Byron Shire Council has asked the North Coast Community Housing Company to investigate options for affordable housing at a council-owned site in Station Street, Mullumbimby, which had been earmarked for sale.
It is the same site where last month protesters petitioned council to stop the axing of a large old fig tree.
Yesterday’s meeting of Byron Shire Council endorsed the development of the community housing project which, if it goes ahead, will be its first such initiative in the six years since council introduced its affordable housing strategy in 2009.
A stipulation of the development is that the controversial fig tree, which council officers had identified for removal, is to be kept as part of the community housing development on the site.
Deputy mayor, Paul Spooner commended the successful motion as ‘a wonderful initiative of council to identify a parcel of land close to the centre of Mullumbimby’.
‘Affordable housing is not just about the rents people pay but also about other costs they have to bear like transport and food,’ said Mr Spooner, who is also manager of the Byron Bay Community Centre.
‘This housing development will ensure people are within walking distance to shopping facilities, a range of local services and a community garden.
In the motion, council approved the general manager to ‘enter into negotiations with North Coast Community Housing Company regarding the potential development of a range of affordable housing and community housing (including aged, disability, and low income) at 70-90 Station Street, Mullumbimby’.
Mr Spooner described it as ‘a great outcome’, adding it was ‘the first practical step that council has taken to ensure that those on lower incomes are able to remain living within the Byron Shire community’.
Speaking to the motion at the council meeting Mr Spooner said, ‘Council should not just be concerned with the interests of commercial operators or property developers. Council should be about facilitating good community outcomes for all our residents.
‘This housing development will ensure people have affordable, safe and modern housing to meet their various needs.’
Byron Shire Council has provided for a six month due diligence period to the North Coast Community Housing Company to help them to ascertain whether such development options on the site are viable and able to be resourced.
Community housing forum
In nearby Lismore, a community housing forum yesterday heard that at least $300 million is available to regional councils that are able to put up viable proposals for community housing.
At the forum, Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell urged developers to ‘literally think outside the box’ to come up with designs that were more adapted to the elderly.
But she told ABC local governments also needed to be more proactive in their efforts, including ‘rezoning appropriate land but also relaxing some of the limitations or size restrictions, so that we can have either smaller lots or medium density’.