Housing Minister John Carey warms to public housing concept pitched by Augusta-Margaret River shire

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The Willmott Avenue Water Corporation depot is slated for a mixed-density housing project.
Camera IconThe Willmott Avenue Water Corporation depot is slated for a mixed-density housing project. Credit: Warren Hately/Augusta-Margaret R/Augusta-Margaret River Times

The State Government has expressed interest in one of the housing-solution proposals put to it, with a medium-density project on the disused Water Corporation depot on Willmott Avenue stirring interest.

A spokesperson for Housing Minister John Carey said the project — pitched by the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River — had merit.

However, in the same memo the spokesperson said other concepts advanced by the shire were unfeasible and risked turfing social housing residents out of their homes.

Last month, the Times reported the pitch from acting shire president Tracey Muir and now-departed chief executive Arthur Kyron for the Department of Communities to lead the social housing project on Willmott Avenue – rather than see the rezoned site put up for sale to a private developer.

They also called for the redevelopment of social housing near Margaret River Primary School to increase capacity, but Mr Carey’s spokesperson said any redevelopment of existing social housing would put those tenants at risk.

“The State Government does not consider this to be an appropriate response to support housing delivery in the short-to-medium term,” they said.

“The Department of Communities has an existing contract to deliver four, two-bedroom seniors’ dwellings on the Walkington Avenue site, and is exploring options to acquire the Willmott Avenue site, currently owned by Water Corporation.”

The shire council approved rezoning for the site last year, clearing the way for a potential two-storey apartment complex.

Although the rezoning faced objections from neighbours, councillors backed the concept because the 2304sqm site could address affordable housing needs within walking distance of the town centre.

The site could feature seven to 10 dwellings, but at the higher end, up to 50 people could be housed.

Shire president Julia Meldrum said the local government wanted to work with the State to help address the region’s housing challenges.

“We’re grateful for any investment made in our community, and it’s great to hear the State has an appetite to consider the Willmott Avenue site to address our growing needs,” she said.

“We believe there’s an opportunity to help our community, without displacing anyone, if the State can redevelop sites to accommodate more people as the opportunities arise, such as when they’re purchased.”

Meanwhile, the Housing Minister said delays around a long-planned project on Clarke Road were partly attributable to significant constraints, which the Times understands to include access to water and power.

Mr Carey’s office also declined to address the future of DevelopmentWA’s stalled Gracetown subdivision, with the former proposed 140-lot housing project to be potentially offloaded to the private market.

“The Salter Street site in Gracetown also has significant constraints that have made it unsuitable for development,” the spokesperson said.

“The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage is considering future use, which will be guided by Government priorities.”

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