Spalding resident’s plea on public housing blight

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
A Department of Communities house in Spalding is fenced off after it was damaged by fire.
Camera IconA Department of Communities house in Spalding is fenced off after it was damaged by fire. Credit: Francesca Mann, The Geraldton Guardian

When Robert Stock and his wife Wendy first moved to Spalding 37 years ago, it was the place to be.

But in the past 15 years, Mr Stock said Spalding had “gone downhill”, with more than 25 vacant and derelict houses found throughout the sprawling suburb.

Many of the empty homes belong to the Department of Communities, which owns about 25 per cent of dwellings in Spalding.

Mr Stock said antisocial behaviour was also a major issue.

The 77-year-old said if more public housing was developed on the corner of Broome and Anderson streets, as suggested in the draft Spalding Precinct Plan, things would only get worse.

“If this is not a ghetto then I don’t know what is,” he said.

“There’s lots of trouble on the streets ... and we can’t sell houses around here.

“We don’t want this vacant land to have housing on it, or an old people’s home, as it’ll just fill up and we’ll have another problem.

“But if they do develop housing on the block, they should put a police station there as that’ll stop antisocial behaviour.”

Last month City of Greater Geraldton councillors unanimously adopted the draft Spalding Precinct Plan for public feedback.

The plan — developed by the City and the Department of Communities — offers a number of ways the suburb could be returned to its former glory, including new footpaths, roads and retail space.

According to the draft plan, a handful of houses owned by the department could be removed for new road connections.

The document notes landowners will be expected to ensure properties “present well” to the street and are free of damage or vandalism.

Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said while the high number of vacant houses was an issue, the City could not issue work or demolition orders for properties owned by the State Government.

“I don’t think describing suburbs as ghettos is appropriate ... but it is a real problem,” he said.

“We have a significant number of vacant public housing, all while we’ve got a public housing waiting list.

“But the State Government is exempt from all actions a local government can apply.

“They need to intervene on their own properties, support the implementation of the precinct plan, and either return to service the housing they’ve boarded up, or take steps to remove them.”

The draft precinct plan will be advertised for public feedback before it is adopted as a local planning policy.

Mr Van Styn said the plan needed funding support from the State Government to make any difference to the suburb.

“Once fully rolled out it will revitalise Spalding and make it a more attractive place to live,” he said.

“Hopefully it will restore the suburb to its former prestige level.

“But none of that will occur without investment from the State Government.”

The Department of Communities was invited to comment.

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