Parcel of government land for sale in South Headland. Source: First National Real Estate Headland
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  • Thirty parcels of government land and buildings currently for sale might be better utilised to assist address the affordable housing crisis
  • Shelter WA CEO Michelle Mackenzie said if these sites could generate 864 new social and rental homes
  • The government sells ‘surplus’ assets to the private market, with no social or affordable housing objectives in place
  • Shelter WA is requesting a comprehensive assessment of the government’s ‘lazy’ properties that may be turned into affordable homes

Housing and homelessness body Shelter WA said there are thirty parcels of government land and buildings for sale that might be utilised to address the affordable housing crisis.

Shelter WA identified thirty government-owned land assets and buildings presently listed or earmarked for sale, with a developable area of at least 62 hectares, using publicly accessible data in a desktop analysis.

The Swan Districts Hospital, a former primary school in Carnarvon, an apartment tower in Kununurra, the old licensing facility in Welshpool, the former TAFE campus in South Hedland, the famous McCall building, and fifteen different pieces of land are among the sites.

The state government publishes a list of ‘surplus’ land and building assets for sale, with the Department of Planning, Lands, and Heritage overseeing the process. Surplus assets are sold to the private market, with no social or affordable housing objectives in place.

Shelter WA CEO Michelle Mackenzie said if these sites were developed with a 20 per cent affordable rental and 20 per cent social housing target, this would generate 864 new social and rental homes.

“These buildings and land could be better repurposed as much needed social and affordable rental housing,” she said. “A lot of these sites are in areas with high levels of homelessness and rental stress in Perth and the regions.

“Using innovative fast build technologies like prefabricated construction or retrofitting and refurbishing empty buildings, homes could be brought to market in significantly less time and cost than traditional housing builds, and could also get around the current construction and tradie challenges.”

In government residential buildings, the WA Housing Strategy 2020-30 sets a minimum 20 per cent objective for social and affordable housing.

Over the course of the sites and buildings either for or earmarked for sale, a total of 2162 additional houses might be built.

If the sites highlighted in the research were developed with a 20 per cent affordable rental and 20 per cent social housing objective, 864 out of the 2162 houses would be additional social and rental houses.

“With a budget surplus of more than $5 billion expected this year, there’s really no excuse to be selling off these public assets to generate revenue. We can use these assets instead to solve the housing shortage,” Ms Mackenzie said.

“Their value is far greater if held on to by government and developed in partnership with service providers and community housing developers in our sector.”

Shelter WA is also asking the government to do a full audit of ‘lazy’ land and buildings it owns that are underutilised and could be developed into affordable housing.

“Victoria’s recent $5.4 billion social housing package harnessed the opportunity to use state and local land to reduce the cost of the new housing and included $532 million to build 1040 social housing, affordable and market homes on public land, including six “fast start” sites,” Ms Mackenzie said.

“It would be a gamechanger to adopt this approach here.”

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