Stawell house prices have risen dramatically in recent months, compounding existing problems surrounding housing availability and affordability.
The Real Estate Institute of Victoria reported that between the final quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, the average house sale price in Stawell rose by $36,000.
Stawell's house prices are consequently the highest they have been since the institute began collecting data for the region in early 2016.
Monaghans Real Estate Stawell company director Terry Monaghan said while the pandemic was not the cause of the rise in house prices, it had accelerated the process.
"Like most regional centres, we just don't have any stock," he said.
"Pre-COVID in 2020, we were having a bit of a real estate run at the time. We were noticing that there wasn't much coming back on the market but it didn't really matter because the stocks were pretty good.
"Then COVID hit, and sales just kept going but nobody was listing, virtually nothing was coming on the market.
"We changed from an agency that was focused on selling to one that was focused on listing. That really hasn't changed because the market is rising, and people who may have been casual sellers are thinking 'hang on, is the market at its top or if I hang on another month will it go up another $5000 or $10,000?'"
Mr Monoghan said there were various demographics wanting to purchase property in the region.
"A lot of our new buyer are local who have been enticed to purchase because their seeing the market going up and up and they want to purchase before it rises any further," he said.
"You've got the metropolitan market which is strong because anybody putting money in the bank at the moment will get about 0.3 of a per cent. Whereas if you put it in real estate right now you can get between 5-7 per cent.
"Then you've also got our core investors that have been investing in the town for ages and their getting terrific return on their money now, and they're using that money to fund new purchases.
"What wasn't realised was how incredibly good value we were three or four years ago."
In 2017 Stawell's average house sale price fluctuated between $165,000-$185,000. in the first quarter of 2021 this figure is $275,000.
Mr Monoghan said while this was great news for homeowners, it also created major problems for people in need of housing.
"What I'm worried about is getting a roof over people's heads," he said.
"In Stawell we've got so many new jobs coming and there is no capacity. We've got a big rent roll and we don't have any vacancies.
"I'm hearing stories of people virtually living in cars because they've got jobs here but there's nowhere for them.
Grampians Community Health acting program leader for business growth Jemima Bibby said even before the pandemic housing availability had been a problem.
"Homelessness support services were already stretched and in high demand, and now it's just increased," she said.
"The demand has increased and the supply is not there because accommodation also needs to be affordable. The cost of rentals and accommodation is out of reach for a lot of people.
"There is also the effect of JobKeeper and JobSeeker finishing, and therefore the impacts of COVID are still being felt."
Ms Bibby said the lack of affordable housing had widespread effects.
"We were asked to give a presentation to DELWP (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning) because they were coming across a lot of people on public land who were experiencing homelessness and weren't engaging with services," she said.
"We're very aware of it because people come to us but other departments where it isn't even part of their core business are finding people camping out on land."
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