A former-Wimmera academic has weighed in on the debate surrounding the housing crisis, suggesting it could show a change in the way the state government approaches housing issues in regional areas like the Wimmera.
RMIT researcher, Dr Todd Denham grew up in Warracknabeal, and looks at trends "the intersections between transport, housing, employment and industry, particularly in regional contexts". .
Speaking to the Wimmera Mail-Times, Dr Denham said that policies such as the much-discussed Victorian Homebuyers' Fund could mark a change in the government's approach to the housing shortage strangling western Victoria.
"It's interesting in that it is specially targeted," Dr Denham said.
"For a long time there hasn't been policy in place that has made the attempt to direct housing and development to locations within the state." .
Earlier this year, Australian Community Media reported that while Horsham had been included in the scheme, other population centres in western Victoria such as Stawell and Ararat missed out.
Dr Denham suggested it might be the start of an ongoing focus on population growth within larger regional centres.
"It's not clear to me from what I can see why the decision has been made to do it like that, but that's what it implies," he said.
"I think it will be interesting to see whether there's a shift towards a policy in Victoria that has this kind of spatial differentiation and a focus on growing larger regional cities."
According to Dr Denham, this approach would lead to growth in regions surrounding such centres, like the Wimmera.
However, Dr Denham said it would take "significant" growth before the flow on benefits impacted the Wimmera as a whole. .
"I think that it would need substantial growth in Horsham for places like Minyip and Murtoa to become much like places like Creswick on the outskirts of Ballarat that have boomed in recent years," he said.
However, Dr Denham noted, the Fund was just one part in a multitude of policies directed at housing.
Both the state and local governments have prioritised council housing, with many projects in the works.
Dr Denham said the decision of this policy to concentrate growth on a larger population centre such as Horsham could lead to further investment in the region.
"I think one of the things to keep an eye on with the housing policy is whether it acts as a signal for investment," he said.
"It shows that the government is interested in developing Horsham, whether that encourages businesses to stop and invest in Horsham as well.
"It's saying the government is confident in the future of Horsham as a good place to invest, and therefore whether there's additional policies that come on the back of this."
However it raises an interesting question about perspective and growth, Dr Denham said.
"What you're looking at from the perspective of the region of the Wimmera and with whether the Wimmera it's better to have a stronger centre in Horsham... or whether the region is better off by having an equal distribution of housing, government concentration and growth."
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