The state government's land agency, LandCorp, is planning a 40 per cent increase in the number of housing lots it releases across regional Western Australia in 2007-08 as it seeks to keep up with burgeoning demand in mining-rich regional towns such as Por
The state government's land agency, LandCorp, is planning a 40 per cent increase in the number of housing lots it releases across regional Western Australia in 2007-08 as it seeks to keep up with burgeoning demand in mining-rich regional towns such as Port Hedland and Newman.
State agency LandCorp has plans to release about 1,367 lots this financial year, up from 826 released last year.
This compares with an almost doubling of lots expected to be released in Perth and Peel to 909, up from 466.
The push to release land in the regions comes from swelling populations on the back of the resources boom.
LandCorp chief executive Ross Holt estimates the Pilbara population is expected to grow from 41,000 people to 65,000 by 2021.
LandCorp’s regional focus includes the release of 90 balloted lots in Karratha later this year, adding to the 340 lots LandCorp has released in the town since April 2006.
There are a further 70 lots planned for Port Hedland, adding to 95 lots released in Pretty Pool in 2006, while LandCorp said there was the potential to develop 150 dwellings at Moore Street, which were expected to be released next year.
The agency also plans to release 62 lots in Newman which are expected to yield 450 dwellings, while 57 lots are expected to be released in Kununurra early next year.
The government is trying to contain land prices by applying restrictions to many land releases, which includes selling land only to town residents or workers.
However, the estimated increase in the land coming to market, while still insufficient to soak up demand in some areas, has highlighted a builder shortage in regional areas, Mr Holt said. The agency has sought to discuss partnerships with building groups and offer incentives to try and lure services to the regions.
Mr Holt said that new homes sales in the Perth market had fallen 11.3 per cent in the June quarter, yet demand for new homes has increased in the north-west of WA.
“Why hasn’t the WA building industry responded to this?” Mr Holt asked an audience of building industry representatives at a Housing Industry Association luncheon last week.
“We need builders desperately in those areas; and it is not just residential, it is commercial and industrial,” he said.
“It is a critically important need and one that will shape the nature of WA for the long term.”
Mr Holt said the agency was working with two east coast builders to help forge links between the companies and those who needed homes built, which included mining organisations.
It is understood one of those builders is Queensland-based Ark Homes, which is said to have an agreement with Rio Tinto to build 60 homes.
One of the issues for builders has been a lack of housing to house its contractors and staff.
Dale Alcock, who operates WA’s second biggest home building company, ABN Group, said the potential to lose key trades people to mining companies was another factor to consider.
Mr Alcock said Perth builders were already struggling to find and retain staff and the shortage of skills would be exacerbated in the north-west.
“It is difficult to get trades to go to regional and remote areas when there is an abundance of work on and a shortage of skills is an issue,” he said.
Mr Alcock said while the Perth housing market had softened, there was still plenty of work in the commercial and construction sectors to keep tradesmen busy.
Mr Holt said LandCorp was aware of a shortage of short-stay accommodation for contractors and had been working to address the problem by striking partnership agreements with companies like Woodside, which has agreed to provide 50 beds at its Gap Ridge project for builder accommodation in return for an allocation of 140 residential lots in Karratha, to be sold at market price.
LandCorp is also expected to reveal the winning bidder for a hotel development in Karratha in the next few weeks.
Mr Holt added that there would be a pre-allocation of lots to builders as part of its 20-hectare Gap Ridge development.
Mr Holt said there was plenty of land coming on stream in Karratha and there was “no shortage of land”, however there was a shortage of builders.
He said there was very little land left to release in Port Hedland and it was focusing on developing South Hedland and its amenities.