Campers after answers

Laidley mother and daughter Liz Jenson and Celina Wood at the Hearts for Homes Campout at the Gatton Council Chambers, hosted by Our Heartland on Tuesday, 14 May. Pictures: JACOB HAYDEN

A community group hosted a campout outside the Gatton Council Chambers on Tuesday night, 14 May, urging the local and state government to take action during a housing crisis.

Our Heartland director Maree Rosier organised the Hearts for Homes Campout to raise awareness about six 2-bedroom units sitting vacant behind the RV park in Gatton on North Street.

“There are six 2-bedroom units on crown land, built and owned by the Lockyer Valley Regional Council (LVRC), which have been vacant for years now, amid a social housing crisis,” Ms Rosier said.

The units are identical to six other inhabited units on Cochrane Street.

LVRC Mayor Tanya Milligan said council accepted a proposal from the Queensland Government to divest the housing stock at both Cochrane Street and North Street, Gatton back to the State on 15 July 2020.

“The Department of Housing, Local Government, Planning and Public Works ultimately determined the units in North Street did not meet current compliance and housing standards, especially for use in line with the relevant purpose of the reserve land where they are situated, and chose not to proceed with taking over the units,” Cr Milligan said.

“Given community housing is a specialist service, and council is not a registered provider, council has been liaising with the Department of Housing and our local State Member for assistance to resolve the issues.

“I have written and spoken directly to Minister for Housing, Meaghan Scanlon MP on a number of occasions over the past year seeking her support to make these units available to address the housing crisis, and I am awaiting the Minister’s advice on a path forward.”

The Independent contacted the Department of Housing and did not receive a response.

Member for Lockyer Jim McDonald said the fact the units have sat unused for so long was ‘entirely unacceptable’.

“There have been multiple meetings between the LVRC and the former and current Minister,” Mr McDonald said.

“The current negotiation is to resolve the ownership and management rights of these units.”

Gatton local Andrew Stubbersfield instigated the campout at the council chambers building.

“People of the Lockyer Valley deserve to have a roof over their head,” he said.

“I came up with this idea to find a solution for this absolutely heartbreaking situation that’s happening in our community.”

Cr Milligan reminded the community that housing was a state responsibility.

“Council’s role is to advocate on behalf of the community, which is exactly what council has been actively doing on this matter for the past several years,” she said.

“I can assure the community that council is seeking a favourable response from the State to see these units utilised in a manner that benefits our community.“

Ms Rosier proposed the lot be leased to Our Heartland.

“Our Heartland, by way of a lease agreement, would undertake to be responsible for the units and their ongoing maintenance, and any rental monies due would go to the organisation to facilitate this, and other community projects,” she said.

“This way, council does not incur additional costs above those assigned to disposal, and [the] State does not need to take on the responsibility.”

Cr Milligan said LVRC was actively liaising with several registered community housing providers.

“As the State’s listed purpose for the reserve is aged care, there may be limited options for use, and significant upgrades to the buildings may be required to meet compliance standards before they are able to be used,” she said.