 6214 over the same period while Isaac has dipped 29.2 per cent from 1135 to 804.

Mackay is in the epicentre of a perfect storm in the housing market as soaring rents and a lack of accommodation options threaten our most vulnerable.

The city's rental vacancy rate remains ultra-low at less than 1 per cent and local service providers say the lack of social housing in the region has hit a crisis point.

In the 11 months to January 23 - 199 men, 253 women and 348 children received assistance or requested accommodation through CASA.

On top of that, in December alone CASA's outreach support worker helped another 121 people sleeping rough throughout Mackay - figures significantly up on previous years.


Mackay from above. Picture: Zizi Averill
Mackay from above. Picture: Zizi Averill


Outside parliament, Opposition leader David Crisafulli said the government did not have answers to what had caused the housing problem when it was raised in Question Time during parliament this week.

He said his team had been inundated with cries for help from everyday Queenslanders.

"One of them is dealing with a situation where a family of nine are living in a car and these are people who have had long-term rental histories and what we wanted to do was take the fight to the government and show them how serious this problem is," he said.

"I'm not suggesting for one moment that property price growth is not something we all want to see and good sustainable property price growth is fundamental to any market.

"But what we've seen in the past few months and over the course of a longer period is the result of poor planning and poor actions.

"That's what's led to the massive spikes and what that means is you put pressure on people who are already living here through services that are bursting at the seams and you put pressure on the next generation who are unable to buy a house.

"Despite population growth, the state delivered less lots in the last decade than in the decade before.

"If it's taking too long for a development to get to market, if roads aren't built ahead of the game, if water and sewage is at such exorbitant prices these days that it's not going in, well, the result is less lots.

"And what that means is a situation where young people can't get into the markets and existing people are struggling to keep up with the infrastructure burden. It's the worst of both worlds."

Housing in focus:

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Mr Crisafulli said there were two things the government could do immediately to effect change.

"(The government) can urgently start getting some social housing stock on the ground, they can find a way to remove the planning backlogs that are stopping stock getting to market but there is no silver bullet, this is generational planning failure," he said.

"But let's not fail another generation, let's get some product on the ground now.

"It's not because of a lack of desire for the private sector to want to put stock on the ground, they've just been at their wit's end because the planning framework is so broken and the state has not had an infrastructure pipeline, they haven't had an affordability plan and that is the result.

"We want to see interstate migration and steady property price growth but at the moment no one on is winning."

Whitsunday MP Amanda Camm said the Whitsunday result was a lack of planning and lack of infrastructure, saying the State Government needed to engage with the council and development industry more.

"We know the demand is there in the Whitsundays … but it is very challenging when a council can't fund the infrastructure that is desperately needed to bring on and bring forward development," he said.


Whitsunday MP Amanda Camm during Question Time at Parliament House in Brisbane this week. Picture: Dan Peled
Whitsunday MP Amanda Camm during Question Time at Parliament House in Brisbane this week. Picture: Dan Peled

"Across the Northern Beaches of Mackay we're seeing a significant amount of growth and housing development that is planned and is hitting the ground now, and we welcome that private investment, hasn't got the State Government backing of infrastructure like road upgrades.

"Four years to wait for planning money is just not good enough. We need planning done now to deliver infrastructure to meet that growth.

"The Northern Beaches community is going to increase by another 10,000 residents prior to 2035 and so right now we are already at capacity on that road network."


When Mr Crisafulli asked whether buying a house was affordable for the average Queenslander during Question Time, Housing Minister Leeanne Enoch said the pressures on the housing market were directly related to the government's "incredible" economic recovery plan post-COVID attracting people to the state.

"I think everybody … understands the unprecedented wave we are seeing in terms of people wanting to stay and live in Queensland. Queensland is the place to be," she said.


Minister Leeanne Enoch speaking during Queensland Parliament question time this week. Picture: Jono Searle
Minister Leeanne Enoch speaking during Queensland Parliament question time this week. Picture: Jono Searle

"What we are seeing and hearing from real estate agents across the state is that there has been an increase in the number of 'sight unseen' purchases from people, particularly from interstate.

"Recently I was in Rockhampton … we heard first-hand from those in the sector that there had been claims of offers of 52 weeks rent in advance from those coming from southern states.

"During COVID people have stayed still. They have not moved around as much as they have in the past, and that has put unprecedented pressures on the rental market and the market more broadly.

"That is why our investment through our Queensland Housing Strategy worth $1.6 billion is more important than ever.

"The building of more than 5500 social and affordable homes is more important than ever.

"We started that work three years ago and we are already exceeding our targets in terms of commencements.

"However, under the LNP (Newman Government) … we saw a drop-off in commencements, with only about 79 commencements across the state in 2013-14.

"That left this state behind and in order to increase social and affordable housing in the market we had to start building again."

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said many people from Sydney and Melbourne were buying properties sight unseen.

"We welcome people coming to Queensland, but that is creating added pressure," she said.

"I have been speaking to people in the industry and they have told me that they would like to see more land released, and that is what we are doing. It just cannot happen overnight.

"The good thing about people moving from interstate is that the majority of them are going into regional Queensland, and we need to ensure that we continue our pipeline of construction of social housing as well."


An aerial shot of the Coral Sea Marina Resort, Airlie Beach, Whitsundays.
An aerial shot of the Coral Sea Marina Resort, Airlie Beach, Whitsundays.

Outside parliament, Opposition development and planning spokeswoman Fiona Simpson said Victoria could bring housing product to market in about two and a half years but Queensland could take more than 10 years.

"Clearly the system is broken and the human face of that lack of supply, the lack of investment into the market is what we hearing in people's heart-wrenching stories of being unable to get a home."

A Department of Housing spokeswoman said 60 new social homes would be built in Central Queensland by 2020 through the Housing Construction Jobs Program.

"To date, contracts have been awarded for the commencement of 16 new social housing homes in this region, six of which have already been completed," the spokeswoman said.

"A further four new social housing homes are forecast to have contracts awarded by June 2021."


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