THE Greens want the federal and state governments to help pay for the conversion of empty privately owned buildings into affordable housing for low-income workers.
Fremantle candidate Andrew Sullivan says the party’s Convert to Rent scheme would give owners up to $21,000 to convert empty shops and offices into rental homes.
Properties fitted out for people with disabilities would be entitled to an extra $5000.
Mr Sullivan says the scheme is modelled on ideas that have worked in the UK and Canada.
It’s similar to a scheme poised to be rolled out soon by the Fremantle council which targets retail and office tenancies. The council has been carrying out audits of empty rooms in the city.
The veteran councillor says the port city is “littered with disused properties ripe for residential use”.
“You’ve got to bear in mind there is a housing crisis and it is a massive problem in WA, not only for people trying to rent, but for key workers renting a location where they are actually working,” he told the Herald.
“Key workers like hospital staff would be able to afford to live somewhere near their workplace, which solves a whole range of issues like traffic congestion and parking. And our government has been subsidising residential lots in the outskirts for decades and decades.”
Senior party colleague Lynn MacLaren, a Fremantle-based MLC, told the Herald Greens senator Scott Ludlam was driving the scheme in Canberra and she believed he’d put a $150 million price tag on it.
She was also hoping for some traction from whichever of the major parties formed government in WA after today.
“I have already written to the minister for planning, so it’s an opportunity in the next budget cycle to try and get a budget allocation for it,” she says.
“And we’ve got the city behind it here, so it’s likely to occur first here, because the City of Fremantle is already ahead of the game with their trying to audit the empty space.”
Cr Sullivan concedes $21,000 is unlikely to cover much of the cost of a transformation.
“What this is trying to do at least puts a carrot out there to get landlords to start thinking about it,” he says.
“It’s not going to get every landlord excited simply because the money is not the issue, they are happy sitting on their properties for capital gains and main income from downstairs.”
by BRENDAN FOSTER