Plans for new Cairns social housing development the tip of the iceberg, says CQU expert

12 September 2023
A man with brown hair wearing a purple long sleeve shirt smiling with teeth at the camera with a large white two storey house in the background
CQU Head of Course for Property Dr Steven Boyd

CQUniversity property expert Steven Boyd has welcomed the Queensland Government’s plans for 490 new houses for Cairns – but says it’s only a temporary solution to the nation’s greater housing shortage crisis.

Planning applications have been lodged for the development which would build 490 new social, affordable and specialist disability homes in Woree, between Cairns’ southern corridor and inner-city suburbs.

The plan aims to attract senior citizens looking to downsize, and in turn, free up under-occupied dwellings for larger households.

Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk said her government was now considering an application from project proponents Community Housing Qld Limited and Tetris Capital through the government’s signature $2 billion Housing Investment Fund.

Dr Boyd, who is Head of Course for Property, said the announcement was welcome news, and a good first step.

“With a very tight rental vacancy rate of around one per cent and forecast population in the Cairns council area to accommodate a further 12,000 people in the next five years, new housing is welcome,” Dr Boyd said.

“A further 490 social and affordable houses will have a meaningful impact on supply in Cairns, but it is only part of the solution. Without a fundamental change in the way we live and use housing, the Cairns region will require a further 4,300 homes over the next five years just to accommodate the forecasted growth and maintain the tight rental markets. 

“Social housing is an increasingly important addition in times such as these, where the cost of development makes new residential development unfeasible for private investors and developers. 

“With current construction costs and interest rates where they currently sit, there is little chance the private sector will be making any meaningful progress to reduce housing shortages or improve housing affordability in our regions.” 

Dr Boyd said popular strategies such as reducing planning hurdles and approving more development may assist. 

“But finding a more effective means to house us all is going to become more and more important as the existing approaches fall short of affordably housing our community,” he said.

“If the Woree proposal delivers homes and communities suited to those most in need, then the lessons should be shared and applied when considering new developments across Cairns, Queensland and Australia.”

Premier Palaszczuk said: “We know Queenslanders are feeling the impact of national housing pressures across the state. That’s why my government is pulling every lever available – including working hand in hand with housing providers.

“Through our $2 billion Housing Investment Fund, we’re seeing the private sector come to the table with their solutions including another 71 projects being shortlisted for the next stage.”