The pressure of living in the Yarra Ranges

Eildon MP Cindy McLeish has an eye on the cost of living in 2024. Picture: ON FILE

Firstly let me state to everyone in the region that I hope you have all enjoyed the 2023 Christmas holiday period and are ready for the 2024 year ahead. Having said that, an unwanted theme that will no doubt carry over from 2023, is the pressure we are all facing around the ever increasing cost of living.

With inflation and interest rates at high levels this plays out in our grocery bills, at the petrol pump, for all our essential services like power and water, sending the kids to school, medical expenses and payment of our mortgages or rent. Having enough money to make ends meet and provide for the basic services alone can be a struggle for many families on lower incomes.

Post Christmas in particular can be a difficult time for finances. If you are struggling, there are a range of community relief and support agencies that may be able to help. For the Yarra Ranges a list of these is available on the council’s website. For the rest of us, let’s make sure we are looking after those in need and offering support where we can, typical of our strong community spirit.

This moves me onto one of the other important aspects of our community and that is the affordability of housing and finding a place to live. The affordability of new housing is low, particularly for low income earners and first home buyers. This aspect coupled with low rental availability and lack of building development in the region shows we are heading into further housing crisis.

The current Labor government is sprucing its promise to build 80,000 new homes in ten years but the reality is that numbers are on the decline and key industry groups such as the Housing Industry Association and Master Builders Association have publicly acknowledged that Labor’s target won’t be met.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data has revealed the number of houses approved for construction fell by 2.3 per cent in November 2023. In the Yarra Ranges only 416 residential building approvals were issued in 2023, the lowest for over 10 years and a drop of over 200 on the previous years approvals.

The Department of Fairness, Families and Housing figures released until September 2023 show that new lettings in Outer Eastern Melbourne have decreased by 11.6 per cent compared to September 2022 while median rent prices have increased by 15.6 per cent over the same 12 months to $520 per week.

The financial squeeze on households is pushing more people into the social housing arena but there is little hope there either, with a distinct lack of investment in social housing occurring in our region. Again, despite the current government claims of addressing the problem through new buildings, Department of Health and Human Service reports indicate that social housing availability in the Yarra Ranges has actually fallen to 28 homes fewer than in July 2018.

I am calling on this government to do more in our region to ease the burden on all households.