The unprecedented demand for housing in regional Victoria has placed Ararat in a strong economic position, despite also causing some challenges.
Regional Australia Institute published a report earlier in the month revealing one in five city residents were eager to move to the regions, with more than half planning to do so in the next 12 months.
The report showed that most of those seeking reprieve from the city lifestyle had wanted to do so before COVID-19.
However, the pandemic had brought their plans forward and caused the current influx to regional towns such as Ararat.
Ararat Rural City Council chief executive Dr Tim Harrison said the flood of new residents was it great for its health.
"Many economic benefits come with an increased shift in the population to rural Victoria," he said.
"Population growth increases the critical mass of our towns and cities and enables investment in higher-quality infrastructure and services.
"A surge of highly skilled young adults will create innovation and productivity gains for our economy and wider benefits for the community underpinning expansion in education and health services.
"There's plenty of work to go around. Local business expansions and infrastructure projects underpin more than 1000 jobs in the pipeline over the next decade. Those moving to the region can help fill those roles.
"Prospective buyers will also want to explore the region more while choosing a town to invest in. We're expecting higher visitation numbers this year which will be great for local businesses.
"Lastly, more housing demand will attract property investors to the region - creating more jobs as we rebuild from the pandemic."
Despite the benefits, the increased demand for housing has created obstacles for some.
A Grampians Community Health spokesperson said the healthcare provider had witnessed an increase in people struggling with the housing market.
"Availability of suitable housing has decreased. We are seeing more people who have stable incomes/employment needing support as well as those who are unemployed," they said.
But they also noted COVID-19 had not increased the use of their Homelessness Services.
"Grampians Community Health has not observed changes in the number of people accessing our programs," they said.
"There has been less housing crisis due to eviction laws during COVID. Many tenants were supported to stay in the home, prior COVID they would have faced eviction."
Besides availability, affordability has also become an issue for people seeking to buy in regional Victoria.
Data from the Real Estate Institute of Victoria showed that from the second quarter of 2020 to the fourth, the median sale price of houses in regional Victoria soared by $65,000.
This was a more significant increase in the median sale price than the three years previous.
Yet, Ararat has remained mostly exempt from this price-rise.
While the median house sale price between the second and third quarter of 2020 grew by $29,000, it then dipped by $24,000 in the fourth quarter.
This meant the median sale price in Ararat grew by less than an eighth of what statewide, regional median sale price did.
The focus in Ararat, therefore, remains to make more housing available.
Dr Harrison said the council is aiming to support a range of new developments.
"Council's focus on increased investment attraction, and a red carpet not red tape approach to planning approvals, will see us secure private investment to develop a greater mix of housing options for our growing community, including first home buyers and low-income earners," he said.
"Council has unlocked the Ararat East Development Area, with the Green Hill Lake Estate development to deliver 160 new housing lots," he said.
"I'm encouraged that the latest release of the Evans Park Estate has been selling well, and the new Chalambar Links Estate is showing further signs of confidence in the development market.
"Our focus is on creating a strong economy where people who want to work can work gives people the impudence and security to buy a home."
Ararat Rural City Council has also launched the 'Live the Grampians Way' portal to attract skilled workers and build a talent pool for businesses.
The portal provides prospective residents with information about local schools, housing, healthcare, and employment opportunities to start their new life in rural Victoria.
To learn more, visit grampianslife.com.au.
Do you have something to say about this issue? Send a Letter to the Editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox from The Ararat Advertiser. To make sure you're up-to-date with all the news from across the Ararat shire, sign up here.