WHILE Perth’s Covid-fuelled rental shortage has pushed homeless services to capacity, an auditor general’s report has found the McGowan government sitting on millions of dollars meant to tackle the problem.
St Patrick’s Support Centre CEO Michael Piu said the tight rental market had been “challenging”, but the organisation had worked hard to deliver early-intervention programs.
“One initiative is our My Home housing project, using pre-fabricated construction techniques and working with government and philanthropy to rapidly and efficiently deliver longer-term housing options,” Mr Piu said.
Meanwhile the Department of Communities, which was dealing with tent cities in Fremantle and East Perth, was able to spend just 2 per cent of the $319 million budget it was given to build and repair social housing around the time the homeless people were staking in the pegs.
Almost $100m was allocated for constructing 250 social housing dwellings and buying units, but less than $1m was spent, while just $2.8m of the $142m for refurbishing existing homes was used.
The department said it was hard to get builders while the state’s private construction was going gangbusters, while some of the initiatives were programmed over two years.
Housing minister John Carey told the Herald the report was dated to March and since then the government had spent 10 times as much on housing initiatives.
“With all due respect, I disagree with the auditor general in that is was never going to be a quick sugar hit, because refurbishment does take planning, and we are facing a heated construction market,” Mr Carey said.
“Since stepping in as the minister for housing I have been pushig to get our massive investments out the door as fast as possible.
“To the end of September about $70m from the Social Housing Economic Recovery Package has gone out the door, being spent on new housing, refurbishments and maintenance.
“At the same time we currently have a $93m grants program open to the community housing sector for new housing, refurbishments and maintenance work.
“And across all our investment programs we have more than 600 new social homes under construction, with many more on the way.
“I am not resting on this – we need to get our investment out the door, and get social housing built as quickly as possible. That’s what I am doing.”
Mr Piu has called on local businesses to support St Pat’s by getting behind next month’s Long Table Dinner.
The 650-setting dinner will return to Walyalup Koort (the old Kings Square) after the success of last year’s event there, and will feature a three-course feast under the stars.
by STEVE GRANT