L to R: Ministers John Carey, Rita Saffioti, Tony Buti with UDIA CEO Tania Steinbeck. Image – UDIA Events
  • WA's Minister for Housing has highlighted social housing as a primary challenge
  • The state faces a critical social housing shortage
  • This could be worsened when the state boarders open, expected early next year

In WA there are more than 30,000 people on the waitlist and an average two-year wait for social housing.

It comes as no surprise that the state’s Minister for Housing John Carey highlighted social housing as the greatest challenge of the next twelve months for his portfolio.

His sentiments were echoed by Minister for Transport and Planning Rita Saffioti and Minister for Finance and Lands Tony Buti when the three spoke at a lunch hosted by the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA).

John Carey highlighted the delivery of social housing as the greatest challenge for his portfolio in the next 12 months. Image – UDIA Event

Shelter WA CEO Michelle Mackenzie explained that housing insecurity is a key issue recognised by many Western Australians.

“When people fall on hard times, they know it is important that there is a housing safety net to support people during this period and to prevent people from becoming homeless.”

Ms Mackenzie highlighted that social housing unlocks opportunities for people.

It allows them to enhance their physical and mental wellbeing, this enables them to pursue education and employment, she explained.

“[Housing insecurity] has only been amplified by COVID-19 and the lack of affordable rental homes for people on low incomes.”

“The unmet demand for social housing and the impact on people’s lives, made this one of WA’s greatest challenges.”

Michelle Mackenzie, Shelter WA CEO

Ms Mackenzie said that the new government investment in the area of social housing was very welcome.

Housing Minister, Mr Carey highlighted the unfortunate stigma surrounding social housing as a challenge he faces.

“Everyone pretends they like social housing. As soon as you propose to build it within one kilometre of them they lose their marbles,” Mr Carey said.

He cited labour and supply issues as obstacles to delivering social housing.

“It is simply the case with such a heated construction market, I am facing the same issues that anyone in the housing industry is facing,” he said.

One of these issues is the state’s skills shortage, exacerbated by closed borders which prevent many workers from entering WA.

What happens when the borders open?

The McGowan Government has announced a $185 million Reconnect WA package which is hoped to help attract the necessary skilled workers once border restrictions ease.

However, there are concerns when the WA borders reopen the social housing shortfall will worsen dramatically as pressure intensifies on the already tight housing supply.

“The current lack of affordable rental housing means that an influx of domestic and international arrivals would have an impact on both the vacancy rate and the affordability of private rentals in WA,” Ms Mackenzie explained.

Mr Carey acknowledged these concerns explaining that an influx of people such as international students attracted to WA due to the state’s safe reputation could increase demand for housing.

The Minister for Housing however also indicated that as the homebuilder package houses are completed in the coming year, more people will move out of rentals. This could be a source of relief for the tight rental market.

Social housing investment, money well spent

Ms Saffioti, the Minister for Transport and Planning, explained that she believes social housing investment has benefits beyond accommodation.

“We see the social housing expenditure as a key driver potentially of activating several precincts because you are basically locking in demand.”

Rita Saffioti, Minister for Transport and Planning

Ms Makenzie explained, “it is more cost effective to provide a social home than to burden the cost of addressing the health, mental health and other issues that arise for many people when they experience homelessness.”

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