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Mt Magnet, Morawa, Sandstone have their say on homelessness in regional WA after home stress report released

Jessica MoroneyMidwest Times
A house in Sandstone that was last year listed for $38,000, possibly making it the cheapest in Australia.
Camera IconA house in Sandstone that was last year listed for $38,000, possibly making it the cheapest in Australia. Credit: Supplied/Supplied

Shire presidents from Mid West and Gascoyne towns listed in a housing stress report have conflicting views on how true the data is to their on-the-ground situations.

Opinion from local leaders was split when it came to the Community Housing Industry Association and UNSW City Futures Research Centre’s report, promoted by Shelter WA, which assessed local government on the rate of households not appropriately housed.

That could mean being homeless, living in an overcrowded home or coughing up more than 30 per cent of income on rent.

The report found Wiluna to be the worst hit local government area in WA with 47.5 per cent of households not appropriately housed, with Murchison (39 per cent), Upper Gascoyne (27.5 per cent), Carnamah (22.8 per cent), Mount Magnet (21.4 per cent), Sandstone (19.8 per cent), Morawa (18 per cent) and Shark Bay (17.9 per cent) in the top 10.

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WA Local Government Association president Karen Chapple.
Camera IconWA Local Government Association president Karen Chapple. Credit: WALGA/WALGA

Sandstone Shire president Beth Walton said she had lived in Sandstone all her life and knew everyone in the town, and concluded there was “absolutely no homelessness” or overcrowding.

“I don’t know where the figures came from but it just really put our town in a bad light and I admit that we’re very lucky we don’t have those issues,” she said.

Cr Walton said there was only one rental in town and the majority of workers were employed by the Shire and provided with free housing and utility bills. She said Sandstone had a population of 60 people and did not have public housing properties.

“There’s only one person that rents a house here and he’s a pensioner and doesn’t pay a lot of rent,” she said.

But other shire presidents agree with the data, which estimates 85,500 WA households will be in unmet need by 2041 and social housing and affordable housing stock will need to grow by up to 8.7 per cent each year to cope.

Mount Magnet Shire president Jorgen Jensen said the figures “may very well be right” and it was tricky to find people willing to purchase or build housing in rural WA without incentive, driving demand for rentals.

“A private company is not going to build a house in Mount Magnet and have staff live in it because they’re penalised through the tax system,” he said.

“You could be a contracting company, you can put some dongas in a yard and you can write that cost off. But if it’s a house, or a permanent structure, then your employees would be disincentivised.”

Mount Magnet pastoralist Jorgen Jensen, from Yowergabbie Station, says the State Government could have done more to protect the southern Rangelands over the years.
Camera IconMount Magnet pastoralist Jorgen Jensen, from Yowergabbie Station, says the State Government could have done more to protect the southern Rangelands over the years. Credit: Rueben Hale/Countryman

Cr Jensen said the condition of housing in town was “less than ideal” as interstate private buyers purchased houses for high return without investing in maintenance, resulting in “derelict houses on the street”.

“I’m just not sure how that’s easily rectified. There’s X amount of Department of Communities houses in town and then there’s a proportion of houses in Magnet which are privately owned, which are then rented,” he said.

“In a lot of instances, you would get new stock built by companies other than Government departments, but there’s zero incentive for them to do it.”

Morawa Shire president Karen Chappel said the report was a fair assumption and wasn’t a surprise.

“I know that there is some overcrowding in the community and I do understand that the rents are reasonably high for some families. We haven’t got a lot of spare houses and I think that’s what it’s about,” she said.

“It’s a shortage of homes or rental availability that drives the rental cost.”

The old Shire of Mount Magnet building. Mt Magnet is on the Miners Pathway. Picture: Stephen Scourfield The West Australian
Camera IconThe old Shire of Mount Magnet building. Mt Magnet is on the Miners Pathway. Stephen Scourfield The West Australian Credit: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

Cr Chappel said overcrowding was occurring in Morawa due to the Statewide housing and “tradesman shortage”.

“Until the skill shortage changes, the situation is unlikely to change,” she said.

Shark Bay Shire president Cheryl Cowell said Shark Bay certainly had a housing problem, which the council had raised with the State Government.

“We do have that big hole particularly for our transient staffing, getting accommodation for people is just really problematic here at the moment,” she said.

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