In Exmouth, Western Australia, hundreds of workers who keep the town running have no choice but to sleep in their cars.
Workers who run regional towns like Exmouth are forced to sleep in their cars
Exmouth serves the Ningaloo Coast, which welcomed half a million visitors to nearby Cape Range National Park last year
Towns like Karratha have seen an increase of more than 20% in the sale and rental prices of houses in the last 18 months
Christian Vogl, who works at the bakery in Exmouth, said he could not find shared accommodation or affordable accommodation.
“No locals want to do the work, so other people like me come and do the work, but there is no accommodation available for us,” he said.
Josh Mason and Broc Leyr recently came to town to work in construction and said they were two of many who also slept in their cars.
“If you have to get up early and avoid those rangers, that’s what you have to do.”
With a population of 2,500 people, Exmouth relies mainly on seasonal workers.
It is the service town of the Ningaloo Coast, which welcomed half a million visitors to the nearby Cape Range National Park last year.
But it is a workforce that the city is struggling to accommodate.
Exmouth Shire chairwoman Darlene Alston said the council had worked with the state government to secure more housing for workers.
“Demand for accommodation and accommodation for workers, so that we can serve passing tourists, has also come under pressure, but it is essential to know that we are actively discussing with ministers to try to resolve this problem” , says Ms. Alston.
Unlike many regional towns facing similar issues, Exmouth has worker accommodation in the works, recently closing the expression of interest period for the construction of a 200-bed development for worker accommodation on a site of 5.9 hectares on Murat Road, near the main Exmouth precinct. .
A construction contract has yet to be confirmed.
Sarah Booth, from the Exmouth Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said members wanted the housing shortage for workers in the town to be addressed as a priority.
“Over 18,000 people are on the waiting list for social housing and private rentals are in high demand.”
Anglicare’s 2022 rental affordability snapshot found rental prices have jumped $50 a week across WA since last year.
In Karratha, Tony Simpson discovered it was cheaper to build a house than to rent one after his rent rose from $1,200 to $1,320 a week last year, and rental prices should increase further.
However, he said building a house comes with its own set of challenges.
“We have the same construction constraints all over Western Australia at the moment. Steel is hard to come by. We’ve had delays and that sort of thing. But it’s no different to anyone else per square meter of construction,” Mr Simpson said.
Richard Naulls of the Real Estate Institute WA said Karratha had felt the brunt of a boom and bust economy, with property prices skyrocketing and plummeting over the past decade.
REIWA’s semi-annual summary released in December 2021 indicated that rental and house prices were on the mend, jumping more than 20% in the past year and the highest prices since 2015, with the average property price in Karratha at $454,000 and median weekly rental at $633.
He said the price increases are straining many residents.
“Families, moms and dads, grandparents who don’t make more than $100,000 a year and who have what we call normal jobs. They work in cafes, restaurants, real estate offices, administrative roles,” Naulls said.
“There are a lot of people like that in town and it’s hard for them to have homes and afford to compete with big business,” he said.
The WA government has announced $408 million in housing and homelessness measures as part of the state budget.
For the regional AO, $350 million will be spent on more housing and improved essential services in remote communities.
There will be changes to property tax for “build to let”, where apartments are developed for rental purposes.
A further $19.1 million will also be invested to develop new residential land in Karratha and Kalgoorlie.
On social housing, Louise Giolotto of the WA Center for Social Services said there was no relief yet.
“This government made a huge commitment last year to social housing, but we are still waiting for it to be built,” Ms Giolotto said.
“Our main levers in this space are actually with the Commonwealth government, with income support and rent assistance. They have to come to the party now.”
Regarding construction delays, the state budget also included $30 million to help contractors facing supply chain issues, and an 18-30 month extension for Building Bonus grant applicants. .
The Housing Industry Association of WA’s deputy regional executive director, Michael McGowan, said the group had worked with the state government on a campaign to educate the public about the housing shortage, as the housing shortage n was not in sight.
“This will help HIA, our members, the industry, educate customers and consumers about the challenges the industry is currently facing,” he said.
But with no short-term solution to Western Australia’s rental housing shortage, all eyes have turned to the federal government to see what it can offer.
REIWA’s Richard Naulls says the masks may be off, but the effects of the pandemic are expected to be felt on WA’s housing sector for years to come.
“[It will be] probably three to five years before we see a real, normal life again because we’re all struggling to find staff, skilled labor, equipment and all that kind of stuff,” he said. .
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