The Turnbull government is considering new measures to encourage more migrants to settle in regional or remote areas to relieve pressure on house prices and infrastructure in Sydney and Melbourne.
With one month until budget day, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says his department is working closely with the treasury and finance departments to assess the likely impact of a possible shift in the migration program.
House prices rose 19 per cent in Sydney and 16 per cent in Melbourne in the year to March, locking more people out of the market.
The government is believed to be looking at the NSW central coast and Goulburn as key areas that could host migrants who might otherwise settle in Sydney.
Ahead of a major speech by Treasurer Scott Morrison on housing affordability – an issue which is set to be the centrepiece of his second budget – Mr Dutton said ‘s 190,000-strong annual migration intake had to be driven by ‘s national interest.
“There are ways we are looking at that we might be able to provide support to people to choose a regional city, for example, if they can find work there,” the minister told Sky News on Sunday.
Describing housing affordability as a “whole of government effort”, Mr Dutton said there were good reasons many migrants wanted to settle in the capital cities, including access to jobs and proximity to family and expat communities.
But getting them to move “beyond the city limits” and directing them towards regional centres could bring many benefits, he said.
“If we can encourage more of that – people moving away from capital cities – then I think that’s something we can embrace.
“The argument is how can we marry them up with regional communities where there is a supply of work, where there is the ability to send kids to school? Living in regional towns is a great way to raise a family, a great way to be involved more intimately in the life of that community. And housing and the cost of living otherwise has the potential to be much cheaper than living in a capital city.”