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Investigation uncovers more than 25,000 spare rooms across Central West NSW

Location: Central New South Wales  
Population: 181,473 (LGA, 2021 Census)

The significant shortage of housing in regional NSW is well evidenced.  It is also accepted that addressing this shortage will require innovative approaches in the short to medium term, as the delivery of new housing generally has lead times longer that what is acceptable to employers of a growing workforce. A short term level is spare capacity.

Work undertaken by the Department of Planning in NSW shows that 64,000 additional workers are required across the Central West and Orana region in the next five years.
The Central NSW Joint Organisation (JO) is actively looking at novel ways to unlock accommodation in the area to support the economic growth of the region. 

The Spare Capacity in Housing Project, led by the Central NSW JO, is funded by the Department of Regional NSW and delivered jointly by Orange360 and Work+Stay has been designed to investigate the potential for ‘unlocking’ additional accommodation in the region’s existing housing stock.  

“Anecdotally we know there are many houses which have one or more spare rooms, and this Project seeks to understand if and/or how the primary occupants of homes with spare rooms can be encouraged to let them out on a short-term rental basis,” Work+Stay Executive Director Kate Sowden said.
“As a first step, Work+Stay undertook a detailed analysis of the potential spare room capacity across Orange, Parkes and Bathurst. The initial housing data shows there may be more than over 25,000 spare rooms across the three centres. 

“Secondly, an environmental scan of similar projects has been undertaken, documenting domestic and international examples of initiatives that have been designed to address this same issue in different locations and contexts,” Kate said.

The scan documents many successful outcomes, as well as important learnings from less successful initiatives.  Kate said two standout examples cited in the report included more than over 100,000 nurses and doctors being housed in spare rooms across the USA, and significant numbers of seasonal workers in Canada being accommodated in spare rooms in Muskoka.

The final component of the project, prior to the final report being delivered in May 2024, is to undertake comprehensive community and business surveys in Orange, Parkes, and Bathurst to ascertain homeowners and business operator’s perception of this concept, and as noted above, understand the opportunities and constraints associated with securing short-term accommodation for the region’s expanding workforce.

The Spare Capacity in Housing Project was highlighted at the National Regional Housing Summit in February 2024.

Further reading:
RDA Mid North Coast has also investigated spare bedroom capacity. 

Learn more about its project

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