On the eve of WA Homelessness Week, Shire president Paula Cristoffanini has reiterated the council’s concerns about the region’s housing crisis — and made it clear State and Federal governments need to step in and help. Cr Cristoffanini stressed the latest figures showing almost 30 per cent of homes across the district were empty on census night was not a new situation, with the region boasting a longstanding popularity for the holiday market and Perth residents owning second homes. “The Census statistics, such as percentage of unoccupied dwellings, are very broad indicators, but don’t, of themselves, provide sufficient explanation for the complex structural dynamics that have led to this situation,” she said. “Council doesn’t have the solutions, but we are committed to try to find ways to ensure that people can access suitable and affordable housing as this is essential for the long-term wellbeing of our community.” However, the Shire acknowledged a huge uptick in baby boomers retiring in the region since 2016, with 44 per cent growth in the 65-plus demographic. Cr Cristoffanini said the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River continued working on a study looking at accommodation solutions for regional workers, supported not-for-profit Just Home Margaret River, and advocated for more social housing “on our patch”. Just Home chair Naomi Godden echoed the call for higher levels of government to get involved. Dr Godden said John Carey’s position as WA’s first Minister for Homelessness and a new office recently established raised hopes the State Government would outline further direct action to address the rising social cost on families in the housing crisis. “Margaret River has been struggling with housing unaffordability for years, and with a cost-of-living crisis at our door, as well as rising inflation, it is likely more families will become impacted,” she said. Just Home has previously called for more social housing and a crisis shelter for the region, while urging the Shire to acquire land for a private-public social housing development and include more social housing in new developments. Despite the State Government’s key role in the sector, Housing Minister John Carey also said Homelessness Week was a time to focus on “collective actions”. “I am using every lever I can to deliver more social housing, and this Government is making significant investments in homelessness programs,” he said. The State Government added 600 social houses in 2021-22, but the Department of Communities had just 10 new homes planned for the City of Busselton and Augusta-Margaret River shire. The minister’s office said the South West accounted for just 4 per cent of priority public housing applications. In June, the minister pointed to big increases in local building applications as the main way to address the crunch on rentals for families. “Last financial year, nearly 1100 new homes were approved for construction across the Busselton and Augusta-Margaret River regions, an increase of nearly 100 percent on the previous financial year,” he told the Times. “Delivery of housing is challenging in the current market, but as we see more of these new homes completed, we expect to see improvements in the availability and affordability of rental accommodation.” The minister said $2.1 billion would be invested in social housing Statewide, with “significant investment” in the South West.