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Tony Watts says this property on the corner of First Avenue and Great Eastern Hwy has been empty for as long as he can remember.

Police, residents fuming over vacant homes

SIGNIFICANT numbers of vacant properties right across the Midland area are driving crime and anti-social behaviour, according to residents, real estate experts and Midland Police.

The rental market right across Midland has taken a dive, driven by the end of the mining boom, leaving many rental properties empty.

These empty properties are prime targets for squatters and hot-spots for anti-social behaviour, according to LJ Hooker Midland principal Richard Lowenhoff.

Mr Lowenhoff said the current vacancy rate across the Midland area was more than three times the rate he would normally expect.

“Under normal market conditions the vacancy rate would be sitting at three per cent and currently, it’s sitting at 12 per cent,” he said.

“It’s supply and demand and at the moment, with a lot of people heading to the eastern states looking for work, that demand just isn’t there.”

That lack of demand creates a situation ripe for exploitation, something that Mr Lowenhoff’s agency has experienced first-hand.

“There are dirty needles, packets of needles…we clean it up and the very next day we find more.

“It’s not just the number of vacant properties it’s the amount of time they are vacant for, and the people using these vacant houses know exactly where they are and how long they have been vacant.

“We can’t stop it, you know, the police can only do so much and if people want to find a way into these vacant properties they will.”

Midland Police OIC, Senior Sergeant Jason Longhorn, said the crash of the rental market had put a significant drain on police resources, with local officers forced to check on empty properties.

“We’ve got a list of 15, 20 houses we go around and check every day  – Housing Authority houses as well as private rentals,” he said.

“There’s a number of people at this time of year squatting and we’ve had a number of successful prosecutions, but we’re also having issues with private rentals in terms of getting victims details and with people actually wanting to follow through with charges.

“What that does is it draws undesirable people into the area and we have that flow-on crime effect from that area.

“It’s a drain on our resources.

“It’s not specifically our job to be going around and checking empty houses but at the same time we see the link between the people that squat in these houses and the anti-social behaviour, the petty thefts and your smaller crimes across Midland.”

One prime example is on the corner of Great Eastern Hwy and First Avenue in Woodbridge.

While it is privately owned, the uncompleted building has sat idle and vacant for as long as First Avenue resident Tony Watts has lived in the street.

He said he and his neighbours have been subject to exactly the kind of lower-level crime Snr Sgt Longhorn was talking about.

“It’s not connected to power, it’s not connected to water, the scaffolding on the side of the building has been there for more than 15 years,” he said.

“There’s been associated crime…my car has been broken into this week, it’s an ideal place for people to hide out, the local kids go in there to smoke and drink and we’ve had squatters evicted.

“It’s detrimental to the amenity to this whole precinct.”

Attempts by Echo News to contact the owner of the property have been unsuccessful, but the City of Swan said it was working with the proponent to ensure completion.

About The Editorial Team

Echo News gives readers an alternative to other media outlets in WA and enjoys a very high rate of readership in its distribution area. Our Echo News team are a small group of devoted individuals who work hard to give the local community an easy to read, yet intelligent mix of local community stories.

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