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Byron Shire
August 9, 2022

Can a ten unit Mullum affordable housing refusal be defended?

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A member of Council’s Heritage Advisory Committee believes that there are grounds for refusal of the Mullum affordable housing project on Stuart Street.

The DA for ten one-bedroom units with five carparking spaces was given the green light at the June 29 council meeting; however, it will be again presented for debate and a vote at the upcoming August 4 meeting after a rescission motion was lodged.

Len Bates, who is the Mullum community representative on the council committee, claims both the Local Environment Plan (LEP) and Development Control Plan (DCP) have detailed heritage conservation provisions, which stipulate no units and only single-storey homes in Mullum’s heritage precinct.

‘The Land and Environment court has upheld these provisions with other similar cases,’ he said. 

Mr Bates claims this development will begin the erosion of the heritage of the town and that other areas for affordable housing should be considered just outside the CBD that are also within walking distance.

The proposal was given passage by Council owing to the affordable housing provision within the State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPP), which stipulate just 30 per cent must be for affordable housing, while the rest can be sold at market rate. 

But mayoral candidate Cr Spooner believes there are no planning grounds for refusing the Stuart Street development, ‘including conservation or heritage considerations.’

He said, ‘It would mean either the developer walks away or takes the decision to court.

Yet when why he thought that, Cr Spooner replied, ‘In regards to Koho [the developer], I have no idea what they are intending to do if this gets refused and neither is it an argument from the right [wing]. It just makes economic sense.’

Cr Spooner said, ‘How is fewer units being developed a better outcome for affordability? What’s worse, by saying no to everything we will end up with more expensive unaffordable housing being proposed.’

‘Current Green councillors and ex-Green councillor Rose Wanchap have all argued against it happening.’

Cr Spooner said, ‘Is Mr Bates proposing that lower- income people should only be living on the fringes of our towns as modern-day fringe dwellers? I would never support such a discriminatory policy. From a purely economic point of view, you do not propose affordable housing to make money. There are much easier and better ways of doing that as a developer. Otherwise, we would be inundated by proposals.’

Mr Bates also claims Council’s Heritage adviser/consultant did not address the proposal adequately, but staff replied that LEP allows for a maximum height of nine metres, ‘which provides for two storey buildings.’ Council’s director of sustainable environment and economy, Shannon Burt said, ‘Provided the design is sympathetic to heritage conservation areas, the DCP allows for new developments.’

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  1. Mr Bates, Can I point your attention to the development that used to be the Mullumbimby Motel in Dalley St.
    It is now a singularly unattractive two story lot of units (8 or 10), right in the CBD. How did that pass?

  2. Dear Editor

    In regards to the article of 27 July “Can a ten unit Mullum affordable housing refusal be defended?” and the letter to the editor, “Mullum’s unit development sets a poor standard” in the 1 August Echo Net:

    We wish to thank Cr Basil Cameron for taking the time to express his concerns about the Stuart Street affordable housing project. As a local company made up of community members, we welcome input into any project Koho is involved with.

    We do, however, wish to address some of Cr Cameron’s comments.

    Anyone living in the Northern Rivers area is well aware of the pressing need to expand the range of affordable housing options. This is, outside of Sydney, one of the most expensive places to live in NSW, and that is having a detrimental effect on the existing character of our towns, as well as future sustainable development. And while everyone agrees that something must be done, there has so far been a lack of any real progress in actually delivering affordable housing in the region.

    At Koho we have worked closely with North Coast Community Housing, local councils and other groups and individuals to identify the most practical and efficient ways to tackle this problem while respecting the character, history, needs and wishes of local communities.

    Regarding Cr Cameron’s suggestion that the NSW State Planning Policy SEPP has been used to “override or weaken local provisions,” it should be pointed out that the SEPP does not determine criteria such as setbacks, scale, height or other elements of design and construction. These are covered under the council’s development control plan (DCP) and Local Environmental Plan (LEP), with which the Stuart Street DA fully complies.

    We’d also like to point out that while the SEPP requires that 30% of the dwellings be affordable rental Housing (ARH) for a ten-year period, Koho supports council to condition that such dwellings be affordable in perpetuity. We strongly believe that commitments made towards affordable housing now should carry well into the future if we are to achieve the best outcomes for our community.

    We have spent a great deal of time in the design phase of the Stuart Street project, and believe that we have delivered something that takes a positive step in alleviating the shortage of affordable housing while respecting the essential look and feel of Mullumbimby. Every project involves a certain level of compromise, and we have taken pains to deliver compact, affordable housing that fits with the Mullum’s distinctive character.

    We also believe that housing involves more than just bricks and mortar, and, for example, are attempting to redesign the relationship between affordable housing and car ownership with “The Kollective”; an innovative car sharing initiative that has the support of Byron Council staff and will represent shire’s first private car share arrangement offered specifically for a development’s tenants.

    You’ll hear more about this and other ideas to deliver affordable housing while alleviating congestion, reducing carbon footprints and making living more affordable, but the point is that we are actively – along with partners in non-profit community housing organisations and council representatives – working to deliver connected, affordable housing and lifestyles. We invite people to visit our website at http://www.koho.com.au to learn more and to leave comments and suggestions.

    Any development or change is going to have its share of proponents and opponents, especially in a vibrant, eclectic area like Byron Shire, and it is understandable that some community members will express concerns. Again, we feel that this is healthy and we welcome input. However, to ensure that there is a broad consensus of public opinion rather than just that of a small, vocal minority, we do ask that people take the time to look at all aspects of the issue, and, specifically, what Koho, after ten years of award winning work in the affordable and disability housing sector, is proposing.

    We think they might be pleasantly surprised.


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