With interest rate rises, increased cost of living and housing affordability dominating headlines in recent months, it’s no surprise a sell out crowd was in attendance at the C.ex Coffs on Tuesday 26 July for the Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce Spotlight on the Economy breakfast. 

We were pleased to welcome Councillors Cecato, Pryce and Sechi to the event and were delighted to introduce the Council’s new GM, Natalia Cowley to the business community. 

Speaking to the attendees, Ms Cowley shared her vision for supporting business and innovation in our LGA. With her extensive background in finance and chartered accounting she is focused on economic development for the Coffs region. In these uncertain times, it is something the business community is pleased to hear. 

As attendees settled in with a buffet breakfast, the keynote speaker, Felicity Emmett, Senior Economist at ANZ Bank, gave an engaging and informative outlook on the current economic climate, both in Australia as well as locally. The decline in housing affordability in regional areas was a key area of focus.

We won’t pretend that what she shared with the community was all good news. But there were some hopeful signs shared and ways in which Coffs Harbour, and other regional areas, can tackle housing affordability. 

Ms Emmett shared that global pressures are pushing up inflation in Australia and that supply chain pressures, that we saw at the peak of the pandemic, are still present but are easing. Now the main economic effects from the Russia-Ukraine conflict are due to higher commodity prices.

In terms of housing, affordability across Australia deteriorated on all measures throughout the pandemic. With the number of years it takes to save a deposit increasing from 9.4 to 11.4 years, and the cost of servicing a mortgage rising from 34.4% of income to 41.4%. The rental market also remains very tight and renting affordability has become extremely challenging.

The picture in Coffs Harbour was above the national averages with it taking an average of 16.5 years to save a deposit and 60% of median Coffs Harbour income is needed to service a new mortgage.

While this might all seem a bit doom and gloom, Ms Emmett was on hand to answer questions and shared some promising signs that many Australians are prepared to weather the initial challenges we are currently facing. 

Firstly, she shared that while these figures focus on median incomes and median house prices, most first home buyers are starting with a property below the median price, so it’s unlikely for someone in reality to take as long to save a deposit. 

She also shared that with unemployment at record lows, households have used low interest rates to get ahead on their mortgage repayments and during the pandemic many people have built up large savings buffers and that will help households manage higher mortgage repayments. So while there is no doubt some families and businesses will feel the pinch in coming months, many have been preparing for what lies ahead. 

The issue of housing affordability in the regions is a large one and we know that neighbouring areas are feeling the effects we are experiencing too. When asked how housing affordability can be improved in regional areas, she suggested the Government had a role to play, in particular in increasing the supply of properties into the LGA. The Development Approval process within local councils was raised, with Ms Emmett stating that every DA that is knocked back or delayed, has a detrimental effect on housing affordability. 

The small business community walked away from the event with a greater knowledge of what lies ahead for Australia’s economic outlook for the next few years. 

As we look ahead to our next Chamber of Commerce event we turn our focus to the multi-generational workforce.  For the first time in history, there are now up to five generations in the workforce, each with its own unique differences, experiences, and communication styles.

At a lunch event to be held at Opal Cove on Tuesday 6 September, esteemed communication strategist and presenter, Katie Iles will unpack key leadership qualities that emerging generations resonate with, and equip leaders, managers and teams to attract, engage and retain talent across a multi-generational workforce. This event is sponsored by the Clarence-Coffs Independent Schools Career Hub – connecting local businesses with employees of the future.