The Shire of Collie Council unanimously passed a motion to provide land rate exemptions for two properties at the ordinary council meeting last month.
The council was asked to consider the request of not-for-profit community housing organisation Alliance Housing for exemptions from paying land rates on four properties based on their charitable status.
However, the shire elected to provide the exemptions for just two of the properties. The two properties that were given charitable exemptions are disability housing properties on Hutton Street and Rogers Avenue that are leased to Alliance Housing by the Housing Authority.
Alliance Housing also requested exemptions for two properties on Moira Road that are provided to tenants who are financially disadvantaged. The request was denied due to low cost rental being insufficient for granting charitable status.
Under the Local Government Act 1995, any land that is used exclusively for charitable purposes and is owned by a not-for-profit entity can be granted charitable status, exempting the owner from paying land rates.
Director of Corporate Services Allison Fergie said at the meeting that granting charitable status exemptions on all four properties would place a burden on the community, but denying the exemptions could see the matter taken to the State Administrative Tribunal.
Discussion between the councillors on the issue focussed on the financial impact to the shire, who rely on land rates to provide key services. Councillor Joe Italiano said during the meeting that process of the state government shifting the responsibility of housing to not-for-profit organisations who don’t have to pay land rates was “corruption”.
Housing minister Peter Tinley said the decision to lease properties to community housing organisations was based on their ability to provide better services and was not a cost-cutting measure.
“Although not required to do so, the Department of Communities pays full rates as determined by the shire on public housing properties,” he said.
“At 31 October 2017, there were 199 public housing properties in Collie Shire, of which four were leased to registered community housing providers to which local government rate exemptions may apply.
“The department partners with a number of non-profit community housing providers, which lease public housing properties to deliver specialist support and accommodation services.
“Some community housing providers have assisted the Department of Communities, and people on low incomes, by delivering growth in the stock of social housing by accessing private finance and other funding streams not available to the department as a government entity.
“Suggestions the process is corrupt are ridiculous. But if anyone has evidence to support such claims they should be referred to an authority such as the CCC.”
Alliance Housing couldn’t comment in time for publication.