Thousands living in cars, vans because housing unaffordable

Greens state MP and former Byron mayor Jan Barham.

Greens state MP and former Byron mayor Jan Barham.

Chris Dobney

The far north coast is in a social housing crisis and the state government must commit to increased social housing as a priority, Greens MLC and Byron Shire resident Jan Barham said today.

Ms Barham was responding to news that 71,000 low-income renter households in regional NSW are in housing stress, paying more than 30 per cent of their income on household costs.

She says that for many, this means foregoing other essential goods and services to keep a roof over their head.

The alternative is sleeping in cars or caravans, especially in places such as Byron Shire, where a 2014 Anglicare survey showed just 3.7 per cent of dwellings were considered affordable for a low-income household.

‘It’s unacceptable that in this region we have people living in caravans and cars because of the huge shortage of social and affordable housing,’ Ms Barham said.

‘These circumstances impact on people’s wellbeing as housing stress equates to emotional stress. More must be done with planning rules to support those who are vulnerable in this current housing crisis,’ she added.

In 2014 Ms Barham sat on an upper house committee that examined the state of social and affordable housing in NSW.

The state government, which only released its response to the report in January, promised among other things to build some 6,500 additional social and affordable dwellings.

But Ms Barham said that ‘while the NSW Government’s announcement… is a good first step, it barely scratches the surface of what’s needed to address the affordable housing crisis across the state.’

‘In this area it is 10 years or more on the waiting list for social housing and many people have stopped applying due to long wait,’ she said.

‘There are many factors affecting the lack of affordable and social housing, not least that the area is a popular tourism and investment location but also there is a high level of benefit recipients, many with social support needs.

‘Also, many people are unable to gain permanent employment and are casual workers, which poses difficulties in terms of a secure income to enable them to enter the private rental market.

‘The NSW Government must acknowledge that this area is in desperate need for social housing and deliver much needed housing and social services to those in need,’ Ms Barham said.


15 responses to “Thousands living in cars, vans because housing unaffordable”

  1. Nancy Jo says:

    I agree with Jan totally on the issue of affordable housing. However no one really needs to live in their cars if they are willing to leave this area and drive west to towns that have full or part-time employment and low rent affordable houses.
    I left the area and my family and went as far as WA to improve my life. It may sound heartless, but so can anyone else if they are really wanting to improve theirs.
    You can always come back as l did when you give it a go. You will be surprised at the opportunities that exist anywhere westwards. Its just up to you to make that decision.

    • Lee Kingston says:

      Dear Nancy Jo
      what were you doing here in the first place? Why did your family live here?, why didn’t they take you to WA to begin with? Why did you come back? So you have come back to take the accommodation of somebody else and their opportunities. What sort of car did you have to live in when you were here? Did it make it when you drove to WA?…..or perhaps you flew. Who paid your airfare?….was it Gina?……I think one of the wonderful qualities about this area is the abundance of intelligent, thinking, creative left wing people (some of whom live in their vans) who are able to see from another’s perspective, not just their own

    • bronwynne says:

      Sorry Nancy Jo I really think it unfair that people have to leave and move out west because they can’t afford to live here. Especially people over 50 who call the North Coast home. Is Byron only welcoming for the rich. Such a far cry from how it used to be.

  2. Blake says:

    First locals could not afford to buy a house in Byron. Then they could not afford to rent. With paid parking they now cannot afford to park a car.

  3. Burnett says:

    Nancy Jo

    Never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn.

    The mining boom in WA is over. Also, if you drive west today you will find that the 7 Eleven convenience store model of employing desperate people on 457 visas has been rolled out (to varying degrees) on a national scale.

    Your comments suggest that homelessness is a choice and implicitly shift the responsibility for homelessness towards individual failing. But correlations between disadvantage, low literacy, poor health, and low socio economic status are well established.

    Personal responsibility is of course the fundamental neo liberal mantra. But the facts are that a range of people become homeless for a range of reasons; including divorce, job loss and health issues. Also, there is little or no safety net to catch those disenfranchised by the interrelated processes of deindustrialization, globalization and neo liberal reform that began in the 1980s.

    It is understandable if you don’t want homeless people sleeping in their cars next to your house. But papering over the well established links between disadvantage, low literacy, poor health, and low socio economic status is not a good look

  4. Barbara says:

    It’s ok to say go west but most of those people would be battling to get enough money to travel there! If they even have a car that is up to a long trip! Once you’re in a downward spiral you are hamstrung in just about every direction, besides the west is struggling with low employment opportunities as well! The truth is all our jobs have been exported to China and India and 1% of the population have the wealth which leaves the underprivileged exactly where the government wants them! Read Agenda 21 and then look at Agenda 30 ! That’s the plan and if you cut through the BS you’ll understand that it is not for our common good but a plan to bring us to our knees !

    • Nancy says:

      I am not saying to go as far as WA. It’s just what l did. What l am saying I’d that there are jobs and affordable housing in other areas. It is up to people to go find them instead of hanging around here not getting anywhere and whinging. They should use the next centrelink payment for petrol and food and go! They could start at Lismore or Casino or up on the Tableland. Not that far away. Have a thought for Syrian Refugees and then tell me how disadvantaged the car dwellers are!

  5. I’ve been to parties and met with men my own age 55+ who are living in their cars, vans, buses….its extraordinarily common and men who are not drunks, druggies whatever but relatively normal people.
    A former partner lives an extremely comfortable lifestyle after renting out rural sheds she carved up into accommodation.
    There are many many like her around the bay as well.
    I’m not sure what is wrong with any of this as people are still housed in far more healthy conditions than those in third world countries!

    • Barry Stoddart says:

      Yes David it does seem to be the case that there are a lot of people who prefer to not have a mortgage, to not have to pay the landlords mortgage and not have to suffer nasty neighbours. Living in a moveable home is often a choice not a necessity,
      People are all different we don’t all want to live in the same way. For a growing number of people a house is a liability… an expense they don’t need or want.
      Politicians should take note and if they want to ‘really’ help perhaps accommodate the ‘real’ needs of the populous rather than trying to put everyone in the same boxes …pun intended.

  6. Julieanne bowes says:

    The majority are no doubt single parent like myself… Leaving any kind of community networks for the hope of work somewhere alien is a pretty big risk.

  7. Nathan says:

    Jan is spot on but this community is in a position to innovate while waiting on government assistance. A mix of government housing & private or community policy levers could provide truly affordable rentals. For example let rural land owners build small, cheap eco cabins with simpler yet appropriate design guidelines. The rents will suppliment rural landowner’s incomes and provide low cost housing in desirable locations. The council would make money from increased rates. Inexpensive solar power & compost waste models could provide templates for other rural areas. In town community groups may be interested in developing very basic yet pleasant transportable micro housing options on council land via crowd funding or local investment based on a commercial return. We dont all have to live in big houses costing 400K to build. Let’s innovate and show the rest of the country how they can invigorate their communities too. Waiting on government funding may dent the housing crisis but will never solve it.

  8. Jabaru Boyd says:

    Hi my 7 year old son and myself are currently staying with a friend as there no clean affordable rentals in Murwillumbah, as for the Realm Estate Rentals Single Mums are targeted…. many women with children are homeless..
    The prices and quality of these homes are you kidding me $300 for a week some are having to pay so much more, 1 bedroom tiny flat $275….
    Many who are homeless do not have family in the area t support, I met a couple this morning family 7 needing emergency housing…. again nothing.. Real Estates no go but hand over easy as to couples with jobs and NO CHILDREN….
    SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE… our Community and Rainbow Region whats happening

  9. Steve says:

    Another Jan Barham misery story.
    Nobody is living in cars & Vans in Brunswick! or Ocean Shores. No, they are living in cars & vans on teh Beach in Byron Bay. And the money they save on Accommodation they use for booze & coffee & playing the Byron Social scene & , being cool.
    For readers who don’t know, Jan Barham was a Greens elected mayor of the Byron shire for 8 years in which time she took the town to an utter state of disrepair, while simultaneously wasting rate payer funds on litigation, tibetan flags, environemental studies & Tibetan flags.
    Anybody who listens to or votes for this nut, have become what they admire.

  10. Burnett says:

    This comments thread opens a window on the dark conservative heart of Byron Bay

    Several of the comments confirm that nothing infuriates the lower middle classes more than the suspicion that poor people are having a better time than them.

    It is amazing to see this anxiety and resentment being transferred onto to the homeless.

    Strange times in Byron Bay

  11. Blake says:

    Stoking downward envy is a standard vote winning tactic of politicians and some sections of the media. This rhetoric lends itself to self interest and emboldens many to sling off about personal choices in forums such as this.

    Yet in Australia ii remains rare to see the neo liberal mantra of personal choice mobilized for attacks on the homeless.

    It speaks volumes about Byron Bay that it is so prominent here

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