As the political year kicks off for both federal and state politicians and the policy tug-of-war begins again, it’s important that we focus on the issues that matter to the community. Housing affordability will again be a major issue for the Hunter, and many other parts of the state. While we are seeing price growth slow and policy settings to address high prices from all levels of government, affordability has not improved for too many in our community.
The Newcastle-Maitland region still has a median house price of $511,000, about 5.8 times the median household income. Newcastle is better placed than some other regional cities like Cairns or Wollongong, yet is not as affordable as others such as Ballarat or Albury-Wodonga. Of particular concern is the percentage of households under mortgage stress, which occurs where more than 30 per cent of the combined household income is spent paying the mortgage. In Newcastle, 5.3 per cent of households are in mortgage stress and the percentage is higher for those paying rent, where 12.2 per cent of households are having difficulty.
With cost of living pressures worsening for many, we must all work towards fair-dinkum, long-term solutions to make day-to-day life more affordable. Also important to ensuring families can meet living costs is making sure there are enough local jobs. The Property Council’s Office Market Report measures office vacancies for commercial properties in the Newcastle CBD. The latest report showed strong demand for local office space with about 2471sqm of net absorption. Simply, that means demand for commercial property is high and that figures translates to more than 200 jobs – positive news for the region. As cost of living becomes a key political battleground, it’s important we do what we can to bring down household costs and boost economic growth.