Bendigo must shore up its "fragile" supply of land for homes to ease a looming affordability crisis, a new report warns.
The city's supply is low enough that developers could exhaust all land immediately available for detached homes within three years, the Urban Development Institute of Australia report has found.
Greater Bendigo council CEO Craig Niemann has suggested getting more people into the city centre is key to handling a future Bendigo with 200,000 plus people.
A four-fold increase in people living within easy reach of the CBD, including in apartments, would create a thriving urban scene and ease the pressure on demand for detached homes.
The new report comes as a separate report suggested Bendigo could grow to as much as 350,000 by 2050 if there was a greater population shift away from Melbourne.
The Urban Development Institute report set out to see if Bendigo was ready for tens of thousands more people expected by 2036.
It revealed the city is experiencing one of the most significant housing shortfalls in Victoria.
That could expose more mortgage holders and other residents to an affordability crisis if there was a sudden, unexpected surge in demand, the report suggested.
Supply-side pressures are coming into focus as Greater Bendigo's council prepares a draft strategy to deal with a population that could climb from 120,000 to 200,000 by 2056.
That draft is expected to go public in early 2024 and will look at land realistically available within Bendigo's urban growth boundary.
Mr Niemann expected more greenfield development but said the big challenge was going to be getting more people into existing suburbs.
"We've got 700 people living within a kilometre of the Alexandra Fountain in Bendigo. You'd like to think 3000-4000 could really activate the city centre outside of normal business hours," he said.
Mr Niemann acknowledged that mass lifestyle shift had not happened yet.
"But we've got to create the opportunity for it to happen," he said.
Infills needed sooner than later
Bendigo might have to embrace more infill developments - which are builds within the city limits - sooner than other regional cities.
The city could need between 740 and 1000 new homes a year until 2036 but lacks the number of big sites on the edge of town that other regional Victorian cities have.
Bendigo will increasingly have to turn away from the huge housing tracts that have shaped Jackass Flat, Epsom and Kangaroo Flat in the past 25 years, urban economist Chris McNeill said after crunching numbers for the Urban Development Institute's new report.
He warned that even current boom suburbs like Marong and Huntly have a finite supply.
"At some point that land runs out," Mr McNeill said.
Bendigo may increasingly need to use smaller tracts of land in established suburbs, many of which developers find costlier and harder to transform, he said.
"As anyone who has ever done any work in Bendigo knows, constraints are everywhere," he said.
"There's all sorts of overlays, or no apparent restraints until you start moving dirt and discover a mineshaft. It is a very, very tough market."
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