STOP the 'Karratha City Housing Investment Program'

STOP the 'Karratha City Housing Investment Program'

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This Petition is to express our objection to the Karratha City Council spending any money whatsoever on any proposal bought forward or any business plan developed under the Karratha City Housing Investment Program or on any residential property development or investment at all.

THE SITUATION

The Karratha City Council has developed a plan to invest between $20 and $35 million dollars to build houses and apartments in town with their main goal to keep rent and sale prices down in the city in light of the possible upcoming boom.

Many residential property owners including myself are absolutely furious and disgusted that the council are planning to use rate payer’s money against them.

We have no issues with private enterprise or private investors investing in residential property in Karratha, that is fair game. But what right does the council have to use our money (the rate payer’s money, the people who have invested in property either as an owner occupier or an investor), to build houses and apartments with the sole purpose of manipulating the market to keep rent and sale prices down. Also, if private enterprise or private investors are not currently willing to invest in Karratha then there is obviously a very good reason for it which our council is too blind to see.

If the council’s intention is to prevent rent prices from rising then it is rather obvious that as owners or partners in the properties they build, they would possibly be offering them for rent at under market prices, if and when the rents do rise. Hence, they would be undercutting and intentionally manipulating the market. I will also point out that the council have indicated that any properties built through this project would be rented to the private market and not used for the council’s own needs such as staff housing as there is no immediate need for additional staff housing.

How many houses are we talking about? It’s hard to say, but let’s assume the council decided to go it alone and spend the full 35 million, using some of the land that they already own we could be looking at around 40 to 50 houses. If builders and developers make proposals for partnering or co-finance, we could be looking at 100 or more. Now some people may think 100 extra houses won’t make much of a difference, and whilst the town is booming, they may be right but have a think about the consequences when the boom ends - which it will, or if it never happens - which it might not, there will be an extra 100 empty houses. Rent and sale prices will drop even more than they did during the last downturn, there will be more bankruptcies, more depression and more suicides. At this stage although it looks very promising there is no guarantee that the looming boom will eventuate. The main project that will drive the boom, Pluto Train 2, has not even reached the final investment decision, so there is a real possibility that it may not go ahead, and yet our council are already making investment decisions. Sounds like gambling to me.

Where were the council when things were bad for the investors/owners, they didn’t dig into their pockets to help the people that were struggling, the people who had spent their hard earned money and invested in the future of Karratha based on all the propaganda of the ‘Pilbara Cities Vision’ a plan to grow Karratha and nearby Port Hedland into thriving metropolises of 50,000 people each by 2035. Instead they just watched as people went into depression, went bankrupt and committed suicide. But all of a sudden, they are now willing to spend a fortune to help the ‘poor’ people who are going to come here and rent during the next boom and make huge amounts of money and leave when it’s all over.

Yes, the council do have a responsibility to make decisions that will help to maintain a stable property market. But their responsibility is to spend money on infrastructure, services, maintenance and improvements, and to approve or disapprove development applications from developers and the public based on whether that development would be good for the market investors/owners or would cause an oversupply which could be detrimental to investors/owners. It is not their responsibility to become investors/owners themselves using our money, particularly with the market manipulating intentions that they have.

The council are delusional if they believe that the population of Karratha will increase, particularly to the much promoted (propagandised) level of 50,000. Karratha is a mining town, always has been always will be. Whilst there are people who love the place and will stay forever, the majority of people are here just to earn the money, they don’t want to stay here and many don’t want to live here at all, that’s why you will never get rid of FIFO. People will come for the boom make their money and leave. We will manage as we have in previous much larger booms, camps will be built (2 have already been approved by council), people will share houses to lower their rent and people will rent out rooms. Yes, rent prices will rise and investors will make some money which is why they invested in the first place. This coming boom by all predictions will not be anywhere near as big as the last boom, so when it’s all over if the council hasn’t allowed the market to be oversupplied by approving to many developments or doing their own developments and they promptly close down the FIFO camps then the market should return to normal without the massive losses that we saw after the last boom.

WHAT WE NEED TO DO

I see that there has been an uproar on Facebook about this issue, but unfortunately all the talk won’t achieve anything and I am sure that 99% of the approximately 8500 residential property owners in Karratha are opposed to this plan. What we need to do is get the message to the council in the correct way and in a big way if we want to stop this, so let me explain what needs to be done.

At this stage it is not definite that they will spend $20 to $35 million or anything at all on building, they have just decided that they are prepared to and they have allocated $250,000 from the 2019/20 budget to commence the planning for the project. They have publicly advertised a Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP is seeking proposals from developers and builders to partner with the city on any or all of the following basis: build on city land, develop on others land, partnering, co-finance, guarantee. The best that we could hope for is that no proposals are submitted and the project is cancelled, but even if no proposals are received there is no guarantee that the council won’t continue to push the project. If any proposals are received which I am sure there will be then council are likely to vote on whether to pursue them at the 17th of February council meeting.

Council meetings are open to the public, they commence at 6:30 pm usually on the third Monday of every month and are normally held at the Karratha Council Chambers. All the information is available on the City of Karratha website www.karratha.wa.gov.au under the ‘Our Council’ tab here is a direct link.

https://karratha.wa.gov.au/council-meeting-dates

Anyone who is serious about stopping this project and wants to stay informed should attend these meetings starting with the 20th of January and 17th February and continue until the issue is resolved. If you cannot attend, the meeting minutes and agendas will also be available on the City of Karratha website under the ‘Our Council’ tab here is a direct link.

https://karratha.wa.gov.au/council-meeting-minutes-agendas

If you look at the November and December minutes you will find more information about the investment program. I believe we should attend the meetings if possible, to show the council that there is resistance and start applying the pressure required to convince them to stop the project. There is time allocated for the public to have their say at the meeting.

If they vote to go forward with any of the proposals a detailed business plan will be prepared and would be publicly advertised for a minimum of six weeks with all community objections being reported to council prior to any investment decision being made. If they vote to go forward with multiple proposals there could be multiple business plans prepared and advertised. This will happen sometime soon after the February 17th council meeting and this is when we need to strike and strike big. Advertising is usually via the local newspaper and the business plan will be available in the public notices section under the ‘our council’ tab on the City of Karratha website here is a direct link.

https://karratha.wa.gov.au/public-notifications

We have already started a Petition, so that we will have time to get the message out to property owners prior to the community consultation period. This Petition is to express our objection to the Karratha City Council spending any money whatsoever on any proposal bought forward or any business plan developed under the Karratha City Housing Investment Program or on any residential property development or investment at all. We will submit this petition close to the end of the community consultation period for any and all advertised business plans. Please get on board sign the petition and spread the word. Here is the direct link to the petition:

www.stopcouncil.com       or        www.change.org/stopcouncil

When signing the petition please fill in your name and email and don’t forget to edit your geographic location from the automatically suggested location to your correct location. Please leave the ‘Display my name and comment on this petition’ box ticked as this will have a much greater impact when the petition is submitted. If the option is available please also tick the ‘Share with my Facebook friends’ box. To make a comment please return to the petition main page after signing and scroll to the bottom of the page where you can write your comment. Make sure both you and your partner signs, in-fact you don’t need to be a property owner to object to this plan so get the whole family to sign.

But the petition alone will not be enough! Although it will have a huge impact, it may not be officially submitted as an objection to the specific business plans. We all must submit our own objection to each business plan to the council during the community consultation period for it to be officially submitted and have the greatest effect. When any business plan is advertised and posted on the City of Karratha website there should also be instructions on how to make submissions and where to address them to, usually it will be enquiries@karratha.wa.gov.au . This email can be used for submissions even if the instructions specify another direct email address.

We can and we need to make submissions now so the council gets an idea of the level of objection before they even vote on any proposals, it will have a big impact but they won’t be officially submitted as an objection to any specific business plan as they have not been developed yet. Use ‘Karratha City Housing Investment Program’ in the subject line of your email. You will be objecting to the overall Plan

You can write something like this or exactly this if you like:

I would like to submit my profound objection to the Karratha City Council spending any money whatsoever on any proposal bought forward or any business plan developed under the Karratha City Housing Investment Program or on any residential property development or investment at all. I believe it is an unfair and unjust use of rate payers’ money as it will be used in a way that will negatively impact them.

We must also submit our objection specifically to any and all of the business plans during their community consultation period. This can be done in one email if they are all running at the same time. If they run at different times throughout the year you will need to send an email for each of them. The email can be similar to the one above but needs to reference the specific business plan or plans. Use the titles of the business plans in the subject line of your email.

You can write something like this or exactly this if you like:

I would like to submit my profound objection to the advertised business plan/plans…………… (Title of Plans)

I believe it/they is/are an unfair and unjust use of rate payers’ money as it/they will be used in a way that will negatively impact them.

I object to the Karratha City Council spending any money whatsoever on any proposal bought forward or any business plan developed under the Karratha City Housing Investment Program or on any residential property development or investment at all.

Clear as mud right!! Once you sign the petition as long as you don’t unsubscribe from emails you will receive updates from me. I will keep you updated on any progression and let you know when and how to make your submissions. But for now until any business plans are advertised please submit your objection to the overall plan as explained above.

The key to success here is to get as many people to sign the petition as well as submit their own objection directly to the council especially during the public consultation period, so please spread the word and forward this information to as many property owners as possible, direct them to www.stopcouncil.com . Please use my post or any part of it in any way that will be beneficial to the cause.

CONCLUSION

Let me reiterate our stand point on this project. We are not against the development and progression of Karratha. We understand that there could be a shortage of accommodation in the coming years due to a predicted but not yet certain construction boom. But we totally disagree that we as rate payers should have to fund it, we believe that it is unfair to use our money to manipulate the market in a way that will disadvantage us as investors in the market (includes straight out investors and owner occupiers). We believe that the council’s intention to use our money to manipulate a financial market being the Karratha residential property market in order to prevent rent and property prices from rising and ultimately reducing the returns for investors in the market is immoral and possibly illegal. We are not opposed to investment from the private sector without intervention or funding from the council, this is fair game and the way it should happen. We don’t necessarily think it is fair for people to have to pay the huge rent prices we experienced during the last boom, we would like to see the market rise steadily instead of up and down, boom and bust. But our message to the people who support this project because they are opposed to high rent prices is this; use your own money to buy or build your own property not our money. We have already invested our money into Karratha’s property market, it’s not our job to supply more money to invest with no return to us, so you can save money.  There is another factor that you need to understand, that is the ratio of the cost of buying/building to required rental return for the investment to be viable, and currently rent prices are well under where they need to be, hence all the bankruptcies. In plain English don’t expect someone to pay a million dollars for a property and rent it to you for $300 a week.

Please click here to sign the petition:

www.stopcouncil.com       or        www.change.org/stopcouncil

Please email your objection as explained above to the council at:

enquiries@karratha.wa.gov.au

I will keep you updated as things progress.

Thank you

Rod Thompson