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Byron Shire
May 11, 2021

Councillor seeks to ease housing crisis

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Byron councillor Tom Tabart has come up with a two-pronged attack in an attempt to ease the housing crisis that is beleaguering the Shire.

Cr Tabart will move a motion calling on Council’s own compliance staff to ease off on action against unauthorised dwellings. His notice of motion is expected to be debated at Council’s meeting next Thursday at 10.30am, while activist Fast Buck$, who is being pursued by Council over his property at Coorabell, intends to support Cr Tabart’s move during public access from 9am.

Cr Tabart intends to move, ‘That Council restrict compliance action with regard to suspected unauthorised dwellings only to cases where there is a demonstrable risk to health or safety – this approach to continue until the state and/or the federal government implements measures to fully address the growing problem of the affordable housing shortage’.

Cr Tabart also intends to move that ‘action against unauthorised use of approved dwellings (eg holiday letting) be continued’.

Unauthorised housing in Byron Shire has become a mainstream source of low-income accommodation, according to Cr Tabart. ‘It is unrealistic to continue to hide behind the anachronistic requirements of the legislation in the face of a major social crisis.

‘In any event the compliance capacity of Council is so limited that we are perceived to be unfairly selective in our prosecution of the Act and have no hope of a realistic resolution of the overall situation – we merely inflict additional stress on people already in reduced circumstances.

‘I realise that staff comment will advise that we have statutory requirements in this regard but I am asking for a little activism from councillors; this is the only way we ever get the attention of the legislature.

‘With regard to holiday letting, our limited compliance capacity should be directed to this abuse which severely reduces the housing stock available for residential use.’

In response to Cr Tabart’s comments a staff report notes: ‘Unauthorised housing in Byron Shire is a complex and sensitive matter with no easy resolution. If Council took formal action that required a property owner to cease using and to demolish or remove unapproved structures, then vulnerable people could be at risk and could become homeless.

‘However, if a tenant is killed or injured whilst residing in an unapproved (and possibly unsafe) dwelling, then Council may have a degree of vicarious [sic] liability.

‘The “do nothing” option, or allowing the status quo to remain, is also not desirable as it is evident that in most cases some works need to be carried out to improve basic health, safety and hygiene standards. The carrying out of even minimal upgrading works may be too costly for the property owner and if this matter was forced, the property owner may decide to cease providing accommodation.’

In related news, Australians for Affordable Housing (AFH) released housing stress figures for across NSW, and Tweed Byron tops the list. See more at http://housingstressed.org.au.

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