An affordable housing summit at the Cavanbah Sports Centre last Friday saw a healthy turnout and a full day of talks and Q&A with industry professionals, both local and interstate.
The event was instigated by Byron Shire Cr Paul Spooner, who told Echonetdaily, ‘If you leave it to market forces, communities won’t be supported’.
‘The predicament we are in will only get worse.
‘It’s clear that most in the area don’t want urban sprawls to develop, and I’d imagine few people would want more developments like West Byron.’
A Byron Housing Trust is proposed by Cr Spooner as one mechanism to break the dominance of market-driven housing unaffordability.
‘We have social housing providers and private developers, but there’s nothing in between. Council is a land owner and a major stakeholder in the community.’
‘The best example of a trust that is operating is the Burlington Land Trust in the US. It’s in Vermont and was instigated by senator Bernie Sanders. It’s still going and has morphed into a larger trust with around 2,500 properties.’
One of the day’s highlights, according to Cr Spooner, was a suggestion by the chief NSW planner, Gary White, to develop more mixed-use zoning and place more emphasis on strategic planning.
A mixed-use zone already exists in the Byron Arts and Industry Estate, where businesses and residential homes coexist. The idea was brought about by a council motion by mayor Simon Richardson.
But Mr White’s talk was not entirely embraced by all; Cr Basil Cameron challenged Mr White’s lack of public transport planning within his talk, to which Mr White replied that in regional areas such a service is not cost effective or the funds are not available.
Mayor Richardson meanwhile asked Mr White what can the state government do, ‘other than talk about supply and demand and making it potentially easier for a developer to make things happen more quickly?’
In reply, Mr White talked again about increasing supply, streamlining DA procedures and the importance of strategic planning.
He also said that templates such as the local environmental plan (LEP) could be more about ‘telling a story’ that is unique to a community.
Another question from the audience asked about new technologies and building materials and if they were considered as part of policy formulation. Mr White replied that the department does not interfere with the market in that way.
Mr White also spruiked major changes to planning law, which are now open for public comment until March 31.
Concerns have been raised over the amended laws, however; independent not-for-profit community legal centre EDO say, ‘the disparity between developer and community rights to merit appeals has not been addressed, and appeal rights continue to be curtailed.’