'We're doing all we can on housing'

THE City of Greater Bendigo is doing all it can to provide land for housing as its residents battle a dire shortage of private homes to rent, the council’s planning chief says.Director of planning and development Prue Mansfield said the council was on the verge of approving more than 5000 new suburban blocks for housing on Bendigo’s outskirts and was working to encourage other housing closer to town.Local real estate agents and Loddon Mallee Housing Services chief executive officer Ken Marchingo have called for an urgent increase in the city’s housing stock to help relieve a shortage of private rental accommodation and affordable housing for buyers. Ms Mansfield said the council was doing all it could – short of financing its own affordable housing scheme – to build the homes the city needs.“If the council was to make a policy decision that they actually wanted to invest directly, or something, that’s a decision for the council but within the current arrangements, yes, I’m satisfied that we are doing what we can,” she said.The council’s residential housing strategy aimed to provide enough homes to cope with an estimated population of 140,000 by 2036, Ms Mansfield said.Green-field suburban development sites at Evergreen Waters in Jackass Flat, and in Huntly and Strathfieldsaye, would eventually put about 5000 new home blocks into the market. A fourth zone in Maiden Gully will begin the lengthy approval process later this year.Ms Mansfield said the council also wanted more medium-density housing in three key activity areas – the CBD, near the hospital and around La Trobe University, as well as in-fill development on existing vacant land.“The greatest contribution we can have to housing affordability is making sure there is sufficient supply because when demand outstrips supply, that’s one of the things that drives prices up,” she said.“That’s why we’ve worked so hard over the past three or four years to make sure we bring these new developments on stream in the timeframe demanded by our population growth.”