A SCHEME set up by the Shire of Mingenew to attract new people to town by offering them cheap land has been extended for two years to allow for building delays.
Shire chief executive officer Matt Fanning said nine residential blocks of about 1000 square metres were offered through the scheme in 2020.
Purchase was through a tender process and resulted in some lots going for as little as $1.
Mr Fanning said one deal fell through straight away, leaving eight blocks sold.
The caveat was that owners needed to build a dwelling within two years - or the land would be handed back to the Shire.
It was an innovative project that was designed to provide some stimulus for population growth in the town, which has seen resident numbers decline to an estimated 470 people in recent years.
"With the very limited rental availability, we were hoping nearby resource projects and local farms would lure workers, some of whom might have been tempted to build a new house and live in our town," Mr Fanning said.
Instead, the severe ex-Tropical Cyclone Seroja hit Western Australia's Mid West just after the land release.
This was followed by the onset of COVID-19 and its lockdowns and then - more recently - disruption within the building industry.
"This has led to significantly increased building costs, a lack of ability to get builders and other tradies to town and a shortage of materials," Mr Fanning said.
The result has been that no one who took up the eight land parcels has been able to turn a sod of dirt, let alone start a build.
"The people who bought the land have been unable to deliver on building a house within the two-year time frame," Mr Fanning said.
"So, the Shire has decided to extend the scheme by two years to allow for the building industry to hopefully return to some normality.
"A couple of people who bought blocks have moved on and their plans have changed, so those blocks will come back to the Shire.
"We now have seven blocks in play and we may release the other two blocks in the future."
Mr Fanning said it was proving very difficult to get tradespeople to town for any building projects.
The Shire had released tenders for other buildings but the quotes coming back were outrageously expensive.
"You can't blame someone for not building when prices have basically doubled," Mr Fanning said.
"We are, however, confident the owners will be able to build their dreams over the next two years."
The Shire of Mingenew is not the only local municipality to offer cheap land to entice people to its town.
Bruce Rock had a similar program many years ago.
And last month Hughenden, in the Flinders Shire, halfway between Townsville and Mount Isa in north west Queensland, released a similar scheme.
Flinders Shire put 48 blocks to auction and sold 39 at an average price of about $12,000-$13,000.
All blocks exceeded the reserve price and the caveat was that owners would need to build within two years.
"We are hoping to help alleviate declining population by getting some more houses built in town," said Flinders Shire chief executive officer Hari Boppudi.
He said if there were delays in building due to a shortage of workers or materials, the Shire would consider an extension.
Real Estate Institute of WA rural spokesman Mark Murray applauded the Mingenew housing scheme as a way to address declining populations in some rural WA towns.
He said it was hard to find builders and tradies all over WA, especially in his region in the South West of the State.
"Building in regional and rural areas is very difficult at present," Mr Murray said.
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