Home

Government seek tenders to build social housing but construction companies say finding labour is the problem

Anna CoxGeraldton Guardian
Units in Spalding were recently completed by Crothers Construction and handed to The Department of Communities.
Camera IconUnits in Spalding were recently completed by Crothers Construction and handed to The Department of Communities. Credit: Anna Cox

The Cook Government’s call for “builders of all sizes” to build social housing has been met with a mixed response locally, with some companies calling it ignorant of the labour shortages crippling the industry.

An acute shortage of tradies has left construction companies struggling to finish existing work.

Housing Minister John Carey on Tuesday revealed the Government was taking expressions of interest from builders across WA to help construct 4000 dwellings as part of a $2.6 billion investment to bolster social housing supply in the State.

He encouraged building and development companies with or without existing land and housing plans to come forward to discuss the potential of tailoring the construction to be fit for social housing use.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.

READ NOW
A recently completed build for the Department of Communities, by Crothers Construction
Camera IconA recently completed build for the Department of Communities, by Crothers Construction Credit: Anna Cox

Shadow housing minister Steve Martin slammed the move as a “sad joke”. He asked for the number of tenders for new builds of social housing across Geraldton, and was told that answer would require a significant use of government resources and could not be provided.

“More than 34,000 Western Australians are on the social housing waitlist and the minister is seeking expressions of interest from builders? There is plenty of interest from people wanting a home, minister. Get on with it and build some houses,” he said.

Warren Taylor is disappointed and angered by the lack of support for small business owners in the building industry
Camera IconWarren Taylor is disappointed and angered by the lack of support for small business owners in the building industry Credit: Anna Cox/RegionalHUB

Warren Taylor, owner and operator of Warren Taylor Homes, said the request was ignorant of the plethora of issues facing regional construction companies, including the labour shortage that had crippled the construction industry on a national scale.

“I’ll be very surprised if anyone takes it up. You can’t find tradesmen anywhere,” he said, adding he would not be submitting an expression of interest.

JWH Group general manager Jay Walter.
PICTURE NIC ELLIS   THE WEST AUSTRALIAN
Camera IconJWH Group general manager Jay Walter. PICTURE NIC ELLIS THE WEST AUSTRALIAN Credit: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

Jay Walter, general manager of JWH Group, said the quantity of work available was not an issue, but finding labourers was the ongoing problem for the construction industry, and this was felt particularly strongly in Geraldton.

“We find Geraldton to be one of those regions where it doesn’t take much to become increasingly difficult to operate in,” he said.

“Because of the green-lighting of mining projects, a lot of labourers are working there instead. The mining industry is our biggest competitor.”

Mr Walter confirmed JWH Group would remain on the panel of builders the Department of Communities used to construct homes.

Geraldton Building Services and Cabinets managing director Peter Fleay said the business was fortunate to hold its trades in-house, and had not suffered as badly as other construction companies during the labour shortage.

“We’re currently on their panel, and will definitely be looking into pursuing this work with them (the department). They’re fantastic to work for,” Mr Fleay said.

Business. Peter Fleay, Managing Director of GBSC Yurra. He is a finalist for Rio Tinto's local engagement award and we are speaking to him on the relationship his business has with the mining giant.
Camera IconBusiness. Peter Fleay, Managing Director of GBSC Yurra. He is a finalist for Rio Tinto's local engagement award and we are speaking to him on the relationship his business has with the mining giant. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

Crothers Construction managing director David Crothers has previously run into trouble when building social housing, having tools stolen and a site trashed in the days leading up to handing over the keys, as well as having rocks thrown at staff.

“It is extremely disappointing,” he said. “Having regular damage caused upsets the completion program. People can’t progress and move in because you can’t complete the project.”

David Crothers in his Geraldton offices.
Picture: Geoff Vivian The Geraldton Guardian
Camera IconDavid Crothers in his Geraldton offices. Geoff Vivian The Geraldton Guardian Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian

Despite the bumps in the road, Mr Crothers confirmed his alliance with the Department of Communities, and acknowledged the labour shortage as the biggest obstacle in the mix.

“We are active in Perth metro and the Mid West, and I can assure you, labour is an issue. The mines take a lot of our good workers,” Mr Crothers said.

The Department of Communities expects to issue further calls for submissions in the second half of 2023, seeking partnerships with community housing providers and local governments.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails