Bundy's soaring cost of living

BUNDABERG people are paying 189% more for their homes than they were seven years ago, while wages have struggled to keep pace at 44% higher.

Figures showing a snapshot of the Bundaberg region's average costs and earnings in the past seven years reveal the price of progress, with average housing prices having soared from about $100,000 to $289,000.

Day-to-day costs have also risen, with families paying 36% more for petrol, and 62% more to rent a three-bedroom house.

Real Estate Institute of Queensland Bundaberg zone chairman Michael Dempsey said Bundaberg's housing market was dragging behind the rest of Australia in 2003.

He said Bundaberg's reputation as an affordable place to live led to a flood of “sea-changers” in 2003 to 2005, which pushed up property prices.

“Migration is still steady but it has slowed, particularly for first-home buyers and investors,” Mr Dempsey said.

“Prices today are the same as they were two years ago, before the global financial crisis hit.”

He said a high number of investment properties had kept Bundaberg's rents below the average.

Pensioner Coralie Swinton said she and her husband struggled on a fixed income of about $500 a week.

“The pension has gone up a bit in that time, but not as much as the cost of rent,” Mrs Swinton said.

She said it was getting harder to find good quality, affordable rental accommodation, and the increased cost of food made budgeting tough.

But Mrs Swinton believes quality of life has generally improved in Bundaberg in the past seven years.

“I like the new cafes and the new beach developments at Bargara,” she said.

Bundaberg region Mayor Lorraine Pyefinch said one of the biggest positives for the region was a drop in the unemployment rate, from 15% in 2003 to 7.1% this year.

However, Cr Pyefinch said wages in the region needed to improve to come into line with the rest of the country.

“I am concerned this region continues to have a disparity in the number of low-income earners (compared to the state average),” Cr Pyefinch said.

She said the region was in a stronger economic position than in 2003 because of a boom in industry.

“Before, the region relied largely on agriculture, particularly cane,” she said.

“Now, agriculture is still important but we have a lot more variety like retail, community and health services, and manufacturing, which have created more skilled jobs.”

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