SYDNEY, March 3 (Xinhua) -- The Victorian government has announced that the First Home Owner Grant will be doubled for buyers in regional areas.

Under reforms aimed at resolving the state's housing affordability crisis, the grant for first-time buyers in regional Victoria will be doubled to 15,000 U.S. dollars for new homes.

The government said the change would help around 6,000 prospective first home buyers.

Tim Pallas, the treasurer of Victoria, said the reform would increase the appeal of living outside of Melbourne for young families.

"Decentralisation is a vital part of our agenda. You can't decentralise unless you provide people with housing opportunities and you make housing affordable," Pallas told reporters on Friday.

"As a package of initiatives, this is far and away in excess of what any other state has done."

Daniel Andrews, the state's premier, also announced that Victoria would become the first state in Australia to introduce long-term leases up to 10 years.

He said that the government would introduce the laws in 2017 to ensure "greater security" for both tenants and landlords.

Under current laws, leases in Victoria are limited to a maximum of five years, but most leases are for just one year.

The new arrangement, Andrews said, will provide the same protections contained in current standard leases over a longer period.

"The lease can be as long as the tenant and landlord agree to with all the terms and conditions," he said.

The reforms come as house prices and the cost of renting in Victoria hit record highs and the number of vacant properties in the state continues to shrink.

Andrews said families already faced enough stress without having to worry about finding a new rental property.

"This change will give renters the chance to put down roots and landlords a more certain income."

Earlier in the week, Andrews announced that the government would re-zone 100,000 housing blocks in the suburbs of Melbourne to create 17 new suburbs.

The blocks will all be sold before the end of 2018 with communities of up to 40,000 people to be established in the areas within 30 years.

Richard Wynne, Victoria's planning minister, said all of the communities would be fully planned with schools and key infrastructure available.

"I think that's what's so important about a steady land supply going forward, but also quality planned environments for people who are going to live here," Wynne said.

However, experts from the University of Melbourne have warned that a limitless urban sprawl is not sustainable.

Nerida Conisbee, a prominent economist, said, "The solution is to provide the housing that people want while reducing the sprawling nature of our cities."

"That will mean developing regional cities where people can access houses without being isolated from the city center, and encouraging a greater acceptance of apartment dwelling in Melbourne.

"For those wanting to remain close to central Melbourne, people need to get more comfortable with the idea of apartment living."

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