IN A last-ditch effort to save Albany Seaside Flats from divestment after the budget accommodation site failed to secure funding for crucial renovations three times, its volunteer committee must raise $50,000 in the next three months for the site to be considered for funding once more.
The site, located on Flinders Parade in Middleton Beach, currently has four operational one, two and three-bedroom units.
The Country Women’s Association (CWA) of WA site was originally designed to offer affordable accommodation to regional and remote families, but now offers inexpensive accommodation to anyone.
Three older units on the site, built in 1938, were closed in 2013 after 75 years of use due to their poor condition.
Secretary Anne Radys, Finance Officer Anne Barton, Committee Member Peg Vickers and Caretaker Laura Ferrell said the Albany Seaside Flats committee had discussed taking financial and administrative control of the accommodation site for many years with the CWA of WA State Committee – so they could work on upgrading the old facilities – but it was to no avail.
Only recently, the group said, was the committee awarded the control it needed.
Now, CWA of WA has given the committee a May deadline to fundraise a minimum of $50,000 before the decision to fully fund the renovation can be put to a state vote for the fourth time.
“They are part of Albany’s social history,” Ms Vickers said of Albany Seaside Flats.
“We didn’t have much back then but staying here was something I still remember, and it was absolutely wonderful.
“Losing them now would be like giving up the crown jewels.”
The three 1938-built units in question are heritage-listed and cannot be demolished.
The other option is to fund extensive and expensive renovations.
This includes installing firewalls, asbestos removal, replacing the ceilings, updating the kitchens and replacing the floor coverings.
CWA of WA State President Elaine Johnson explained that the issue of financing these renovations had been put forward to the CWA State Conference several times, but had failed to secure support and funding each time.
“A motion was carried at State Conference in 2014 to approve renovations of units A, B and C for up to $120,000 but no funding source was identified,” she said.
“Branches were consulted by postal vote in 2016 in an attempt to seek funds to support the required renovations or return the property to the State, and the response to the vote was mixed; it did not lead to a decision to fund the renovations, and further investigation into projected costs was authorised by the Board and approved as a motion at the 2017 State Conference.
“The renovations were proposed to the membership at the State Conference as a Statewide fundraiser, but this motion was lost.”
Ms Johnson said various other proposals had been considered by the Board, but they were deemed unsuitable.
This was because the financial model was “not sufficiently proven to justify the re-allocation of assets, nor do the units provide a sufficient community benefit to risk undermining the Association’s asset base and independence”.
“It is noted that the property is a Crown Grant in Trust, which means the Association cannot realise any funds invested into infrastructure, as if it wishes to divest the property it will need to return it to the State, subject to the approval of the Minister for Lands.”
Ms Barton is starting a crowd funding account which the public can donate to if they wish to support the cause.
The Albany Seaside Flats committee will also host a fashion show in April to assist the effort.
While the Weekender was speaking with the group about this issue, Ms Ferrell turned away bookings from potential clients as she had no room for them to stay.
She said the accommodation site was frequently booked out during the year and that it lost money by not being able to offer more accommodation, as the three 1938-built units sat empty.
“How can we make money if we can’t fix and use these units?” Ms Ferrell questioned.
President Ms Johnson said a minimum of $280,000 was required to lift the three 1938-built units to a “holiday lettable standard”.
She said she understood the community sentiment and history associated with the property and hoped the Albany community could help to save the units.
“CWA of WA cannot do this alone as the costs are high and returns low when you are dealing with budget family accommodation,” Ms Johnson said.
“As the units continue to deteriorate there is some urgency.”
A crowd funding link will soon be launched on the Albany Seaside Flats Facebook page to give community members the opportunity to financially support the cause.
Alternatively, people can call Ms Barton on 0412 937 641 to make a donation or donate direct to the account here: BSB 633 000, Acc 172 407 363.