Should The Nationals WA return to Government in March, they will commit to developing a Future Housing Strategy for Geraldton to help tackle homelessness and public housing constraints, according to Local Member Ian Blayney.
The strategy will focus on investigating models of sustainable housing programs and services, ensuring they are effective and appropriate as well as financially sustainable.
“The first step in addressing Geraldton’s housing constraints would be to commission a study whereby a taskforce of relevant stakeholders would be established to investigate the effectiveness of current and past housing programs in the Midwest,” Mr Blayney said.
“Although there have been numerous past plans that focus on housing needs and development within Geraldton, some of these are outdated and only focus of pockets of the community.
“A Geraldton Future Housing Strategy will focus on the needs of all Geraldton residents and current service providers within all suburbs with an overarching theme and clear goals, offering multiple pathways to reduce homelessness, reduce public housing wait times and increase public housing stock.
“The strategy will also investigate affordable and sustainable models of community housing, similar to those proposed by the previous Government.
“This Government have missed the opportunity to utilise housing development in this area, but previous reports have indicated that community housing models should be looked at more thoroughly, which is what a Geraldton future housing strategy will do.
Mr Blayney said the plan will also aim to recognise the current and potential role of the private rental market, with consideration given to partnerships between landlords, real estate agents and housing services.
“With the current low rental vacancy rate and the complex needs of many Geraldton residents, it is important for landlords and real estate agents to be consulted as part of the strategy development.
“It is also important to consider the transition into the rental market and ways for eligibility criteria and related documentation for public housing to be streamlined, flexible and as responsive as possible.
Mr Blayney said the current Government have not addressed the housing concerns in Geraldton since 2017 and with over 800 people on the waitlist at the start of last year and a homelessness crisis emerging, Geraldton residents cannot afford to wait any longer for solutions.
“Since the closure of Cameliers in 2018 I have certainly seen an increase of individuals and families seeking assistance from my office due to homelessness,” Mr Blayney said.
“Our short-term service providers all do a fantastic job but they are often stretched to capacity and do not have the specialist skills or financial capacity to cater for the needs of some individuals experiencing homelessness who have mental health or drug and alcohol issues.
“Not only did Labor close Cameliers, but they also shut the Geraldton Sobering Up Centre – two vital facilities that catered for the most vulnerable in our society.
“A Future Housing Strategy will enable taskforces such as the Mental Health Commission and Aboriginal Community Controlled organisations to inform the strategy direction, ensuring housing programs cater for all of our community and can address individuals’ complex needs.
Mr Blayney said the Geraldton Future Housing Strategy would build on the Spalding 2019 Plan and other City initiatives, as well as the Geraldton Aboriginal Housing Plan 2012 and the Crisis and Short Term Accommodation (Capacity and Sustainability) Report 2015.
“As of June last year, Spalding had 34 properties earmarked for refurbishment and redevelopment,” Mr Blayney said.
“The Spalding Plan identified the need to redevelop and maintain run down properties years ago yet the Labor Government will not prioritise housing development in this area.
‘The Housing Stimulus Package was announced mid last year, yet we are still in the dark as to how many properties in Geraldton will benefit from this funding.
“The Nationals WA recognise that Geraldton residents deserve better and that we need a housing plan for Geraldton now to start to find and implement solutions to Geraldton’s Housing constraints.
Mr Blayney said funding for the Report and any recommendations or solutions from the study will come from The Nationals WA Regional Capitals Fund.