Regional Queensland is experiencing drastically low rental vacancy rates, with one town essentially dropping to 0 per cent while another struggles with overcrowding.
The Real Estate Institute of Queensland's latest residential vacancy report reveals vacancy rates got as tight as 0.1 per cent in Maryborough in 2021 in a record low across the history of the report.
Vacancies were tight right to the top of Queensland too, with the Tablelands (0.2pc) and Cook (0.4pc) both stagnant, while Mareeba (0.4pc) and Cairns (0.7pc) moved up fractionally by 0.1pc.
The regional centres of Rockhampton (0.4pc), Toowoomba (0.4pc), Mackay (0.7pc) and Townsville (0.7pc) all stayed relatively firm and tight too, while Gladstone is looking slightly better at 1.2pc.
There's little indication of vacancy rates moving much anytime soon, with changes over the September to December quarter mostly confined to a minimal 0.2pc up or down.
There were a few exceptions, such as Burdekin near Townsville, which rose by 0.4pc to 0.8pc.
REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella said she couldn't recall a time where tight vacancy rates were so consistently and drastically low across Queensland, citing COVID-19 as creating unique behaviour.
"We're experiencing the perfect storm of low housing supply levels, incredibly high interstate migration particularly to our regions, longer length tenancies as tenants choose to stay put for greater security and certainty, and less shared tenancies as people want more space now they're working from home," Ms Mercorella said.
Ms Mercorella said a rental market as extraordinarily tight as this presented challenges to the local economy and to the community.
"...Whilst current market conditions are favourable from an investor's perspective, no one wants to see people struggling to find a place to live, forced into unsuitable housing (such as big families crammed in studio apartments), or living unsustainably outside of their means."
Ms Mercorella said the REIQ's expectation is that 2022 will bring more of the same competition and more needs to be done to relieve pressure on the rental market.
"Demand for rental properties in Queensland will continue to rise along with the rising population and that growing population needs a roof over its head," Ms Mercorella said.
"With international borders opening, over time we'll see returning numbers of international students, migrants, and holidaymakers, and this too will add to the strain on rental accommodation."
She said regional areas growing due to new employment prospects would also need to find housing solutions to take advantage of the economic boost a rising population could deliver.
"For example, Maryborough's train manufacturing contract is set to support up to 800 jobs over the next decade in the region, but with vacancy sitting at 0.1pc, where these workers will live is puzzling," she said.
Kennedy MP Bob Katter said the housing shortage had created overcrowding problems in the Far North Qld community of Yarrabah.
He said COVID-19 was spreading rapidly through the town, and with people unable to effectively quarantine due to the shortage, some properties housed as many as 20 people under one roof.
Mr Katter said Yarrabah's problems would be overcome if 25 one-hectare freehold title deeds were released and issued so that 25 double-demountable buildings could be built for accommodation.
"There would be no difficulty raising the money off the banks for the demountable buildings, and of course the title deeds must be inalienable," Mr Katter said.
"That's all we need, and it wouldn't cost the public purse a single cent. Twenty or 30 people could die here that shouldn't have to die.
"All the state government has to do is issue 25 title deeds on pieces of paper. Don't give me the nonsense about studies, town planners and services. What we need is more accommodation now. This has been a long running issue. The demountable-buildings and title deeds aren't my ideas, they are from a Yarrabah local.
"If you, the state government, don't act then let the deaths be on your conscience.
"The federal government doesn't get off the hook either. It has continued to underfund housing in First Australian communities since Kevin Rudd's $5 billion program expired."
The state government has been contacted for comment.
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