LACK of rental accommodation in small towns such as Hopetoun and Warracknabeal has become a hindrance in attracting skilled employees, a health service provider says.
Health services such as Rural Northwest Health have built accommodation to retain and attract more professional staff.
The organisation has recently built two new units at their Hopetoun campus and the two-bedroom units have been allocated to staff members.
The units replaced previous accommodation facilities used by staff that had significant structural issues.
Rural Northwest Health chief executive Kevin Mills said building accommodation was not part of their services, but the organisation had taken on the task out of necessity.
"We want to get some investors or some other way of funding in for accommodation," he said.
Rural Northwest Health - in conjunction with Woodbine, Yarriambiack Shire Council and Warracknabeal Action Group - have applied for the Victorian Regional Readiness Fund grant program.
Mr Mills said the funding would be used to investigate viable options available for staff accommodation.
The grant is worth $130,000 but the group has applied for only $97,000 after calculating costs.
Mr Mills said the new units were not suitable to house staff with families. The units could house four individual employees in total with each person having adequate personal space.
"That certainly is one shortfall in what we have available in Hopetoun. The bigger issue comes when even the commercial market has no space," he said.
"There are only two one-bedroom apartments available in Hopetoun. It is so difficult to attract people to live in Hopetoun."
Lack of accommodation has driven some staff to buy houses in the town.
"We have been fortunate enough that the campus manager that we recruited has bought her own house," he said.
Mr Mills said the Warracknabeal campus suffered a similar situation in terms of accommodation.
"We have certainly invested. We have several units we built recently. We have short (term) accommodation which is the renovation from the old nursing home," he said.
Mr Mills said the organisation currently rented a few real estate properties which will be subleased to employees in Warracknabeal.
"It is all well and good for someone to recruit someone, to try and find place for them but that makes it really difficult. Whereas if you have somewhere for them to move straight into, then over a 12-month period they can get a feel of the town and find their own rental accommodation, " he said.
It really takes away from what we really are here to do.Kevin Mills
He said the commercial market often had only one house available for renting.
"It may be older house and may not suit everybody's need. When you look at your specific needs, it's really hard when you have only one choice," he said.
He said the lack of housing options had also resulted in residents paying more for the properties as compared to other places.
"On a flipside for an investor to purchase, renovate properties and rent them out it here could be potential stack up. Because rental return in regards to percentage per capita investment is quite high. The thing they want to get, is the same capital growth as in large urban areas," he said.
Mr Mills said having professional staff residing within the community played a vital role in its retention. He said it helped bolster the community with money being spent in the town.
"It is a vital aspect in hospitals, councils, disability service schools and large employers. It is vital for community survival and for it to thrive," he said.
Mr Mills said more steps needed to be taken to tackle the issue.
"There needs to be more done from the government and department level. Whether it be more significant tax breaks or other incentives around. That would be certainly beneficial in getting people to think about moving out of the cities and out to the regional areas," he said.
Northwest Real Estate director John Hadley said there was only one real estate property available for rent in the Warrackanabeal market.
He said most of the houses in the market were up for sale and not for renting purposes.
"We manage about 200 properties in the Wimmera Mallee and only about five of those are for renting," he said.
Mr Hadley said the issue was prevalent in all small towns in the country. Lack of houses in towns has led people to rent houses in other bigger towns nearby and travel for longer hours.
"Lot of times people rent houses in Horsham and travel to Warracknabeal for work," he said.
Woodbine chief executive officer Bernie O'Connor said there was a chronic shortage of accommodation in Warracknabeal.
The ratio of the jobs offered and the accommodation available has been a big challenge in such areas.
Mr O'Connor said at the current stage, within the Warracknabeal vicinity there were 45 jobs available.
He said there had been cases of people turning down jobs due to longer hours of commute. He said the issue existed with all big employers in town which prevented employers from offering jobs due to the shortage of accommodation.
"We need to encourage developers to look at the opportunities and the grant is related to attracting and getting the attention of developers as a prospective opportunity," he said.
"Secondly, it is about going out to regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne and selling the fact that there is accommodation accompanied for full time jobs."
Mr O'Connor said the group aimed to sell the initiative by investing in producing videos about the town. He said research would be conducted to yield the best results.
"We need to identify land, where developer could develop. The Yarriambiack shire has offered to employ a consultant at their own expense to provide all data sets," he said.
"We are basing our arguments on sound researched facts."
Mr O'Connor said the town had always been recognised as a farming community. But recently there had been a surge in industry demands.
He said Woodbine alone had 50 per cent increase in service delivery in the last seven years.
Mr O'Connor said Rural Northwest Health's new hospital renovation had also contributed in the increased job vacancies around the health sector in the region.
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