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Cash grants and new builds:

Quilpie Shire leads by example when tackling housing challenges

Location: Quilpie, Queensland
Population: 698 (LGA, 2021 Census)

Quilpie Shire Council made international headlines in 2021 when it launched a scheme offering $12,500 grants for people to buy and build new residential dwellings across its townships. The grant was on the condition that buyers build a house on the land and move into the property for at least six months. The initiative was developed solely by the council to incentivise private residential investment in the town, 1000 kilometres west of Brisbane. Council CEO Justin Hancock has identified an inability to access finance as the key factor affecting the region’s lack of private residential development.

“We’ve got stories from people where they’ve been pre-approved for a million-dollar loan in Brisbane and were laughed at when they’ve asked for $400,000 in Quilpie. I’m sure if they went in and asked for $130,000 for a Landcruiser they would’ve walked out with a cheque that day, but they can’t get it for a home,” Mr Hancock said. 

The Council is advocating for an increase to the minimum household income threshold for the Queensland Housing Finance Loan, which it believes could open up the state government scheme to more people in smaller, isolated communities where there is market failure.

In its first month the grant scheme attracted more than 600 enquiries, and last year it was increased to $20,000. It now also includes transportable and relocated houses. So far, the Council has sold 12 blocks of land and awarded its first grant in December 2023.  Mr Hancock believes the LGA is on a trajectory to meet its goal of increasing the shire’s population to 1000 people, as well as seeing five new houses in Quilpie within five years, helping the community boost its home-ownership rate, which currently sits at around 30-35%.

To complement the scheme, the Council has also embarked on an ambitious building project in recent years to help further bolster local housing stock. It currently owns more than 50 properties across the shire, which it uses to house council staff, state government and other essential workers, as well as local seniors in a supported accommodation village. Mr Hancock recalls, when he arrived in Quilpie in early 2021 there were no spare Council-owned properties, resulting in him living in the seniors village for seven months, until a more suitable house became available.  In 2024, it plans to add a further 14 properties to its portfolio – a mixture of townhouses and three-bedroom homes. Quilpie Shire Mayor Stuart Mackenzie believes it’s a critical investment.

“Housing growth is essential to support local employment and the long-term sustainability of our shire, which is why Council has committed more than $11.8m of its own cash funds towards additional housing since 2022,” Cr Mackenzie said.

The Quilpie Shire’s work in both tackling the lack of private investment in western Queensland and leading the development of new houses in the region were highlighted at the National Regional Housing Summit in February 2024.

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