Developers have called on Greater Bendigo council to further expand its city boundaries in response to rapid growth to ease the problem.
With construction of the $630 million New Bendigo Hospital on the near-horizon, there is a fear the city’s rental squeeze will intensify.
Despite the popularity of recent housing subdivisions, such as Jackass Flat, Bendigo’s rental vacancy rate is almost zero.
Bendigo’s two biggest rental agencies – Tweed Sutherland Real Estate and Dungey Carter Ketterer – are running near-zero vacancy rates.
The vacancy rate at TSFN has fluctuated between zero per cent and 0.5 per cent in the past two years. This week it is 0.1 per cent.
DCK’s vacancy rate this week is 0.4 per cent.
Both agencies said this time of year is usually the easiest time to find a rental house.
According to affordable housing organisation Haven, median rents have risen significantly in Bendigo, with the cost of renting a two-bedroom unit up 15.3 per cent, and 12.5 per cent for a three-bedroom house in the past year.
However, it is not just those struggling with housing affordability feeling the pinch.
At least one large, international Bendigo-based business recently employed 10 people from outside the region.
It is struggling to bring them to Bendigo to start work, because they cannot find rental accommodation while they settle into the city.
Greater Bendigo council last week voted to ask for the city’s Urban Growth Boundary to be extended to accommodate a planned 1400-lot subdivision at Maiden Gully.
Property developers and real estate agents applauded the move, but believe it should be just the start.
They believe further extending the growth boundary is the only way to ease the rental squeeze.
They also claim council is not planning ahead enough, and should be looking to extend it’s boundaries further.
“The lack of accommodation is this city’s biggest issue, cheap rent up to dear rent,” developer Don Erskine said.
“Without doubt it is holding people back from coming to Bendigo.”
Mr Erskine said the city’s vacancy rate was stymying growth now, a situation that would get worse.
“We haven’t even started building the hospital yet and we can’t get accommodation,” he said.
“Ordinary workers can’t get rental accommodation now. It is stymying our growth.
“In two or three years time where are we going to put all these people?
“The rental market is going to climb. The cost of renting will skyrocket.”
Mr Erskine said the solution was to open the city up and pinpoint areas such as Lockwood and Ravenswood as future suburbs.
“Lockwood is a monty sitting out there, all in five and 10 acre lots,” he said.
“In Ravenswood it is about 2000 acres all over one title.”
Villawood Properties director Rory Costelloe agreed areas to Bendigo’s south were good options.
He called for action, criticising the Greater Bendigo council for not moving fast enough.
“Where is the vision for the whole of Bendigo for the next 20 to 30 years?” he said.
“Bendigo council pats themselves on the back for their forward vision but we haven’t seen too much of it.
“(They) really have no long-term vision, no long-term planning. We need a long-term plan.”
Council Planning and Development director Prue Mansfield said council was aware of the issues and was addressing them.
She said council’s work in reviewing its residential growth strategy, which is under way, could include looking at extending the Urban Growth Boundary.
“We know there is really strong demand in the city,” she said.
“We also know, through our audit work we have done, we have a 15 to 18 year land supply available now.
“Any allegations there are only one or two years left are not right.”
Ms Mansfield acknowledged some processes in the past had taken too long.