Witchcliffe's Ecovillage touted as potential housing solution

The developers of the Witchcliffe Ecovillage have welcomed the approval of planning amendments at the site which they say will help to address the region's affordable housing shortage.
The developers of the Witchcliffe Ecovillage have welcomed the approval of planning amendments at the site which they say will help to address the region's affordable housing shortage.

Urban planner and designer Mike Day has touted Witchcliffe's Ecovillage as the way of the future for the South West.

With housing affordability and supply issues impacting many residents within the region, Mr Day said the Ecovillage was a great example of what should be done more often with new housing developments.

Witchcliffe Ecovillage began with a developer-led induction and education process and community building activities in the early stages of the development, with the intent to allow the community to evolve organically over time to reflect the interests and passions of the future residents.

Mr Day said by engaging with the community from the start saves time but also means the new development stays true to the town's identity.

"Regional residents are closely connected to their towns and are sensitive to change," he said.

"These towns are often characterised by heritage buildings, compact mini main streets, large open spaces and gardens, and low-density housing - and residents want to maintain these aspects that make the town special in the first place."

In last week's Mail, resident Erl Happ said it was time for a 're-think' in a bid to help solve the current housing crisis.

He said there was an ability to convert sea-containers into affordable, small homes.

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However, current planning approvals are getting in the way of this idea.

City of Busselton mayor Grant Henley said the city was concerned about the acute accommodation shortage unfolding in the region.

While both the city and Shire of Augusta Margaret River allow for chalets to be built on rural properties, there is no provision for them to be used as long-term accommodation.

"There may currently be some flexibility being shown in the length of time people can stay in established chalets but there is no provision, either here or in the Shire of Augusta Margaret River, for small permanent structures to be built on rural properties for the purpose of long-term lease," Mr Henley said.

Mr Henley said the main role of local government in relation to housing was in the planning area by ensuring there was sufficient land available for housing developments.

"Over the last nine to 12 months, the city has processed unprecedented volumes of applications," he said.

"The development and building industries have also seen unprecedented levels of demand - and whilst there have been challenges, overall, the working relationship between the city and the developers and builders operating here has been excellent."

"The city could not have kept pace with the demands placed on us if it were not for the proactive and professional approach of those developers and builders.

"As a result, over the next 12 months or so, over 600 new homes are likely to be available to be lived in across the City of Busselton."