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COVID-19 pushes urban dwellers to become tree-side tenants in regional Queensland

Published:24 September 2020

Dr Steven Boyd is the Head of Property Course at CQUniveristy.

Rural and regional areas of Queensland have seen a surge in new residents who have moved from southern states during COVID-19, and many of them could be here to stay.

That’s according to CQUniversity Property expert Dr Steven Boyd who explained the current pandemic has driven a metro and regional divide evident in housing rental markets.

“Growing vacancies and rental declines for inner-city apartments (especially Sydney and Melbourne) are a concern for owners and this problem has been the focus for the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

“As a result, we have seen a rise in demand for rural and regional properties.”

He explained that the regional markets, including the coast from Caboolture through to Rockhampton and even as far as North Queensland, were some of the most in-demand areas.

“The regions provide a sense of safety with lower density and a perceived cost of living saving.

For some, this will be sustainable with a greater proportion of work being conducted online the prospect of a ‘sea or tree change’ has never been more achievable.

The rental market has seen the largest increase with some of these areas expiring a near nil vacancy rate which Dr Boyd said has resulted in large competition for rental properties when they hit the market.

“The pandemic as a catalyst for change for many people. They are renting before they buy to experience the regions and see if the lifestyle will suit them.

“This issue with this is permanent renters are left with very few options and results in housing uncertainty for people most affected by the pandemic and current recession,” he explained.

“The RBA recently reported that around one in five households only having enough liquid assets to get from one pay period to the next.

“This reduction in housing options could lead to a further social housing crisis.”

As the pandemic continues into the long term-future, further and more dramatic market corrections are a high possibility with household income a primary concern for property experts.

“Stimulus packages and mortgage payment holidays have generally provided short-term protection as promised.

“For some employment rich regions this has even stimulated further investment activity, but we are on borrowed time and need sustained household incomes before we can dismiss the prospect of a systemic housing crash.”

With the whole world unsure what the future will look like post-pandemic, Dr Boyd believed some of the effects of ‘urban claustrophobia’ from COVID-19 restrictions could have a long-term impact on regional populations.

“It is hard to say when and if people will resume life as they knew it, but it is evident that physical distancing is having an enduring impact on our mental health and wellbeing.”

“For many escaping the metropolitan areas this will lead to choosing a home and a community where they feel safe and have sufficient social interaction. If their new homes are affordable and the regions can provide the level of engagement, they need then they may stay.

“Others living in regional areas may not receive the engagement they seek and once they realise the total cost of living in the regions it may be one more inducement to move back to metropolitan areas.”