Sydney struggles to house growing number of overseas migrants

By Gerv Tacadena

New South Wales has seen record-breaking number of new migrants recently

Overseas migrants are swarming New South Wales, and the state seems to be running out of houses to accommodate them.

Citing figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, The Daily Telegraph reported that New South Wales' population has already grown by more than 123,105 people in the year to last September, heavily driven by the arrival of 98,782 migrants.

This has been the highest level of annual overseas arrivals recorded and surpassed the projected increase gains of 85,000. The overseas migration in New South Wales has accelerated so much that last year's numbers were more than double the 46,642 in 2006.

The influx of migrants has led to Sydney falling short of the 41,250 dwellings needed each year to meet the underlying demand for housing – according to a report from the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA), only 38,700 new homes per year were built in the capital city.

In the UDIA report, Billbergia Group development director Rick Graf noted that, due to the plans of developers to build less housing in the coming years, the necessary construction levels would be impossible to sustain.

“The dramatic slowdown in major project approvals in 2016 and 2017 will prevent these building levels being achieved in coming years,” he said.

The demand for housing has also led to land prices to double in just five years: Sydney's median land price hit $1,202 per square meter in 2017 from $580 in 2012.  This is significantly higher in the prices of other capital cities like Melbourne ($692), Perth ($605), and Queensland ($591). In fact, Sydney's median land price of more than $450,000 is already enough to buy a home in Adelaide.

Given these, SQM Research director Louis Christopher said the potential shifts in migration policies before the federal election next year could represent a turning point in the sector.

"Polls show nearly 74% of the electorate is in favour of putting a limit to migration and if one of the big parties were to propose that, it could be a walkover at the next election. The results of such a policy would be very interesting for the housing market," he told The Daily Telegraph.

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