MAINTAINING Ballarat's livability will need to be a key driver going forward as new Real Estate Institute of Victoria data shows just what impact the pandemic has had on regional Victoria.
The 'VESPAs' - as one of Australia's most well-known demographer has called them - are riding out of the city to a new life in the regions which has seen a large increase in property prices in rural communities.
Demographer Bernard Salt says the 'virus escapees seeking provincial Australia' are having an effect on regional communities, but believes cities like Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong are well placed to cater for the influx.
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"I certainly feel like cities and communities further removed are unlikely to become satellite towns of Melbourne," Mr Salt said.
"Ballarat already has 100,000 people, it's not like it's a little town that will be swamped.
"Ballarat also has a strong culture, a strong sense of identity, it's also physically removed from Melbourne, there's a number of physical, cultural and geographic barriers to stop that happening."
Real Estate Institute of Victoria December quarter data, released on Monday, shows there has been a massive spike in house prices across regional Victoria in the six months to the end of December.
While much of regional Victoria had shown incremental growth in the past five years, the new data represents a huge jump in regional Victoria's median house price, up from $421,000 in June to $486,000 now.
And in Ballarat it is becoming increasingly difficult to find any property under $400,000. In fact, only two suburbs - Sebastopol and Wendouree - remain under the $400,000 median.
The statistics also reveal that nine Ballaat suburbs are now above the regional average. These are Soldiers Hill ($571,000), Lake Wendouree which often fluctuates given what is on the market at any one time ($1.351 million), Mount Helen ($530,000), Miners Rest ($490,000), Lucas ($510,000), Alfredton ($514,000), Lake Gardens ($580,000), Black Hill ($486,000) and Canadian ($515,000).
Mr Salt said to create a vibrant community, it was critical that new residents become involved in the day-to-day workings of the city, and not a place to rest your head at night.
"That's the big shift that's underpinned the 'VESPA' movement," he said. "The pandemic has unlocked a new demographic of people in their 30s and 40s. They see better housing and the dollar goes further, better security and safety, environmental amenity, cultural facilities.
"There are people that commute daily, but it's most unlikely you'll commute daily for 30 years of your career. I don't support the idea of living in Ballarat and working in Melbourne, of course there will be a transition period at first and right now we are seeing that.
"But any community would say they want new people to live, work, play, volunteer, invest their lives into my community, not just use the facilities."
Mr Salt said while he would never tell any council what to do, he said it was important that all regional cities look to downsizing apartments and townhouses as the baby-boom generation heads towards retirement.
REIV President Leah Calnan said; "Throughout the July and September quarters, we received constant reports of low listings and activity. Once restrictions across the state eased, demand and buyer competition skyrocketed."
"Certainly low interest rates and government incentives including stamp duty concessions and first home buyers grants added to buyer appetite for the December quarter, while volatility and uncertainty in the Australian equity market have secured property as a preferred investment," she said.
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