What do we do when the land runs out?

This is far from the first time that the lack of land supply in Cairns

This is far from the first time that the lack of land supply in Cairns has been remarked on in print, and going on what we’re seeing around town at the moment, its absolutely not going to be the last. Cairns has a land shortage. And its not getting better quickly.

Well over a decade post-GFC Cairns, prices have recovered (and then some) in most cases, but the volume of new development remains far below previous peaks, with cranes once again missing from our skyline, and the number of new residential lots getting thinner and thinner on the ground.

Its becoming a pretty common tale with new land estates over the past few years – demand builds up with little to no options in a given area, a new release comes through and BAM! From there its typically either a straightforward sellout within a few weeks, or a reverse bell curve of the eyes being picked first, gradual sell-down of the middle lots and then a mad rush as buyers realise what might have been 30, is then 15, then 10, then 5 then just one or two before finally being none. For the third time in as many years, we have just seen one Estate in Bentley Park follow that same path as availability ticked down to zero in the most recent stage.

Now, if we cast our eyes all the way back to 2019, the pace of new development (while not particularly faster) was matched by a much more subdued demand, and what might take only a few months (or weeks) to sell through now, might have been 12 months or more then.  Its been a heck of a 5 year run though, and pretending that the level of demand and supply is the same today, doesn’t do much for anyone.

So what happens, when that last lot sells, and we find ourselves with effectively no new land available to buy and build on? Well, the builders will be the first to feel the pinch. No land means no builds, and in an industry heavily dependent on cashflow that bites quickly. We can’t afford another tradie exodus like we say 15 years ago. Add on to that a rental market at breaking point with sub 1% vacancy. With new construction the only viable solution, we NEED that land. For sales, the same market dynamics will hold true – limited supply and high demand means higher prices. Great for some, but a lack of affordable land can be just as bad as a lack of land full stop.

We have the demand, we have (for now) the available land to do something. Here’s hoping our new Council can get behind developers to put the rest of the dots together, and the infrastructure in the ground.