Peter Maguire.
Peter Maguire.

Building on local future

THE Central Highlands Regional Council has moved into the affordable housing market to alleviate a critical supply and demand situation in Emerald and Blackwater.

At a closed session meeting on Monday, the council approved the establishment of a charitable, limited public company to supply and deliver housing.

"We certainly do see this as a win-win situation," Cr Maguire said.

"There may be opportunities for small businesses having trouble attracting and retaining staff to be involved in this project and have some houses built… opportunities for community shareholders.

"The harsh reality is now," Cr Maguire added of the current crisis in rental accommodation for low income earners across the CHRC.

"This is not just for Emerald, this is for Blackwater, it's for the region.

"It is an issue that needs to be addressed.

"This is not about social housing, it is about affordable housing for people who are employed in sectors that don't attract high wages, but are critical to the ongoing success of our local and regional economy, beyond mining and associated industries.

"Our agricultural and small businesses such as our retailers and hospitality sectors need workers, but can't provide housing as part of their employment conditions, which makes it difficult to attract and keep staff.

"Local government as an employer is also affected by these issues.

"We have a very low unemployment rate across the region, but we need a better supply of affordable rental properties for our workers.

"There are lots of opportunities in this scheme and we are keen to get it up and going."

The CHRC affordable housing model would be based on the Brisbane Housing Company. It will seek charitable status from the tax office.

Cr Maguire said $140,000 was in the current budget to progress the project in which the mayor, deputy mayor and chief executive officer would be shareholders.

The council will work with the Urban Land Development Authority who are delivering an affordable housing project for Blackwater.

"While we are reviewing possible avenues such as shared equity and buy-back options for tenants, at this stage we believe the quickest way to get housing on to the market for potential occupier is for the company to own and manage the properties," Cr Maguire said.

"We are fortunate to have the ULDA on board in Blackwater, and they will be delivering on a demonstration project. This will showcase that affordable housing doesn't mean cheap or unattractive."

"We want to be able to deliver a range of housing options to meet the diverse needs of our community.

"The visit to regional Western Australian communities has convinced the Deputy Mayor and I we need to act as soon as we can to ensure the long term livability of our communities is preserved for all our residents."

Community members will be called on to advise the board.

"This is not about social housing, it is about affordable housing for people who are employed in sectors that don't attract high wages."

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