RELATIONS have soured between Fremantle council and Homeswest over an aborted development in White Gum Valley.
One councillor says the housing department has “shafted” the council while the mayor says he’s feeling “surprised and grumpy”.
Homeswest had been buying and demolishing homes in a super-block, bounded by Yalgoo Avenue, Hope Street, Wongan Avenue and Watkins Street and working with the council on developing a medium-density townhouse precinct.
But without warning the department has put all its properties up for sale. East ward councillor Ingrid Waltham fears it’ll result in an ugly patchwork of McMansions on battle-axed blocks.
“I felt we have been shafted,” Cr Waltham told the Herald.
The first she’d heard about Homeswest’s about-face was when a neighbour pointed out the sudden forest of For Sale signs.
Mayor Brad Pettitt expected to meet Homeswest director-general Grahame Searle yesterday (Friday May 15) to discuss the issue, which has left him feeling “surprised and grumpy”.
He says the sale’s timing is strange: a planned up-zoning is incomplete so the department won’t get top dollar.
“One of the really frustrating things for me was that there was some charming post-war ‘50s homes which they demolished,” he told the Herald.
“It’s a waste of public money and resources and they could have been sold off for housing.”
White Gum Valley resident Mark Woodcock, who lives around the corner from the super-block, is also concerned about haphazard development but says there is a range of views around the suburb.
He says some locals will welcome Homeswest’s exit as tenants’ drug-dealing has been an issue for years.
Hope Street’s Les Moyle has lived in the area for 32 years and he’s glad to see the back of Homeswest and hopefully backyard meth labs and police visits.
“The old beat up duplexes were way past their use-by-date, and the buildings themselves couldn’t be renovated safely,” he told the Herald.
“And tenants left a lot to be desired. What’s happening now is better than Homeswest’s original plans. As far as I’m concerned, it’d be nice to see something happen with the blocks.”
Donning his hat as the chair of the Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association, Mr Woodcock says Homeswest’s decision should sound alarm bells for residents in Burt Street, where the rezoning of another super-block to R100 is already in the pipeline.
Homeswest won the council’s reluctant agreement to ditch a legally-binding deed that would prevent excessive height, in exchange for a memorandum-of-understanding (which has the same legal standing as a pinkie-promise).
‘On bended knee’
Mr Woodcock says the move was always concerning but given Homeswest’s actions in White Gum Valley is more so now. He says the council seems to be “on bended knee” to give the department what it wants, but isn’t getting anything in return.
“The council is just aiding in their land-banking,” he says.
Dr Pettitt says the possible implications for Burt Street aren’t lost on him, but says the council is still in talks with Homeswest about the site. If it sells the land it will have to be under a lower zoning, he says, but reckons political fall-out should act as a deterrent to any sale.
“That would end the relationship with not only Fremantle, but all other local governments in the state if they don’t live up to the terms of the MOU,” he told the Herald.
Homeswest was contacted for comment.
by STEVE GRANT