Shelter WA has been out and about in regional WA over the past month.
While in Bunbury in May, CEO Michelle Mackenzie and Regional Engagement Manager Rhiannon Bristow-Stagg were able to meet with South West Refuge CEO Alison White and Anglicare WA’s Lisa Whittaker and Cathy Mills, as well as Zero Project Impact Officer Anna Janickova, with Bunbury townsite a Zero Project location. With COVID19 impacting a full trip, further scheduled South West meetings were shifted to online.
A 2021 Community Scorecard commissioned by the City of Bunbury prior to their strategic community plan showed ‘access to housing’ was the second highest priority area for the local community. Funding for services and refurbishment, as well as a lack of housing stock continue to be issues in Bunbury and the residential vacancy rate is still at a critical 0.5 per cent.
Rhiannon attended the Planning Institute Australia WA (PIA WA) Regional Conference held in Northam in June, where housing was a cross-cutting theme across all speakers. Shire CEO Jason Whiteaker said despite accelerating investment in the Shire and the many jobs available, housing is the key challenge when trying to attract workers.
The Shire is looking to attract institutional investment and are due to review their local planning scheme. Ideas such as activating empty shopfronts in Northam for housing have been the focus of an audit project by the Office of Regional Architecture (ORA) based in Brookton. Both the City of Bunbury and Shire of Northam were involved in the WA Regional Capitals Alliance Housing Solutions and Action Plan that Shelter WA has been engaged with.
PIA WA Conference
Tapping into “the years of experience in the room” at the PIA WA conference, a facilitated pulse check found that for 89 per cent of respondents housing is a ‘problem’ or ‘major problem’ in the community they plan for, while 78 per cent say the biggest shortfall is local affordable housing followed by 19 per cent workers accommodation.
WA Planning Commission Chair David Caddy shared the work that is underway to ensure planning reforms are specifically responsive to regional needs, being flexible and regionally directed, with a review of the Regional Planning Investment Frameworks for each of the WA regions coming.
Suzanne Woolhouse from DevelopmentWA said “planners need to lead the conversation” with development ready land relying on up-to-date planning strategies and schemes with land identified and zoned, and infrastructure capacity considered and addressed. Infrastructure continues to be a constraint in many areas with innovation needed to overcome these issues.
The visit was part of Shelter WA’s development of a regional engagement framework, a project funded by Lotterywest. For more information on Shelter WA’s work in the regions visit our regional WA page.