Empty public housing ridiculous, says Geraldton MP Ian Blayney

Francesca MannMidwest Times
A Department of Communities house on Bogle Way, Spalding, was set on fire in July.
Camera IconA Department of Communities house on Bogle Way, Spalding, was set on fire in July. Credit: Geraldton Guardian, Francesca Mann

Geraldton MP Ian Blayney has slammed the State Government over the number of empty and uninhabitable public housing properties in Spalding.

The Geraldton Guardian this month revealed 48 properties managed by the Department of Communities in Spalding were vacant, despite more than 750 people waiting for public housing in the Mid West and Gascoyne.

Five of the properties are uninhabitable and are awaiting demolition; eight are undergoing “non-standard” maintenance work; and 15 are under maintenance for re-letting.

The department is also reviewing 16 vacant dwellings for redevelopment or repurposing.

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Ian Blayney.
Camera IconIan Blayney. Credit: The Sunday Times

Mr Blayney said if the houses remained vacant it would have a detrimental effect on Spalding’s future.

“It’s ridiculous, there shouldn’t be any vacant public housing properties in Geraldton,” the Nationals MP said.

“Homes damaged by vandalism need to be repaired immediately to ensure the ‘broken window effect’ doesn’t cause the rest of the street to become locked in a downward spiral.

“Properties that are occupied are less likely to be susceptible to long-term deterioration so it’s critical these houses are filled and maintained immediately.”

In Parliament last week, Mr Blayney asked Minister for Housing Peter Tinley to explain why the public houses were still vacant.

Mr Tinley said while the Government was working with the community and the City of Greater Geraldton to de-concentrate and develop the suburb, they were waiting for market conditions to improve.

“Communities like (Spalding) are from a bygone era,” he said.

“In previous iterations we have concentrated public housing in a particular spot and, quite frankly, it has been a failure.

“We eagerly await the market conditions to come good and then we can start moving in sync with the market to make sure we are cross-subsidising the model to ensure the best possible outcomes in a precinct sense.”

Mr Tinley said the public housing system directly controls 36,363 dwellings across WA — about $14.5 billion worth of fixed assets.

Last month City of Greater Geraldton councillors adopted the draft Spalding Precinct Plan for public feedback. The document, developed by the City and the department, suggests ways the suburb can be transformed into a place people want to be.

The City has set aside $452,950 from a trust to spend on the aspirational project, but the State Government has indicated it will not provide funding for the next five years.

Mr Blayney said the Government needed to contribute to the plan by fixing and filling all vacant properties, and by allocating funds for the redevelopment. In response to a question in Parliament, Mr Tinley said the Government had already contributed “significantly”. “It is not a question of how much money is spent, it is how much effort is put in,” he said.

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