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    HOUSING SOLUTION: From left, Chris Sounness, Stuart Benjamin, Robyn Gulline, Sunil Bhalla and Dale Fraser announce a housing investment for hospital staff in Horsham last week. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

United in addressing hospital housing need

An $8.3-million housing investment in Horsham will inject $32-million into the economy and create at least 100 construction jobs. 

The project aims to attract healthcare professionals and ease rental demand in the region. 

A partnership between Grampians Health and property developer Elmstone Property Group will build 36 one and two-bedroom apartments within walking distance of Horsham’s Wimmera Base Hospital. 

The self-contained apartments will have individual bathrooms and private kitchenettes. Four will accommodate staff and families with accessibility needs. 

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Grampians Health chief executive Dale Fraser said the service currently rented more than 30 properties across Horsham. 

“This partnership will ensure we can create a safe, secure and contemporary option for our staff to come and live in, and ensures they have access to what is scarce property market arrangements in Horsham,” he said. 

“We will then release back to the Horsham property market all the properties we are currently renting – which is a win-win.

“Providing high-quality brand-new accommodation will provide an incentive to staff locating to Horsham.”

Costing staff

Grampians Health’s Horsham allocations officer Dianne Schmidt said the service was losing staff to other areas because people could not find appropriate housing.

“I’ve lost pharmacists, social workers and nurses in the past 12 months because they can’t get accommodation in Horsham and so they’ve moved to different areas,” she said. 

Wimmera Development Association, WDA, executive director Chris Sounness said the initiative was part of a broader solution to ease a housing shortage in the region. 

“The WDA housing blueprint highlights that increasing the availability of housing stock requires innovative partnerships and solutions to ensure an increased range of housing options are developed,” he said.

“Increasing the amount of housing that is designed for a particular tenant group increases the amount of housing available for families to move to the region. 

“Currently our region has only 2.2 people per household, however over 75 percent of our homes have three bedrooms plus.

“A lot of employers, farmers and business people are really interested in helping tackle the housing challenges and WDA is trying to create a couple of vehicles so that people can get involved in these solutions.” 

Horsham mayor Robyn Gulline said the council would review the plans in due course as part of its required planning approval process. 

She said the council would strive to streamline the process to ensure no unnecessary delays were encountered. 

“Council is doing what we can to improve the standard of our facilities and deliver new facilities to improve the liveability and accessibility of our community – to meet our council plan and community vision commitments,” Cr Gulline said. 

“Providing good healthcare locally is absolutely a priority of council and we will work with the hospital in whatever way we can to help them achieve that goal.”

Site recommendation

Cr Gulline said there was ample land available for new builds in Horsham – but access to trades and materials remained a challenge. 

Elmstone Property Group’s Stuart Benjamin invited people to recommend a site of about one acre, or four housing blocks, for the development – ideally within walking distance of the hospital. 

His company has identified some suitable options. 

He said he hoped to finalise a site within the month, with construction to begin within six months. 

The entire June 15, 2022 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!