Burke Shire Council's mayor has told the Prime Minister an "utterly crippling" housing shortage is quashing strategies for regional economic growth.
Mayor Ernie Camp met Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Cloncurry on January 19 and told him about the of reluctance of most banks to offer mortgages in regional and remote areas and how Burke's innovative property divestment program could be embraced by other shires.
In September 2020, Council received state approval to sell up to 21 properties in Burketown and Gregory as part of a divestment of assets to unlock local housing for staff wanting to buy their own home.
Cr Camp said Westpac was the only bank supportive of the program and offered nine mortgages but felt the Commonwealth Government needed to support a sustainable solution to the problem.
"Council is celebrating the early success of the divestment program, but this is an issue that impacts every regional and remote local government in Australia, not just the Burke Shire," Cr Camp said.
"To progress and be sustainable, we need brains and capital, and we've got no shortage of smart people in the regions.
"There's an utterly crippling housing shortage stifling growth in the regions, and I've spoken to the Prime Minister about the urgent need for Government leadership to ensure those who call regional Australia home have access to capital and lending on the same basis as their city cousins.
"We don't want special treatment - we just want a fair go to make sure we can buy houses and keep our communities sustainable."
Burke Shire CEO Clare Keenan praised Westpac for its commitment to the program and hoped Mr Morrison's first-hand exposure to the housing shortage led to a positive outcome for regional communities in the North West.
"The housing shortage is one of the top items on the agenda at every regional meeting and conference we attend, so it's disappointing that Council has had to go it alone to ensure Burke Shire residents are not discriminated against on the basis of postcode when it comes to achieving the basic goal of home ownership," Ms Keenan said.
"Westpac has been brilliant so far, but it's more than just getting other banks to the table.First home buyer incentives should reflect the differences in property trends in regional and urban areas by applying to existing homes outside our major centres, not just new homes.
"The Government needs to ensure that the long-term objective is to incentivise the home ownership that supports the survival of our communities, and not just prop up the construction and real estate industries."
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