THE disconnect between government policy and regional housing needs was raised by the opposition at the CBH Wheatbelt Futures Forum recently, with some MPs criticising the presentation by DevelopmentWA.
DevelopmentWA general manager Stuart Nahajski presented some core statistics on what the government was doing to help provide more housing throughout the regions, which Liberal Party Agricultural Region MP Steve Martin said he would be "embarrassed" to present.
Of note, Mr Nahajski said that since 2004, DevelopmentWA had sold about 450 lots into the Wheatbelt - 318 of these were residential lots.
"I can't believe he put that up on the screen, I would have been embarrassed to put that up," Mr Martin said.
"To be honest, that was a terribly small number."
Housing appeared top of the agenda for businesses and local governments across the Wheatbelt, with multiple shires struggling to find workers because there is nowhere for them to live.
Mr Martin believes the State has moved backwards, with Government Regional Officers' Housing (GROH) now the responsibility of local government to fund.
"Despite the State government having a multi-billion dollar surplus in the past couple of budgets, it's up to the local government to deliver GROH housing," Mr Martin said.
He was also concerned the Federal government was pushing immigration numbers, but that new arrivals would have nowhere to live - with most regional rental vacancies under one per cent.
"People don't invest in rental properties in the regions of WA," Mr Martin said.
"The impact on businesses is clear if you visit a country town - there's nowhere for them to rent."
In February, the State government announced $40 million would be invested in regional areas to address water, wastewater and electricity infrastructure constraints and support the delivery of much-needed accommodation for essential workers.
However, Mr Martin believed this was a "pitifully small" amount of money considering the cost of headworks in regional WA.
"If it costs more to develop a block than the block is worth, you can't expect business or local government to do that, $40m over the entire State is just not going to get anything done, it's just not going to move the dial," he said.
The opposition has been arguing that $1 billion over 10 years was needed to create a suitable headworks program that would enable industry and local government to reduce the cost of developing land.
The Nationals WA, Wheatbelt MP Mia Davies said the $40m wasn't going to make a huge difference and providing the basics of construction was essential to attract business to the regions - instead of spreading funds like "Vegemite" across the State.
Mr Nahajski agreed that some of the housing initiatives being rolled out by government were not "needle moving" - especially the National Housing Accord which was announced last year.
It aimed to achieve one million new homes for the country over five years with a $350m funding allocation.
However, as Mr Nahajski pointed out, when you divide $350m across the target yield - only about $35,000 of funding will go towards each house - which is nowhere near enough to make a difference in regional Australia.
"When you scrutinise it a little bit more closely, that only represents a notional 10pc increase over business as usual, that there would be 900,000 homes under development anywhere of that period," Mr Nahajski said.
"On the surface it sounded terrific... (but) it's not really a needle moving initiative."
The government also seems to be heavily focused on social housing - while it is important vulnerable people have a roof over their heads, Mr Martin believes that the priority should be given to regional workers to boost economic growth.
Last week, the Federal Government announced a further $500m for social housing and of that $50m for homelessness in regional areas.
Compared to the amount of funding that's been allocated to regional worker housing, some questions have been raised by the opposition on the government's priorities
Mr Nahajski said the supply of homes into the market continued to be strong, which would help ease housing pressures.
As a result of the COVID-19 building stimulus, a record amount of homes were under construction in WA, with 26,000 dwellings currently under construction.
"The building industry is moving through 26,000 homes at the rate of about 1200 per month - so every month there's over 1000 new homes hitting the market that takes pressure off rental stock and provides new accommodation," Mr Nahajski said.
"So if you're looking at three beds on average per home, you're looking at three to 4000 new beds in the State every month.
"So that's a 21 month pipeline of supply that is on the rise and that is coming through to help us with housing pressures."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.