Warrnambool is booming. That's the picture that was painted this week when the latest building statistics were released.
For the fourth consecutive financial year, planning permit approvals topped $100m. And in the first quarter of this financial year, permits worth more than $27m were approved, having the city on track for another big year. As we reported last week, demand is strong for residential land across the city with mum and dad investors snapping up blocks at a hectic pace.
The impending $20m city library project and a host of windfarm developments in the region further underline the positive economic environment.
Historically low interest rates no doubt contribute to the housing surge. So too does the region's liveability and the region's low youth unemployment rate. But with the boom comes challenges.
As we revealed today, there's a shortage of qualified carpenters, which threatens to hold up progress. In fact, there is a shortage of qualified tradespeople across the sector.
WestVic Staffing Solutions' ambitious goal of creating 1000 jobs in five years no longer looks a daunting challenge.
But where do the workers come from? Tradies are no longer staying on the tools as long as they once did - the physical toll can be high. Importing labour from other regions is not the answer. They come, inflate the demand and price for housing and when their work is done, they leave. Rental properties become vacant, demand drops, house prices cool. History is littered with booms and busts.
Housing is already at a premium in Warrnambool. Rents are higher than other regional centres; house prices too. Are they sustainable? The key is finding a balance. It is clear demand for housing outstrips supply. Rental properties are hard to find.
We need more affordable housing. The state and federal governments and city council have roles to play. So do developers.
We may look back in years to come and say these were golden years. We just need to be careful our growth and prosperity can be sustained.