COUNCIL’S “white elephant” housing development at Lake Wyangan – already costing ratepayers more than $2 million – remains in limbo after councillors voted to keep the land in public hands this week.
The 166-lot development was bought for $1.95 million in 2004 with the intention of creating affordable housing but has sat idle since a dramatic downturn in the local real estate market.
When council bought the Todd Road, McCarthy Road and Boorga Road farm blocks, Lake Wyangan was viewed as the next significant growth corridor for the region.
But the area has since been overshadowed by Collina and commercial developers have struggled to offload land packages at Lake Wyangan.
At Tuesday night’s council meeting, councillors voted to continue holding the land until some upswing in the local market was observed – though the blocks will be listed with an estate agent for potential sale if interest is registered.
Council general manager Brett Stonestreet said if council was to sell the properties in the current market, it would not be able to recoup costs already spent on the land.
While one of the citrus farms is under lease for the next three years and another is occupied by the Lake Wyangan Rural Fire Service, annual lease fees have not countered the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on water fees, rates and other expenditure.
“The land as it stands would not return sufficient revenue to meet the purchase and holding costs so it is not prudent to sell it,” Mr Stonestreet said.
“The dilemma is, there is quite a supply of potential residential land out and we don’t want to fire sale off the land because that would not be a good return for ratepayers and it would bottom out the market because it would put a false depression on values.”
Mr Stonestreet said the real estate market in Griffith was improving and optimism was beginning to return to the local economy.
“But in the short to medium term, we are unlikely to make the money back that we have already spent on it,” he said.
“The market in Griffith has bottomed out and we’re on an upward trend so for us to sell the land right now, we’d miss out on that so we’re better off hanging onto the land for at least the next 12 months.”
Mr Stonestreet said there was no specific timeframe on how long council would hold onto the land.
Griffith property developer Sukhi Singh said Lake Wyangan was not a popular area among potential buyers, with the majority keen to live in Collina.
“I always build in Collina –people just don’t want to go that (Lake Wyangan) side,” Mr Singh said.
“I’ve tried to sell that way but it just didn’t work.”