Byron Shire Council will consider whether or not to continue waiving developer contribution fees for secondary dwellings or ‘granny flats’ at a workshop on the issue soon.
Councillors at their meeting on Thursday debated a report highlighted the number of secondary dwellings, commonly called ‘granny flats’, and the impact to the shire of lost developer contribution fees.
Mayor Simon Richardson said the intent of the fee waiver was to address two significant outcomes.
‘It aimed to increase the availability of housing stock for locals and provided a financial incentive for secondary dwellings that had been built without Council approval, to get seek approval, Cr Richardson said.
The Council report noted that since 2011, about $2.3 million has been lost in Section 94 developer contributions. It also predicted that between 2015 to 2026 a further loss of $3.9 million could be anticipated.
A council spokesperson said that if council were to charge fees on granny flats, then the current fee would be between $9,200 in rural areas and up to $21,300 in Mullumbimby. Bangalow and Brunswick Heads sat at about $16,000 and Byron Bay was just over $18,000.
Developer contribution fees are collected and allocated for future infrastructure needs as a result of an increased housing stock and the assumed population growth.
The payment of granny flat fees in urban areas was removed in 2011. To date, 278 secondary dwellings have been approved and 214 construction certificates issued.
Mayor Richardson said it appears that the fee relief has not had a great effect on affordable housing and about six per cent are being used for holiday letting.
‘While the medium rental rate in Byron Shire has dropped $22 per week between 2011 and 2014, rents have also decreased in a neighbouring shire that does not have the secondary dwelling fee relief,’ he said.
‘For every anecdotal story about someone helping out another in need via an affordable granny flat, there is the other end with a profitable holiday let.
‘It’s now time to take a closer look at granny flats and arrive at an ongoing solution that does not see council fall further behind in providing future infrastructure needs, whilst still encouraging the backyard ‘granny’ as a valid form of local housing.
‘Granny flats are a vital source of housing for our singles, youth, young families and aged community members.’