West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has been forced to walk back a campaign election promise after it emerged the government had failed to secure the lease of a property it planned to convert into a homeless shelter.
WA Labor on Sunday announced a $14 million plan to house up to 100 rough sleepers at the Perth City YHA hostel on Wellington St.
But it has since been revealed the government failed to secure the lease for the property after having inspected it late last year.
The West Australian newspaper reported the building’s owner was in “advanced negotiations” to sell the building to another party.
Mr McGowan said the plan had been approved by cabinet on February 1 but admitted there had been a failure to follow up on it.
“Obviously we’re not happy about that. Clearly, there should have been further action taken,” Mr McGowan told reporters on Wednesday.
“But the money is there, we’ll seek alternative opportunities and even the new owner of this facility may well want to lease it to us for the purposes of a homeless shelter.
“The money remains, we’re doing a lot to deal with the homeless issue, we know it’s a big issue across the state.”
The premier noted that it had been a “stressful” week as authorities juggled a COVID-19 lockdown, severe bushfires in the Perth Hills and Yallingup, and floods in the state’s north.
“People are under a lot of pressure, there’s lots of issues going on,” he said.
Opposition homelessness spokesman Tony Krsticevic said the announcement was “nothing but spin”.
Authorities last month dismantled a homeless camp in Fremantle, having formally seized control of the land from the local council.
Emergency accommodation was offered to rough sleepers, including temporary hotel stays.
The move was panned by advocates who said the Labor government had failed to address the crisis in any substantive way.
An area in East Perth which had previously housed a separate tent city has been fenced off in recent days.
Treasury’s pre-election financial projections statement on Monday revised WA’s forecast budget surplus up to $3.1 billion.
West Australian voters will go to the polls on March 13.