It comes as no surprise to read that the cost of housing in Bathurst has increased significantly ("Extra $80,000 for a house, Western Advocate, July 27).
There is a crisis in home ownership in this country. There is also a crisis in homelessness.
The number of homeless in NSW between 2011 and 2016 increased by 34 per cent.
There were 238 homeless people in the Bathurst electorate in 2016 and that number might be closer to 300 now. It is no wonder that the Uniting Church saw the need to establish a service for the homeless.
Even for those in stable employment, it's hard to scrape together a deposit for a mortgage.
Population growth causing the sharp rise in the cost of housing in Sydney has forced people to look west. That's why Lithgow's rate of growth is the highest.
Now population pressures in Sydney have extended to Bathurst: 14pc of families in the Bathurst local government area suffer housing stress, among the highest in inland NSW.
The cost of housing is driven largely by demand: increased population growth (mainly net overseas migration, but also natural increase), speculative investment in housing due to negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts, and in recent times, to a small extent, historically low interest rates.
For many years, both sides of politics have been spruiking a "big Australia" with no evidence that it will increase our overall prosperity.
The evidence points the other way in the form of a decreasing GDP per capita, flat wage growth, a decline in material living standards. We are also having problems dealing with social problems like suicide and domestic violence.
Buying and selling houses, for those who can afford it, is not a very clever way of creating wealth.
How to solve this problem? We could increase supply. Build more and more very expensive developments on prime agricultural land like that at Eglinton.
This would lead to more and more traffic congestion, wasted fuel and less time to exercise, go shopping, prepare proper meals, get children organised for sport and so on.
There would be more stress all around on top of the worry of finding an extra $80,000 for a block of land as noted in last week's paper.
Young people still wouldn't be able to save a deposit for a house.
One way to secure cheaper housing would be by establishing small clusters of houses on larger lots in areas near the city but not on prime agricultural land.
These lots could be much, much cheaper by not being connected to underground power, sewer, reticulated water or having kerbs and gutters: all the things which make urban housing lots expensive.
Advances in technology (solar panels/batteries, 5G communications) in the coming years, together with large rainwater tanks, would make this a real possibility.
A better way would be to work on the demand side: stabilise the size of our population.
Bathurst (urban population 35,000) doesn't need to be a bigger city to be prosperous.
Consider Tamworth (43,000), Wagga (55,000) and Mildura (50,000). Are those cities more prosperous than Bathurst due to their larger size?
Take health facilities. Wagga has three MRI machines. Moruya and Bega have one MRI machine each, but only 4000 people. Orange has two with the same population as Bathurst (only one MRI machine).
Clearly, population size has no bearing on whether or not a regional city has adequate medical facilities.
Recent well-publicised events in Bathurst only confirm this.
If we stabilise our population we probably won't need to raise the dam wall or build another river crossing. That would cost $300-$500 million - maybe more given that it is going to cost $110 million just to widen the highway from Kelso to Raglan from two to four lanes.
Council's 2040 Community Strategic Plan reported: "When asked about the best thing about living (or visiting, working or studying) in the Bathurst Region, key themes were family-friendly atmosphere and sense of community; weather, beautiful natural landscape and clean environment; small country town appeal; affordable, quality country lifestyle."
Do we still have those things?
Do we really want more of the downsides of living in a big city with fewer of the things we said we wanted?