Severe housing shortages in regional Australia may start to ease, with people again moving from the country to the city as pandemic lockdowns lift, new data shows.
A report from Commonwealth Bank and the Regional Australia Institute found 4.6 per cent of internal population flow was movement from the regions to the cities in the first three months of the year.
Regional residents stayed put during COVID-19 lockdowns in the capitals, while more city-dwellers moved to the country, leading to rental shortages and a tight housing market.
The institute’s Regional Movers Index report, based on data from the bank’s 10 million customers, said the percentage of people leaving the regions is bigger than the COVID-era average and the two years before.
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The shift is probably the result of “pent up” desire to move, the report said.
The institute’s chief economist, Dr Kim Houghton, said tens of thousands of regional homes may become available nationally.
“It’s a small percentage change, but because those markets are so finely balanced, it will make quite a difference on the ground in the very short term,” Dr Houghton told reporters on Thursday.
But the migration goes both ways, and people continue to swap the city for the country, with exiles from the capitals increasing by record high of more than 16 per cent in the March quarter.
Far more people are moving out of the cities – particularly Sydney and Melbourne – than in the two years before the pandemic, with a 26.7 per cent higher migration rate.
Millennials and their young families make up the majority of people moving to the top five regional hotspots – Ceduna, Mount Gambier and Port Augusta in South Australia; Moorabool in Victoria and Queensland’s Western Downs.
Those areas tend to be attractive due to their diverse economies – made up of agriculture, hospitality, manufacturing and health care – Commonwealth Bank’s regional and agribusiness general manager Paul Fowler said.
People aged between 25 and 40 move for cheaper housing and job opportunities in the regions, where there are 85,000 vacancies, he said.
“(There’s) incredible employment opportunities for families, millennials, gen X-ers, to move to the regions and support the thriving economic and social communities,” Mr Fowler said.
Dr Houghton said long-term trends show 20 per cent of the Australian population turns over every five years as people move for careers and lifestyle.
“We’re a very mobile country by international standards,” he said.
“The notion that this is a one-off move, and people will stay in a place like Moorabool for the rest of their lives just doesn’t happen.”