The Toowoomba Regional Housing Strategy provides the background research and investigations undertaken to determine the role Toowoomba Regional Council should play to ensure the housing market in Toowoomba delivers on objectives of affordability, diversity, and certainty, in the supply of housing for the projected demand in all sectors of the market. This will be achieved through the following study objectives:
- Describe the current housing market in Toowoomba.
- Identify issues that may influence the delivery of housing in the future.
- Determine the key actions Council can undertake to maintain affordability and manage mismatches in housing demand and supply.
The strategy is unique to Toowoomba region, focuses on the specific needs of the individual communities within the region, and priorities the actions and initiatives Council should undertake in the next 10 years.
The project was undertaken over a period of 9 months and involved in-depth research and data analysis, consultation with relevant stakeholders, and consideration of the specific roles Council could play in the housing market.
Summary of key findings
Affordability is an issue in some localities, for certain sectors of the market.
- Those areas that have a lower average household income are at higher risk of issues related to affordability. Those areas with a median household income of $40,000-$50,000 p.a.are Clifton- Greenmount, Crows Nest-Rosalie, Drayton Harristown, Millmerran, Newtown, North Toowoomba- Harlaxton, Toowoomba Central, and Wilsonton. These areas are a mix of inner metropolitan Toowoomba City areas and outer Rural areas, where there also is a dominance of households including couple family no children and lone persons.
- The majority of localities in the Toowoomba Region have a significant undersupply of affordable dwellings for low-income households to purchase. The exceptions being Millmerran, which has an excess supply, and Jondaryan, which has an approximate balance.
- Low-income households often do not have the capacity to purchase a dwelling thus renting is a more common form of housing tenure. The Toowoomba Region broadly meets the rental ranges affordable by both low-income and very-low income households for dwellings ranging from 1 to 3 bedrooms and low-income households for 4 bedroom dwellings.
- An increase in mortgagee and renter households for the overall Toowoomba Region over the period 2001-2011, and conversely decline in the proportion of households that own their properties outright, is symptomatic of increasing housing costs ahead of household incomes. This is likely to be generating housing affordability issues for some sectors of the housing market and possibly in specific localities.
The ageing demographic profile of Toowoomba may contribute to an increase in the proportion of residents that are affected by housing affordability in the future.
- The Toowoomba Region has a growing older population that is proportionally higher than Queensland overall.
- Toowoomba‘s comparatively high proportion and growing number of couple family with no children households is consistent with the older age profile and the high proportion of Baby Boomers. This increases the focus on understanding the housing needs of these groups, particularly if they differ substantially from their current dwelling preferences.
- At the locality level there are a number of areas that have higher proportions of older persons than the Region overall. Future dwelling size mismatches are likely to be greatest in these areas and this will require the application of specific housing strategies on a locality basis. Areas that need to plan for accommodation for older residents include:
- Retirement type accommodation – Clifton-Greenmount, Crows Nest-Rosalie, Highfields.
- Aged care accommodation – Darling Heights, Drayton-Harristown, Toowoomba West, Wilsonton and
- Retirement type and aged care accommodation – Pittsworth, Rangeville.
- The significant growth in the over 65 year age groups represents a notable shift in the type of dwellings that need to be provided in the Toowoomba region going forward. Of course this depends on the desire for these age groups to move out of their existing dwellings into generally a different form of dwelling. Indications from the 2011 Census do not reflect a strong move for baby boomers to move into smaller attached and semi-detached dwellings (Urbis, 2013).
- There are a number of factors that influence people‘s preference to age in place, which primarily means continuing to reside in generally the same area that they have been living, but not necessarily the same residence. Factors include the attachment people have to their own home, especially as they reach their senior years; access to essential services and facilities, proximity to family and networks, access to in-home care services, and the availability of attractive alternative dwelling choices.
A number of factors contribute to the lack of diversity in housing products being provided in the Toowoomba region.
- The Toowoomba Region has a long established development history of producing detached dwellings. Recent residential development activity has seen a slight reduction in this share from 85% to 72% however as a proportion of the overall number of dwellings in the Region this represents a minor change.
- Going against the overall ageing trend of the Region has been the recent proportional increase in persons aged 25-29 years and children 0-4 years. This equates to a proportional increase in young families and appears to be supporting detached dwelling growth in the urban growth areas of the Toowoomba City.
- The Toowoomba Region has above average levels of young persons (0-19 years) and older persons (65+ years) in comparison to the Brisbane LGA and Queensland overall. The high proportions of children is not reflected in high levels of adults aged 25-44 years indicating that this is more likely to be the result of large households with above average numbers of children. This has historically resulted in the need for larger detached dwellings (3-4 bedrooms) than smaller detached dwellings (1-2 bedrooms). However the increasing ageing of the Toowoomba regional population is likely to reduce the demand for these larger dwellings. A factor which the development industry needs to reflect in changing housing product offers.
- There is a notable drop in the proportion of young adults (20-34 years) which generally incorporate students, young singles and couples, and first home buyers. These groups tend to have a preference for attached and semi-detached dwellings and this is reflective of the lack of this type of housing product across the region. The emigration of these groups from regional locations towards the larger cities is a common trend, however increasing employment opportunities resulting from the growing resources sector, as well as continued investment in the University of Southern Queensland campus has the potential to reduce the outward migration of these groups.
- Mature households favour established areas whilst younger households are occupying the new development localities. This trend could be facilitating a lack of household diversity in both new and old neighbourhoods.
- The vacant residential land market in the Toowoomba Region is significantly concentrated with the four largest developers accounting for 58% of the supply of lots in developments of 40 lots or more. Notably one developer controls 37% of this market. A highly concentrated housing market has the potential for higher prices, limited product choice, and timing delays due to a lack of significant competition.
- The majority of new housing built in Toowoomba is done so by local developers and local builders. There are very few projects which have been built and designed by developers with experience outside of Toowoomba, hence, limited exposure to some of the new housing products and dwelling types being provided in other areas of Australia which have a greater diversity of housing product.
- There is differing opinions coming from the development industry and residents with regards to the market demand for different products. The current model of housing provision is selling in the local market and there was suggestion by some in the industry that there is no demand for the smaller product. In other discussions, it was suggested that people moving in to Toowoomba are provided with little choice, hence regardless of their desire for a smaller home, the only choices are older style units or new duplexes.
The balance between housing supply and housing demand is currently not an issue, in terms of quantity however, this could change in the future.
- Overall the Toowoomba Region is forecast to grow by 32,830 households by 2031. Major growth areas are forecast to be Toowoomba West, Toowoomba South-East, Highfields, and Westbrook. These generally align with the current high growth areas for the Region.
- Overall the Toowoomba Region is estimated to have a small net supply of dwellings over the period to 2031. However this varies substantially across the region. Of most significance is the forecast substantial oversupply for Toowoomba West and undersupply for Darling Heights. These two areas are relatively proximate so it may be feasible to redirect this dwelling demand. The major issue with this though is the implication for infrastructure planning.
- Around two thirds of new dwellings in the Toowoomba Region (6,754) over the ten years to 2011 have occurred in three growth corridors extending from the fringe of the Toowoomba City metropolitan area - North/North West, (Highfields, Gowrie – 2,268 dwellings ), South (Darling Heights, Drayton Harristown, Middle Ridge, and Cambooya-Wyreema – 3,023 dwellings), and West (Toowoomba West – 1,463 dwellings).
- When examining the Region‘s estimated population growth by age group, the Region is forecast to experience a decline in the proportion of Young Families, growth in seniors, and a stable proportion of Mature Families.
There is a potential imbalance between the type of dwellings being provided in the Toowoomba region today, and the potential growth in demand in the future for different types of dwellings.
- The Toowoomba Region is estimated to have had a total of 57,362 dwellings, at the time of the 2011 Census (ABS Census, 2011, Australian Government). This comprised 85% detached dwellings, 4% semi-detached dwellings, 10% Flats and Apartments, and 1% Other dwellings (caravans, cabins, etc).
- The ageing population in Toowoomba may lead to an increasing proportion of smaller households which has the potential to generate a mismatch in supply of appropriately sized and located dwellings.
- There is a preference for smaller dwellings (semi-detached and flats/apartments) in the older established localities with smaller average household sizes including Toowoomba Central, Darling Heights, Drayton-Harristown, Newtown, Rangeville, Crows Nest – Rosalie, Wilsonton and Millmerran. Of these areas Darling Heights, Drayton-Harristown, Toowoomba Central, and Wilsonton have experienced relatively high levels of medium and higher density dwelling activity over the past ten years.
- Areas that may need to encourage greater levels of medium and higher density development include Newtown, Crows Nest-Rosalie, and Millmerran in order to provide smaller dwelling options for their ageing populations.
- Toowoomba Regional Council has identified a theoretical current shortfall of approximately 11,000 small dwellings in the region. Over the next 25 years there is estimated to be a shortfall of 27,903 small dwellings. This shortfall is anticipated to be driven by the ageing regional population who are anticipated to transition from larger suburban and rural properties to smaller urbanised properties closer to town centres. This is expected to be influenced by the desire for greater levels of community activity, a desire for improved access to health services, and greater use of cultural and entertainment facilities.
- Research undertaken by The Hornery Institute identified that young ambition (Gen Y) and learner & earners (students) groups as having a strong appetite (80%) for living in houses on lots less than 600 m2 or higher density housing types. This indicates that the Toowoomba City Centre and the University precinct have significant potential for high density development. In addition to these groups, Academic Achievers (professional families with largely non-dependant students) and Suburban Subsistence (low income with largely lone person family) also indicated demand (40%) for high density living.
- Land ownership patterns and lot size form a critical issue in the effective delivery of infill and greenfield development.
- The existing housing stock, dominated by large 3-4 bedroom homes on large lots, will not satisfy the projected future increase in demand of smaller household size, hence smaller households will have limited opportunities to down-size, hence remain in the larger homes.
There are many different roles that local authorities can play in the housing market, and Toowoomba Regional Council is currently using most.
- When considering the level of intervention Council is willing to apply in the housing market, the following table of options need to be considered:
- Advocacy: political leadership and advocacy
- Facilitator: engage in partnerships to deliver housing
- Policy: local policy and statutory land use planning
- Development costs: infrastructure charges regime; development assessment
- Services and facilities provider: provision of support services and facilities to influence locational demand for housing
- Housing manager: management of housing – to a limited extent
- Housing developer: construction and sale of housing and
- Design, construct, operate and manage: owner of housing from design to manage.
- The current Toowoomba Planning Scheme provides a clear intent and policy position which seeks to support improved housing choice and affordability which can be relied upon by Council in the making of new policy instruments such as incentives to promote this form of development.
- The recent release of the Temporary Urban Consolidation Incentive Policy provides an important step in promoting greater housing choice and affordability. Monitoring of how this policy is adopted and implemented is taking place and may inform some areas for improvement. For example, the inclusion of aged care facilities within the categories of accepted development that can apply.
- The Council's Choice project is a significant initiative for Council in terms of demonstrating the value of providing diverse housing product to the local market. The success of this project, both in terms of sales and different housing products exhibited, could have a positive influence on how housing is developed in Toowoomba in the future.
The Toowoomba region needs to monitor the impacts of growth in the resource sector in the Surat Basin carefully to determine the specific impacts on affordability in Toowoomba.
- Regional population and workforce growth will be sustained due to long-term investment, and ongoing construction and operational activities in the Surat Basin.
- Toowoomba City likely to be regional heart for Darling and Western Downs resource sector. Its liveability, strong sense of community identity, significant heritage and lifestyle and proximity and access to capital cities via air and road connections.
- Access to housing (for rental, home purchase) and short-term accommodation (for tourists, business travellers and resource workers) will be a key part of TRC investment and attraction strategies.
- Housing and accommodation requirement for resident and non-resident workers is difficult to quantify given the stop – start nature of resource sector investment and activity; and the resource companies reticence to share workforce plans which detail requirements for construction and operational workforces.
- Lack of region and locality specific research on housing preferences for resource workers and their families.
- Further investigation is required around land supply and development, housing product mix, affordability and timeliness in provision to manage the fluctuating demand due to stop-start nature of energy and mining projects.
- Lack of clear policy and planning framework for the location, design and operation of worker accommodation villages. Should the planned expansion of the New Acland coal mine proceed there may be some local impacts in the neighbouring small towns of Acland. Currently there are no plans for a FIFO workforce.
- Anecdotal reports that households on low and moderate incomes have been forced to relocate from small western communities to suitable housing in TRC as housing costs have increased as a direct result mining activities. The number of affected households cannot be confirmed, but they are likely to include families and individuals in private rental housing, short-term accommodation i.e. caravan parks.
- There may be some level of demand for housing for workers and their families due to current construction activities in the Surat Basin. Access to higher order health, education and community infrastructure in Toowoomba City means that relocation is a viable option for families.
- Housing required for households across all income levels, sizes and types. Some anecdotal reports that families are arriving in Toowoomba on spec – to see if they can secure work in resource sector. These families are often seeking affordable, short-term accommodation.
- The relative proximity to resource projects means that travel arrangements i.e. DIDO, BIBO are viable for TRC resident workers undertaking construction activities. In the long term as resource projects move to their operational phase, workers may seek to relocate permanently to the nearest town.
- Industry demand for housing is currently being met through local hotels, motels and caravan parks across TRC, rather than through workers accommodation villages (as found in neighbouring local government areas).
- Anecdotal reports from local services that this reduction in accommodation is having a detrimental impact on their ability to be responsive to need for crisis and/or temporary accommodation. No documented impact on tourism or other industry sectors.
- In neighbouring local government areas, there is community and local government concern regarding the location, size, design and operation of worker accommodation villages – particularly, whether to locate in rural areas or in-town.
The issue of housing affordability is related to both sale price of houses and availability of suitable rental accommodation.
- Rental accommodation demand in the Toowoomba Region appears to have been driven more from mobile young health and CBD workers and tertiary education students than by housing affordability issues. Based on this finding there is a need to plan for a profile of rental accommodation in relative proximity to the Toowoomba CBD and the surrounding health and education institutions.
- The areas with high levels of rental dwellings are the areas with smaller households generally in close proximity to the Toowoomba CBD. There are a number of key drivers for rental accommodation in these locations including the University of Southern Queensland (Darling Heights, Drayton- Harristown), the Toowoomba Public Hospital (Newtown, Toowoomba Central), the Toowoomba CBD and St Andrews Hospital (Wilsonton, Toowoomba North-Harlaxton, and Toowoomba Central). These activity nodes generate high levels of demand for rental accommodation from the lower income workers and students who are engaged in these locations.
- The affordability of rental dwellings in the Toowoomba Region has been a growing problem over the past five years.
The demand for social housing and affordable housing in Toowoomba is not currently being met.
- As at May 2013, there were 2006 dwelling units in government‘s social housing portfolio in the Toowoomba Region local government area, the majority of dwelling units were either two or three bedroom, and were located in highest concentrations in the suburbs of Harristown, Newtown and South Toowoomba.
- Currently, there are 400 households registered for long-term social housing (i.e. the social housing waitlist). Nearly half of these households are seeking one-bedroom dwellings, while 147 were seeking dwellings of three or more bedrooms. The majority of households were defined by the Department to be in either very high or high need for housing (242 of 400 households on the waitlist).
- Consultations with local registered housing providers have identified issues including homelessness, a need for supported housing and crisis housing, a shortage of affordable rental housing at the lowest end of the market. It also identified a series of target groups requiring housing support – older people, tertiary students, young people, people with disabilities, low income households and single men.
- Affordable housing (see 4.1 for description) designed to fill the gap created between social housing and the private rental market is largely delivered through the Commonwealth Government‘s National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) which aimed to create 50,000 new rental dwellings nationally by 2012, rented at no more than 80% of market rents. As at April 2013, there were 193 dwellings funded under the NRAS for the Toowoomba Region.
There is a growing issue related to homelessness in Toowoomba.
- According to the 2011 census, there were 514 people homeless in the Toowoomba, compared with the 2006 Census, the number of homeless people increased across all groups. This trend is supported by the workers in the health and community services, who provide services to these vulnerable households.
- There are a number of organisations and stakeholders attempting to address this scenario, and Toowoomba Regional Council can assist through its involvement in the Home on the Range initiative, particularly by improved design of public spaces, improved support for the provision of housing and shelter for the homeless, and raising the awareness and facilitating partnerships between local stakeholders, businesses, and organisations that support the homeless in the region.
There are a number of factors that impact housing affordability that Toowoomba Regional Council is not able to control, however, the Council can monitor and influence.
- The growth of the resource sector in the Surat Basin and how housing is provided to cater for the direct demand is relative to the approvals of the State given to the mining and resource companies.
- The policy for infrastructure charges and how these are set is driven by the State government, and currently under review. During consultation there were differing opinions between stakeholders with regards to the impact the infrastructure charges regime had on the provision of affordable housing. All agreed the current standard charges made it more affordable, however, there are still inefficiencies in the modelling to determine infrastructure provision, the urban footprint limited access to areas which are more efficient for infrastructure access, the design standards for infrastructure were ever-increasing, and adding to the cost of provision, and there was no cost-benefit, from an infrastructure charges perspective, to provide smaller lots.
- The investment of State and Federal government into housing projects and schemes is primarily driven by the respective State and Federal government agencies, with varying opportunities for Toowoomba Regional Council to influence.
Significant changes in State planning and policy regime is moving towards a greater reliance on the private sector to provide affordable housing.
- The planning policy framework at the State level moving forward is uncertain given the pending changes proposed to State Planning Policies across the State. At present, Council has met its State obligations under SPP 1/07 through the completion of the Residential Land Use Study 2009. Many of the findings of this study have informed the current planning scheme.
- Toowoomba Regional Council is in the position of having two separate regional plans applicable to the local government area, and both having very different statutory power and policy directions.
- The SEQ Regional Plan is expected to undergo significant review in the coming 12 months both in terms of its urban footprint, its statutory powers and its policy directions relevant to housing choice and affordability.
- The Draft Darling Downs Regional Plan is currently on exhibition for comment, however, provides little guidance or direction for the provision of housing in the region in the future. There is no spatial plan or inclusion of an urban footprint as there has been in other regional plans.