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Councillor's remarkable idea for Orange's housing crisis

June 22, 2022

Stock image.

By Peter Holmes

An Orange councillor has floated the idea of the city building and renting out its own low-income housing stock in order to try and ease the property squeeze.

At the National General Assembly of Local Government in Canberra this week, long-term Orange councillor Jeff Whitton was chatting with a UK mayor who had flown to Australia for the four-day event.

Talk turned to housing and, in particular, council housing in the UK.

“Because they don't have state government - they have local and central [national] government - the councils own the land, and they own council housing,” Whitton told The Orange News Examiner on Wednesday afternoon.

“One of the things we might need to look at, if you really want to take control and have some say over what housing stock is in your community - from a rental point of view and a low income point of view - is do we get into using our land to build dwellings specifically for that purpose, so that you've got houses that are available for rental?”

Whitton said state control was “working to some point”, but added that “they take forever to do anything”.

“After speaking to the mayor from England, [the idea] does have merit,” he said.

“If you thought it out properly, it wouldn't be that hard. All you need is a bit of common sense. We’ve got land, we [already] manage the infrastructure from a sewer and water standpoint.

“You would certainly need assistance from [other levels of] government, but it takes away the responsibility from state and federal for the maintenance.

“A lot of the problem ... is that the state and feds are a bit removed from each community’s needs, whereas council knows exactly what its community needs.”

Whitton said council should investigate the idea of rent-to-buy schemes, where tenants can become owners of such housing over a period of time.

He said that any such low-income, council-owned properties would need to be spread throughout the community and not be multi-storey tower blocks, as in the UK.

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