Australian budget to target housing woes with more construction workers

People cross a street in Sydney

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Australian government will boost the number of skilled workers in the housing sector in next week's national budget, spending A$90.6 million ($59.76 million) on free training and making it easier for skilled construction workers to migrate, officials said.

The budget to be handed down on May 14 will have a big focus on housing, officials said on Tuesday evening.

Rising rents, interest rate hikes and surging living costs in the past few years have inflamed what was already among the world's least affordable housing rental markets, where record numbers of people can no longer afford to buy after a surge in house prices.

"Our government knows that building more homes is the best way to address Australia’s housing challenges, which is why we have an ambitious national target to build 1.2 million homes," minister for housing, Julie Collins, said in a statement.

"To build more homes we need more tradies," she added.

The budget will include funding for 20,000 free training places to increase the number of Australian construction workers, the statement said.

It will also allocate A$1.8 million($1.19 million) to streamline skills assessments for around 1,900 potential migrants from countries with comparable qualifications who want to work in Australia's construction and housing sector, the statement added.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said on Monday the government would chart a responsible middle path in the budget, putting a second surplus within reach despite more spending measures.

($1 = 1.5161 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)