Hundreds of state-owned houses have been sold off by the McGowan Government despite more than 17,000 struggling families queuing up for government housing. New figures obtained by The West Australian show that since Labor won power in 2017, it has off-loaded 837 government-owned houses on to the private market, pocketing $218 million from the sales. This is despite there currently being 17,194 applications for public housing in WA. Staggeringly, 1033 homes belonging to the Government’s Department of Communities also currently remain empty. A Department of Communities spokesperson said yesterday the Government was “currently in the process of reviewing its acquisition and disposal practices for public housing in light of recent machinery of government changes and increasing demand”. “While public housing sales represents less than one per cent of the portfolio (by number) for the period and sale proceeds are directed back into the housing system, this level of turnover is expected to decline over the forward estimates.” Department of Communities show that in 2017-18, the Government sold 269 homes, 234 in 2018-19, 196 in 2019-20 and 138 in 2020-21. It sold 534 three-bedroom homes, 82 four-bedroom homes, 123 two-bedroom homes and 44 one-bedroom homes. The figures are cold comfort for people queuing for social housing — the average waiting time being nearly two years. To make matters worse, rent prices are escalating in the WA private rental market because of West Australians returning home from overseas because of COVID-19. The Department of Communities says there is currently a “pause on sales” of government houses. Nevertheless, government housing may still continue to be sold in the future — despite the massive demand for rental accommodation from the state’s most vulnerable. “Public housing properties may continue to be sold where stock reaches the end of its useful life and no longer economically viable to maintain or refurbish, there are opportunities to sell existing assets to social housing tenants and support them to move into affordable housing programs,” the Department of Communities spokesperson said.