Abstract: Within the context of 'responding to regional disadvantage', this project sought to interrogate the potential for the incorporation of a neglected housing dimension into the increasingly integrated approach currently being adopted in regional policy development. The study focused on two non-metropolitan regions which were experiencing the negative effects of economic restructuring and where the provision of appropriate and affordable housing is a vital component of the responses by government and industry to local socioeconomic change. In the Eastern Wheatbelt of Western Australia mechanization and deregulation, both in broad acre farming and in government and commercial service delivery, are resulting in depopulation and service withdrawal. These trends inevitably impact negatively upon the local housing market to the detriment of current residents and the deterrence of any in migrants. Inter alia, they also contribute to a significant ageing of the local population structure, which has the potential to impact significantly on local housing and welfare requirements. In the more remote parts of the State's South West, the traditional economic mainstay of the timber industry is in decline, threatening the viability of a number of towns where a significant proportion of the housing stock is currently in company hands. In this case, it is the working age population and their families who are most vulnerable to housing stress. In both cases there is, therefore, a nexus between the local housing situation and a range of other socioeconomic issues including declining employment opportunities, access to services, and health and educational disadvantage. Prior to a detailed investigation of and in these communities, however, the project commenced with a survey of Australian and international literature on integrated policy and program responses to regional and, more specifically, rural disadvantage, paying particular reference to the cost effectiveness of the various approaches and the role of housing policy therein. A User Group incorporating representatives from the various spheres of government and from the non-government welfare sector had input into this process which produced as its end product a Discussion Paper which evaluated the success, cost effectiveness and appropriateness for non-metropolitan Australia of the various international and national policies and programs aimed at redressing regional disadvantage and which specifically examines how housing assistance/initiatives can be successfully integrated into regional policy. This discussion paper was then circulated to stakeholders in the case study areas and in relevant State and Commonwealth government organisations and non-government agencies both inside and outside the project's User Group. Following workshop sessions with stakeholders in both case study areas, with the User Group and with recipients of the Discussion Paper appropriate feedback was incorporated in a Findings Paper and a full report on the entire project. This final report incorporates the implications for housing and regional policy arising from the project's findings and identifies future research priorities and opportunities.
Notes: Evidence suggests that there is a link between suitable housing infrastructure and well-being of rural people. Despite this, there is paucity of research in this area. The main aim of the project which is the subject of this final report is to examine the extent to which housing policy is and/or can be more effectively integrated with regional disadvantage policy and program responses in Australia, thereby ensuring improved housing and regional economic and social outcomes. The study focuses on two non-metropolitan areas in Western Australia: the Southwest Forest area and the Eastern Wheatbelt. In both areas, there is a nexus between the local housing situation and a range of other socio-economic issues including declining employment opportunities, access to services, and perceived health and educational disadvantage. The report sets out the background to the project, summarises the findings and draws out key implications for housing and regional development policy.