Shire Council Shows Concern for Housing Crisis

A message from our Shire President

Augusta Margaret River Council is very concerned, as are many local governments around us and across Australia, about the current pressures on housing, lack of affordable housing and lack of social housing. 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. Augusta Margaret River has registered close to 30% unoccupied dwellings in the Census for over 20 years. If anything, this Census suggests that we have recorded a small increase in occupancy possibly because of people coming to live in their holiday homes as a result of the pandemic. There are reports of baby boomers retiring to their holiday homes in increasing numbers and the Census suggests that could be the case in our Shire as the cohort of people aged 65+ is the group that showed the largest increase. This group grew by 44% since the last Census.
There are many reasons for dwellings to be unoccupied on Census night. People may be on holidays or working away from home but, as a premier and traditional coastal tourism destination within easy reach from Perth, Augusta Margaret River has a sizeable number of second homes for families living in the metropolitan area and in other parts of Western Australia who choose to holiday in our community. A breakdown of the unoccupied dwellings figure within our Shire demonstrates this. Those areas that are mostly residential such as Margaret River, Cowaramup and Witchcliffe have much lower proportions of unoccupied dwellings with 19.2%, 15.9% and 18.7% respectively. Whereas coastal settings such as Gracetown, Gnarabup, Prevelly and Augusta have greater proportions of unoccupied dwellings with 63.8%, 42.4%, 46.3% and 44.6% respectively.
Everyone around Australia is looking for answers to housing pressures. In Augusta Margaret River we have been thinking about this since the beginning of the pandemic when the increase in population and the housing pressures became obvious. 
The levers available to local governments are insufficient to address the current housing situation. Federal and State government have much greater roles when it comes to the housing market. Council has in the past instituted policy measures to limit short term accommodation and actively engage in compliance check of short term accommodation. We also wrote to absent landlords seeking that they consider putting their homes in the rental market at least on a temporary basis. Early last year Council considered reviewing its short term accommodation policy to great concern from the community as many locals supplement their incomes from renting their properties in the short term.
The issues are complex and affect those on both sides of the equation – those trying to secure a property and those who rely on tourism. It also affects the agricultural sector, businesses, service providers and employers more generally as it is difficult to employ someone if there is no housing for them.
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. Council is working with the State Government and the MRBTA in looking at options for worker accommodation and will continue to advocate to government for additional support for affordable and social housing on our patch. We also work with local not-for-profit Just Home Margaret River to support their advocacy role.
Paula Cristoffanini, Shire President

29 Jul 2022 Topic Type
General News
Augusta, Cowaramup, Gracetown, Karridale and Kurdardup, Margaret River, Prevelly and Gnarabup, Scott River, Witchcliffe
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