A BATTLE is brewing over a development proposal in Woodbridge that would see 17 single-unit temporary homes for the homeless placed on a part of the suburb zoned as parks and recreation.
The proposal, from My Homes Australiasia (My Home), will see the one-bedroom units include a kitchen and bathroom, with site works including landscaping with fruit trees, vegetable gardens and rain-water tanks.
The My Home pilot program is based on a public, private partnership.
The State Government provides a peppercorn lease over the site to My Homes, who will then go to the private sector and ask for funding for the construction, which is tax deductible.
When the units have been built they are then gifted to a community housing provider, who takes over management of the units and tenants and acts as a conduit to service providers.
Director Michelle Blakeley described My Homes as a philanthropic property developer.
However it is how the land was obtained and how the planning process will work, that is just one primary concern of Woodbridge Ratepayers Group and Friends of Woodbridge Bushland, who are spearheading the campaign against the development.
My Homes director Michelle Blakeley confirmed My Homes had approached the WAPC and had been offered five sites.
“The site was identified by the Western Australian Planning Commission,” she said.
“David Caddy [WAPC chairman] loved it, he thought it was a great, very simple idea.
“They came back with five sites but two of those the Public Transport Authority said they would require in the future so we’ve now got three sites, one in Fremantle, one on Berwick Street in Vic Park and the one in Woodbridge.
“So that is what WAPC offered us.”
While the development application has been lodged with the City of Swan as the responsible authority, council can only make a recommendation to WAPC – who offered My Homes the land – who will make the final decision.
“It’s government owned property so the approval lies with WAPC, not the local council, which sort of explains why we can put small single-storey, 31 square metre dwellings on a site that don’t have to comply with the zoning because it doesn’t have zoning, it’s government land reserved for parks and recreation.
“The government, unless it has a deed of that land being used in perpetuity for that purpose, which it doesn’t have, the government can basically do whatever it wants with that land.
“We don’t want this crammed into an industrial area in Welshpool, we want to integrate the homeless with the community so they can become part of that community and are accepted.”
While the proposal has been revised from 30 units down to 17 in order to retain 80-year-old Wandoo trees on the site and the need for retaining walls have been removed, the location is also a known habitat for quendas, echidnas and Barnaby black cockatoos.
However Ms Blakeley said the plateau they were building on was not native bushland.
“The quendas are down in the shrubs over to one side they’re not on the grass bit where they’re building.
“They’re not a concern because we’re not touching that area.”
The City of Swan officially acknowledged a homelessness crisis in Midland on March 11 2020, and while Lynn Deering, facilitator and spokeperson for Friends of Woodbridge Bushlands and Jac Considine, vice president Woodbridge Ratepayers Association believe there is a need for housing for the homeless, they say this isn’t the right site.
Ms Deering has been pushing for the area to be declared Bushland Forever for a number of years, however this development would threaten that goal.
She said the opposition wasn’t NIMBY-ism, just a natural reaction to an inappropriate site.
A community meeting at the site two weeks ago say 70 local residents, and a number of councillors, briefed on the project.
Communities Minister Simone McGurk has written a letter supporting the project, however the Minister said her support was for the concept, not necessarily the location.
“Any proposal for a collective homelessness response… is worth investigating,” she said.
“The proposal by My Home Australasia is being considered by the State Government.
“In the letter referred to, I expressed support for this concept more broadly – not in any specific location.
The WAPC did not respond to questions regarding the suitability of the site by deadline.
The development application is out for public comment until October 21.
To view the proposal go to www.swan.wa.gov.au/Your-Community/Have-your-say/Planning-notices