LISMORE may face an affordability crisis and soaring unemployment rates if housing opportunities aren't created soon, according to Lismore Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Andrew Gordon.
"People say we're over-serviced, what a load of crap, we're underpopulated," he said.
"This is something that should have been planned for 20 years ago to prevent us getting to this point ... we took our eye off the ball."
Mr Gordon said new developments such as the North Lismore Plateau were much needed, but there was a way to go to get back on track.
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"Whilst there's stuff in the pipeline, that's great, but it's not here and now," he said.
"I'd like to see the North Lismore Plateau kick off after 23 years ... that's a 1300 lot subdivison in the right part of town."
Mr Gordon, who is also business partner of R Gordon & Son, said the last house his agency advertised received 72 applications.
"Rents are going to skyrocket because there's no availability," he said.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows high unemployment rates, less businesses and fast-climbing rental rates.
The unemployment rate in Lismore has grown from 6.9% in March 2011 to 9.4% in March this year. That's 3.6% higher than the national average.
There are 323 less businesses in Lismore than there was in 2011 and local job opportunities declined by 2342 jobs from 2012 to 2015.
The median cost of renting in Lismore increased by $30 per week to $350 in only two years. Compare that to 2011-2014 when it remained steady at $320.
"We need more development, which will provide opportunity, which then provides retention, and those people will take the opportunity to shop and do business in Lismore," Mr Gordon said.
He suggested business owners were reluctant to move into Lismore as the retail community was doing it tough.
From 2011 to 2015 the number of retail businesses in Lismore declined by 52.
Other industries that have seen a sharp decline include agriculture, forestry and fishing (-109) and construction (-91).
The biggest increases were in health care and social assistance (+28) and financial and insurance services (+25).
"The pressure is back on pricing because that incremental growth in the housing sector has stopped, and that's affected businesses because people aren't doing business," Mr Gordon said.
"There's a low vacancy factor, so people are living in the next LGA.
"Lismore is a fabulous place to live, but we need more people to keep it vibrant and keep the money flowing."
Sources: economic.id Lismore LGA Economic Profile http://economy.id.com.au/lismore
Australian Bureau of Statistics Small Area Labour Markets - March quarter 2016
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