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Byron Shire
March 25, 2023

Affordable housing is still a dream

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[author]Simeon Michaels[/author]

Byron Council has recently attempted to address the issue of affordable housing but of the developments so far approved just three ‘affordable’ properties have come on the market.

And if you think securing a place to live in Byron is difficult, the squeeze is actually nationwide.

In 2009, the National Housing Supply Council (NHSC) estimated that the national supply gap was 178,400 dwellings. By 2014, the NHSC says that gap will have increased to 308,000 dwellings.

Byron Shire Council recently approved an assessment of land in Bayshore Drive, with potential to build affordable housing under a joint-ownership model.

And a proposal for Butler Street is the latest in Council’s attempts to address the Shire’s growing affordable-housing crisis.

To date, nothing has come of a similar process at Station Street, Mullumbimby, two years after it was slated.

Council has also approved a development under the state government’s SEPP (Affordable Housing).

‘In August, Council approved a mixed development of shops and residential living in Suffolk Park under these provisions,’ said Council’s executive manager of planning Ray Darney.

‘Within this development three of the units where classified as affordable housing.

‘This means they will be registered under the National Rental Affordability Scheme and rented at 75 per cent of market value.’

Suffolk Park project

Prior to the State SEPP, Council also approved Agcorp’s 52-unit development next to the Suffolk Park BP.

The development creates supply at the lower end of the market, but Council placed no conditions on sale price or rental affordability.

Stage one of Agcorp’s project is now complete, and a demonstration home opened for public inspection recently. Prices start at $420,000.

‘When you add up land acquisition, council approval fees and construction costs, that’s what it costs to build a new home – we can’t do it any cheaper than that,’ says Steve Agnew, CEO of Agcorp.

He claims he needs to sell 12 of the units in stage one before proceeding with stage two.

Most recently in 2010, Council voted to allow secondary dwellings (granny flats) in residential areas. Following a collective community groaning, Council also deleted requirements for s94 contributions in April this year.

Since then, ‘over 20 development applications have been received,’ says Mr Darney.

Council’s facilitation of secondary dwellings in residential areas raises the issue of Byron Shire’s most obvious, and controversial, solution to affordable housing – secondary dwellings in rural areas.

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