Robe holidaymakers put pressure on housing supply

Robe Council chief executive James Holyman said housing availability in Robe has gotten tougher over the years.

By Elsie Adamo

The rise in popularity of short-term accommodation websites such as Airbnb combined with holiday homes has put pressure on the ability of Robe’s businesses to find staff, according to Robe Council chief executive James Hoylman.

The town’s popularity as a tourist destination has led to a housing shortage for people wanting to relocate there permanently, with properties used as private holiday homes or short-term holiday rental accommodation.

Despite a difference in the population of more than 24,000, at time of print Robe currently had more properties listed on Airbnb than Mount Gambier.

According to 2021 Census data, 923 houses in Robe are unoccupied, making up 58.8 per cent of the town’s dwellings. The same data lists the entirety of the Limestone Coast’s overall unoccupied dwellings at only 17.4 per cent.

The impact of a limited supply of housing for permanent residents means there are restrictions on the local workforce, which still needs to support the town during peak seasons.

Mr Holyman said the town’s challenges are no different from other popular tourist destinations.

“With the residential market running reasonably hot, the ability for workers to find accommodation is going to be limited,“ Mr Holyman said.

“If people wanted to come to Robe for the summer and have a working holiday, there would be no places for them to stay.

Vacancies for workers in town have been longstanding, according to Mr Holyman, with the council struggling to find enough workers at times.

“We have had a large number of vacancies we have had difficulties filling,“ he said.

“We know some local businesses have given up, they have advertised for six or 12 months and have not been able to attract anybody, so they are just running on lower numbers. “

My Hoylman said the council was in a tough spot, balancing the priorities of tourism with long-term residents. He said the council would look at solutions, but quick fixes would be hard to come by.

“I have had a conversation with people who develop in Robe, but that end of the market [affordable housing] is not as lucrative for them as building high-quality homes,“ Mr Holyman said.

“There is already a two to three year wait to get a local builder in Robe.

“Ideally, you would hope market forces would drive through demand somebody to step in and fill the gap in the market, but I do not think that is going to occur.“

This pressure has contributed to rental shortages affecting the whole region, which is particularly strong in Robe. According to 2021 census data, only 134 of Robe’s 1573 dwellings are rented out long-term.

“Robe has always not had a lot of long-term rental accommodation,“ Mr Holyman said.

“I think it has gotten worse, particularly because of the increase in living prices.“

For those looking to work in Robe, Mr Holyman said perhaps people would need to consider living outside of the town.

“The other interesting one, when you look at it, is whether people have to live in the place they work,“ My Holyman said.

“If you were in Adelaide, it would be normal to travel 30 to 40 minutes to work, and Kingston is half an hour away.

“Are there other places people could have a more affordable base than Robe?“