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Remote worker boom starting to squeeze locals out of their home towns

Statewide

A planning expert says popular regions are facing impacts akin to a mining boom as a remote-worker influx pushes up house prices and rents, potentially forcing out locals.

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But, unlike the traditional mining boom, this period was unlikely to be followed by a slowdown or bust.

Urban planner and Griffith University lecturer Tony Matthews said the new arrivals were able to work remotely, bringing with them highly-paid roles from major centres.

Matthews said communities would benefit from the sort of economic growth seen during the mining boom 10 years ago — but there would be consequences.

“Locals were horribly priced out of the areas they grew up in,” he said.

“They were suddenly competing with people who were earning mining wages.

“Rental accommodation and house purchasing became extremely expensive and, in some cases, unaffordable for many people.”

Brad Williams is an urban design specialist on the Sunshine Coast who also heads the region’s branch of the Property Council of Australia.

He said people from other states could move to a regional area and into a bigger home in a stunning location and still have money left over.

“I might’ve sold my house for $2 million to get a much bigger, larger house up here for half the price — that is a key driver to that migration,” he said.

He said regions would have to develop land, redevelop existing urban areas or risk becoming unaffordable.

“The challenges are real — they’re not called growing pains for nothing,” he said.

Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson has seen Central Queensland experience four booms but a 10-year stretch that subsided in 2013 has had a lasting impact.

He said regions had to focus on keeping the community united.

“Bring the newcomers into your community and make them part of your community, so they don’t feel like interlopers and the existing community doesn’t feel like they’re interlopers as well,” he said.

He said while there would be plenty of issues for growing regions to endure, there would be positives.

“So many people came to town, brought a lot more money to town, and a lot more different ideas to town — and that’s a good thing.”

ABS data shows:

– ABC / Owen Jacques

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