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September 17, 2021

State government ‘dragging the chain’ on affordable housing

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Greens state MP and former Byron mayor Jan Barham.
Greens state MP and former Byron mayor Jan Barham.

Chris Dobney

North coast Greens MLC and former Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham says the future of affordable housing in the region is in the hands of the state government.

Ms Barham said the government must now legislate to allow councils the right to require affordable housing lots as a condition of approval.

Her comments came in the wake of the 2016 Anglicare Housing Affordability Snapshot, which found that there was no affordable rental housing in Byron Bay, Ballina or Tweed Heads.

‘There’s an instrument that’s used in Sydney that allows only a few councils to [require developers include affordable or social housing] but it’s not in the current planning rules across the state,’ she told Echonetdaily.

Commenting on recent sales of ‘affordable’ home sites in Ballina and Lismore and blocks donated to social housing organisations in Lismore and Tweed, Ms Barham said, ‘You can do it by negotiation, you can do it if the developer chooses to put that forward but as a requirement it’s not in place.’

Beef up planning rules

‘This is where the state government needs to beef up the planning rules so that councils can require this of new developments.’

‘Most of those will have a time limitation with the properties being with a community housing provider,’ she said. So there’s an allowance for increased densities, with a provision for community housing, but that lapses most often in a 10 year period.’

Two year delay

Ms Barham said her proposal had been languishing with government since her committee on affordable and social housing reported some two years ago, despite making an appearance in the draft North Coast Regional Plan.

‘This was all presented in the housing inquiry we did two years ago. We looked statewide at what opportunities were available and “inclusionary zoning” was very much a focus. Councils the state and communities wanted to see government take the lead.

‘In the draft North Coast Regional Plan it talks about councils having new planning rules but it doesn’t yet create the opportunity for them.’

She accused the state government of dragging the chain on the issue.

‘It’s been this way for over a decade, where communities and local governments that have done affordable housing plans have sought the state government support for these zoning opportunities but they’ve not eventuated yet.

Holiday lets

‘That, coupled with the use of existing residential dwellings being used for tourism [holiday letting], which has diminished supply… is creating problems on the coastal strip.

‘That’s where you need the instrument of government to be able to require that these affordable and social housing developments exist, so you’re not ending up in legal action because council requires it of developers.

‘We need to have firm rules that give clear direction to community, councils and the development industry,’ Ms Barham said.


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