Experts believe the significantly low average income in the Riverina has left the region more vulnerable to the impacts of the national housing shortage.
The electorate’s average salary is just $54,600 compared to a national average of $66,000, according to an analysis of Corelogic data conducted by PowerHousing Australia.
The report shows the low salaries have not helped the region avoid the skyrocketing cost of properties, with dwelling values rising by 37 per cent in the past two years, while rents rose 17 per cent.
Wagga St Vincent De Paul president Peter Burgess said low incomes paired with the soaring cost of living has left many residents struggling to stay afloat.
“Because of the region’s low average income people’s expectation is that rents and prices of houses will be cheaper,” he said.
“But when you look at the market in Wagga the prices are increasing and people aren’t keeping up at all.”
Mr Burgess said he spoke to a woman in Wagga this week who, after paying rent, was left with just $320 a fortnight to cover living for herself and her son.
“It’s difficult for people and as the cost of living climbs they become even more marginalised,” he said.
Carolyn Doherty, the CEO of social housing provider Argyle Housing, said many people in the Riverina have been priced out of the private housing market due to their incomes being overtaken by soaring rental costs.
“We’re increasingly seeing people turn to the social housing list purely because of financial reasons,” she said.
“People in the Riverina are less likely to be able to absorb the increases in housing costs to those in metro areas because they have less disposable income.”
Wagga councillor Mick Henderson said many people who choose to live in a regional area like the Riverina accept that their salaries will be lower but the recent cost of living increases have threatened to disrupt the balance.
“We have always been at the lower end of the [salary] scale here in Wagga and it is the lifestyle we choose to live in,” he said.
“But it’s getting to a situation where it’s going to stress households and you pretty much have to have two workers just to pay the bills.”
Cr Henderson said the region will struggle to introduce the kind of wages available in metropolitan cities and the focus should instead be on reducing costs.
“Wages can only rise so far so we’ve got to look at how we can reduce our living costs,” he said. “There needs to be a focus on bringing down the cost of fuel, the general grocery bill and the general rent.”
Committee 4 Wagga chair Adam Drummond said Wagga was fortunate to still be significantly more financially viable than metro cities, as shown by its listing in the top 10 most affordable areas in PRD Real Estate’s ‘Roaring Regions’ report.
“What we really need to do is attract more people into the regions to fill all the jobs we’ve got at the moment,” he said. “Wagga is a thriving town at the moment.”