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The human faces of Byron’s housing crisis

Kien Hannah and her family. Photo Jeff Dawson

Kien Hannah and her family. Photo Jeff Dawson

Paul Bibby

For three weeks Kien Hannah and her family made a little cluster of mattresses and cuddly toys their home.

Unable to find a landlord or real estate agent willing to take them on as tenants, the 30-year-old, her partner, and their two little girls moved from place to place and tried to stay positive.

‘Ocea kept asking “Do I have a bed, Mummy?”,’ Ms Hannah says of her cherubic three-year-old.

‘I think she missed that security of having a place that was hers.’

Finally, after months of trawling through real estate listings, they found a house to rent in Mullumbimby just a stone’s throw from where their old house had been.

‘I am just so relieved that finally we’ve got somewhere, you know?’ Ms Hannah says.

The local mum is just one of hundreds struggling to find a home in the Byron Shire as soaring rents and inadequate housing supply force thousands into hardship and, in some cases, homelessness.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

As locals try desperately to squeeze into the painfully tight rental market, thousands of bedrooms and whole houses across the shire that could be used as homes lie empty.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that there were 2,057 empty dwellings in the Byron Shire on census night.

That’s 15.3 per cent of the region’s housing.

A further 2,300 dwellings are being underused, with one or two people living in a house that has two, three or four unoccupied bedrooms.

The statistics, from the 2016 Census, also show that the average number of people per household in Byron is 13 per cent smaller than the national average and that we have significantly more underused housing than most of the country.

Ms Hannah says, ‘I feel very angry that a basic human need for everyone is not being met even though we have these empty houses that we could be living in.’

Dr Yvonne Hartman, a housing researcher from Southern Cross University (SCU), says the equation is simple. ‘It’s self-evident that having houses and bedrooms just sitting there empty reduces the amount of housing that’s available for people to live in,’ she says.

‘It’s one part of the lack of affordable housing that’s contributing to the housing crisis.’

There are a number of reasons that so many bedrooms in the Byron Shire stand empty.

Many of the 2,057 unoccupied houses are holiday rentals or holiday homes, properties that are only occupied for a month or two during peak season and then stand empty for the rest of the year.

CEO of North Coast Community Housing John McKenna says, ‘The amount of money that the owners of these houses can get from a single week over Christmas is just incredible.’

‘There’s really no financial incentive for them to rent the houses out for the rest of the year so they just sit there.’

Many of these houses and a significant proportion of the underused bedrooms in the shire are being let through Airbnb. While this is not news for most residents, new figures have revealed the extent of Airbnb letting in the shire.  

The previously unpublished figures from independent website Inside Airbnb show that in the 12 months to April 2017, the total number of listings in the Byron Shire rose 20 per cent to 1,794.

Airbnb listings up

The biggest increase was in the number of whole houses being listed, which increased by 29 per cent to 1,204.

‘It’s whole properties being listed that are having the biggest impact,’ CEO of Anglicare North Coast Estelle Graham told a housing forum last month.

‘In the northern rivers, you’ve got 64.8 per cent of the properties listed on Airbnb being used just 69 nights of the year.

‘The rest of the time they’re just sitting there.’

‘Clearly there’s a tension between people’s right to do what they want with their home and the urgent need for housing.’

Yet the hundreds of rooms being rented out to tourists through Airbnb only account for about one-third of the 2,341 underused houses in the Byron Shire.

The remainder are homes occupied by the owner living on their own or sometimes with a partner while up to four bedrooms are unoccupied.

Ocean Shores has by far the most underused houses with 473, according to the Census figures. Byron Bay is next with 374, Mullumbimby 299, Suffolk Park 262 and Bangalow 150.

‘We have an older-than-average population in the northern rivers – there are quite a few retirees and people whose children have grown up and left home,’ says Tony Davies, chief executive of the Northern Rivers Social Development Council, Social Futures.

‘So you’ve got people in larger homes that are excess to their requirements.’

‘It is part of the issue of unused housing capacity. But no-one yet knows how much of that could be freed up. We need to start testing that.’

Downsizing prohibitive

It is the right of any home owner to live alone in a large house if they wish to.

Housing experts contacted by The Echo said those who wanted to move into a smaller home faced significant barriers to doing so.

‘There’s a lack of suitable opportunities to downsize,’ Mr McKenna says.

‘The one- and two-bedroom townhouses and units that people need just aren’t there [in the shire] and that is something we need to address.’

Christine McNeil, pictured with her grandchildren, wanted to move out of her Mullumbimby cottage but struggled to find a smaller home that was suitable in the Shire. Photo supplied

Christine McNeil, pictured with her grandchildren, wanted to move out of her Mullumbimby cottage but struggled to find a smaller home that was suitable in the Shire. Photo supplied

Christine McNeil knows better than most how hard it is to find a smaller home in the Byron Shire.

She began searching earlier this year when a brief stay by the younger of her two children came to an end.

She discovered that there was virtually nowhere to go. 

‘I was looking to downsize because I think it’s crazy for a woman alone to be living in such a large house and because I was having to keep working just to pay for the repairs,’ says Ms McNeil.

‘But when I started to look seriously, I just found that there were very few smaller houses or units on the market and those that were on there were snapped up almost immediately by investors.’

After trawling the shire’s property listings for months, she decided to move into a quiet, affordable retirement village unit in Ballina.

‘It’s quite a big thing to think about leaving the shire. I love living in the country so much and I’m having to give that up.

‘But it just doesn’t make sense living in a big house like this on my own, especially when people are homeless.’

The other major disincentive for many of those in the shire who want to downsize is the stamp duty bill that comes with buying any new home.

‘You might be living in a four- or six-bedroom house that would sell for seven figures,’ Mr McKenna says.

‘But if you’re retired and on a limited fixed income how are you going to come up with ten thousand dollars to pay the stamp duty and the other costs of transitioning into a new place?’

In 2012, a stamp duty concession scheme for seniors was scrapped by the NSW government and, despite the worsening housing crisis, there are still no incentives for older people to downsize in NSW.

Housing supply

‘The fundamental issue is that the housing supply we have in the Byron Shire in terms of price and the type of houses is not meeting the needs of the community,’ Mr Davies says.

‘And that will ultimately result in the community changing to the point where it is not a place that people want to live in any more.

‘But to address that issue of housing supply we have to address the issue of density. To create vibrant towns and communities where our artists and small-business owners and teachers can live we need to increase density.

‘That doesn’t mean cookie-cutter units built by rapacious developers. It means decent, environmentally sustainable, affordable houses that would allow Byron Bay to return to that vibrant, creative community that we all love.’

But here’s the rub: many residents strongly oppose increases in housing density because of the traffic, noise and parking issues it can bring, and some believe it will destroy the character of the towns and suburbs. These pressures are becoming more prevalent since 2011, when the council removed secondary-dwelling contributions.

Renting rules

Ms Hannah and her partner Laing Kerns-Stokes agree that building more affordable housing is important, but believe there are also changes that should be introduced closer to the coalface first.

These include changing the renting rules to ensure tenants have enough time to find a new home if they’re forced to leave, and requiring property managers to consider individual needs rather than just money when choosing among rental applications.

They also believe that landlords should be forbidden from discriminating against prospective tenants on the grounds that they have kids.

‘We had people literally say “Well we don’t really want kids, I just don’t really want them around”,’ Ms Hannah says. ‘I don’t think you should be allowed to do that… it just comes down to human decency.’

For more on renters’ rights, visit www.rentersrights.org.au.


29 responses to “The human faces of Byron’s housing crisis”

  1. Larry says:

    Oh how come I can’t live for little or no rent. In double bay or manly or noosa or byron??. Because other people have bought that property as it was offered up by the govt. it’s not a housing crisis it’s a cycle. If you want to live somewhere that has no more land available then you need to pay someone that lives/owns there a premium to move away so you can take their spot. My parents couldn’t afford to live where Thier parents lived and I can’t afford to live where my parents lived and so on. You can’t oppose every new land release and development and then whinge about scarcity which creates hi rent and land prices. Get smarter people and find the next new great place to live in this amazing country. There was a saying in Australia that we don’t here to much anymore because of the Pc brigade and that was. ” have a go ya mug”. We used to have a “can do” attitude and take the piss on the whinging poms. We seem to have become the whingers. This topic has just become an easy target for the media to sensationalize. Stop blaming everyone else. This country still has more opportunities than most on this planet. Rip into it!!!!!

    • Robyn Hobbs says:

      One of the reasons that we bought our house in Kingsley St Byron Bay, 20 years ago is that is was cheaper than buying on Sydney’s northen beaches where we lived at the time. Fashion is what made Byron so expensive and popular over the last 20 years or so. It happens, as Larry points out. You can not just expect that a place will just accomodate you because you like it. What is to like about living in a place with such horrible rental rules. Parts of the GC are no more busy than Byron with much easier rents and rules – still within easy visiting distance of Byron. Get in early and find the next great place especially around Tilba Tilba on the south coast just gorgeous!

    • Toni says:

      Exactly. There are plenty of little towns moving at a pace of Byron 20 yrs ago.. where the hippies and artists are now converging, now that the ego does not need to be soothed by ‘I’m from Byron’ ….. be a community builder instead of a destroyer clambering over each other in the quest to love Byron Shire to death. Too many people have diluted the Community that I sought out 20yrs ago. I was reluctant to leave two yrs ago, but we did and my mind can breathe, the beaches and cafes are uncrowded and I have been able to instigate some of the things I miss from ‘home’ into my new community. Just like moving to Byron in ’97 this has been my next best move. The answer my friends, is blowin’ in the proverbial.

    • Paul Bibby says:

      Hi Larry, I’m the author of the article, thank you for your comments.
      I think there is definitely some truth to the fact that with the process of gentrification, each generation finds it hard to live in the same place as their parents did.
      I also agree with the notion of ‘having a go’ – that we create our own destinies.
      But I also believe in a fair go.
      There are many people living in the Byron shire who are working hard and doing their best but, because of inequalities and inefficiencies in the house market, can’t afford to live here.
      Should they really have to pack up and leave, taking their kids out of school and leaving their support networks behind? What if they’re a single parent whose ex-partner still lives locally?
      I think we need a balance.
      Yes, we need people to work hard, but we also need a fair go for all, especially if that can be achieved through sensible development and changes to government policy.
      Paul Bibby

    • Zeke says:

      Larry, it seems you are completely out of touch with the modern world and it’s social concerns. These are complex social problems that require deep thinking and intelligent problem solving from an anthropological perspective. You’re comment is arbitrary, pointless, and just plain idiotic. You also need to learn how to spell.

  2. Joe says:

    If you cant afford to live in an expensive town, you cant live in an expensive town. Move to a cheaper one. I cant afford the rent or house prices to live in wategos beach, so i dont. If you cant afford to live on the river in Brisbane, you dont, you live in the outer suburbs. Same applies with byron bay. Its now an exclusive and highly expensive town (thats not going to change, accept the reality). Move somewhere you can afford and face reality, i.e clunes, ballina, Lismore, cheaper areas of mullum

  3. Nais says:

    I cannot believe people feel it is their ‘right’ to live in Byron Shire! What a joke- get a reality check and move somewhere you can actually afford to live. I grew up there, I went to university- took 10 years to pay off my HECS loan, got a job I hate to pay a mortgage on my home in Byron Shire.I’m still paying this mortgage and will be for the next 30 years. I did all this so that I would NEVER be evicted or dictated to by someone else about where I should live. If you want control over your housing, you need to make the choices which will allow you this freedom. Move 2 hours south to the New England Tablelands and buy a house for under $200,000- the mortgage will be cheaper than Byron Shire rent and guess what no one will kick you out. Move to Lismore if you can’t bear to be away from Byron. It is unrealistic to think that the government should provide you with cheap housing just because you want to live in Byron Bay. I am currently living away from my home and I have great tenants renting it that I treat well. It is not my fault they have to rent, but the reality is I can move back in to my house whenever I want, and if I don’t want kids living there, that is also my choice, not yours. I should not have to accommodate your choices just because you think it’s unfair no landlord will rent you a cheap house in the middle of one of Australia’s most sought after coastal towns. Get a grip.

    • serena ballerina says:

      Well said.
      When I was newly married, we set our goal to work & save for a house, which we did, raised a family etc. In contrast one of my sisters said then she didn’t want to be “tied down” like that. Her “freedom” was more important.

      Now that we are in our 60’s, I am content to have my own home, but she is stressed, anxious about their lease being terminated (after moving many times in her life) and – dare I say it – jealous of my situation.

      Certainly there are mitigating circumstances in life, especially health, accident etc but also there is choice, to knuckle down & work towards goals.

      Perhaps it was easier a couple of generations ago?

    • Nathan says:

      Nobody is saying they have a ‘right to live in Byron.’
      Low income families are saying they have a right not to be forced to move every 6 to 12 months at the whim of a landlord who just wants to boost their property investment with no care to whom it affects.
      INSERT REALITY CHECK HERE.
      Most landlords can’t genuinely afford the multiple properties they own, that’s why they get people less fortunate than themselves to pay their mortgages for them and claim negative gearing.
      As someone else on this forum aptly said, that is parasitic.
      Moreover, why should a child and their parents be forced to leave their friends and community to go to some isolated place away from who they love (as you suggest) just so a small gaggle of investment property owners and their real estate cohorts can keep pushing land prices and rental costs higher and higher??
      Get rid of negative gearing, raise land taxes and enforce long term leases (minimum 5 years) and then we’ll see who the so-called privileged ones actually are…
      Answer? It’s the landlords.
      Blaming property inequality on low income people is supercilious, fatuous and is actually a form of bullying.
      Fair go mate.

    • Liss says:

      I agree with Nais. It’s all about choice. Single mothers can choose to work, buy property in Suffolk and rent it out. I’m not the only one who has done it and I won’t be the last.
      I know a number of home owners on Airbnb who rent their home out in peak times and go away themselves. It doesn’t mean the house is empty the rest of the year or when it’s not booked on Airbnb.
      It’s about personal priorities, choice and actioning it.
      Downsizing doesn’t mean cheaper. Having done this in the past year with my home the cheaper option would have been to stay alone in my larger home. The benefits of not moving for retirees include established support networks eg medical, community and services.
      I wouldn’t want the landscape changed with units and townhouses for too many reasons to list.

  4. Jay Gee says:

    Illegal holiday letting in Byron Shire is the main cause for low vacancy rates of permanent rental housing. Any that is available is generally unaffordable.

    Australian and overseas research will back this up.

    • Paul Bibby says:

      It’s great to see the passions stirred by this story.
      One thing worth considering is what will happen to the Byron Shire if, as a few of you have suggested, we don’t take action to try and make housing affordable and instead suggest that those who can’t afford to live their move elsewhere.
      The experience of other regions, both in Australia and overseas, is that the character is lost and lost for good. Nurses, teachers, police and other low-to-middle income earners who contribute significantly to the community can no longer afford to live there on a long-term basis and so they leave, taking their experience and knowledge with them.
      And here’s the thing: If we don’t do something to address the affordable housing crisis, then it will just continue spreading to the Next Great Place and the next and the next.
      Put simply, the housing crisis, if unchecked, will be ‘Coming Soon to A Town Near You’..
      I suppose the question is, do we want to do something about it or not

      • Dee says:

        Hi Paul,
        As the author of this story I really think you should be reporting facts, rather than spouting the first thing that comes into your mind to suit your point of view. I would like to know which regions you refer to when you state “The experience of other regions, both in Australia and overseas, is that the character is lost and lost for good”? London? Barcelona? Monte Carlo? Sydney? Melbourne?…. All more expensive than Byron and are constantly voted among the best places to live in the world. If you know somewhere that has suffered as you state I am very interested to hear, if not, please stick to facts, not fake news.

  5. Al says:

    Wow, if this is the representative opinion of Byron then getting out is a good option.

    A sustainable system thrives on diversity, it is not divided between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. Diversity creates resilience, the ability to adapt to shocks and changes. I look around Byron and I don’t see a great deal of diversity or resilience.

    This whole generational divide is rubbish, why on earth should it be the “I’ve got mine” generation, versus the “Entitled advacado on toast” generation?

    Both generations need each other. How interesting (or resilient) will Byron Shire be when you chase away all the altenative living and all the youth and turn it into a big old negative gearing paradise? And how decrepit and stale would Byron Shire be if it didn’t have an influx of interesting people willing to invest in their new home.

    Chase away the renters and watch what happens when we experience a down-turn in tourism. Chase away the investors and see how a broke council can get even broker.

    This whole narative of what used to be is hopeless, on both sides. Australia is not the land of opportunity that it once was, nor is it the land of equality. We may have it better than some, but the place is following in the steps of the US to become a haven of income inequality and rampant nationalism.

    The only hope is community, and seeing the complete absence of empathy here, I’d say we’re buggered.

  6. Nika says:

    Part of my submission to council…food for thought so I’m sharing.

    We all choose to live here first and foremost for the natural beauty of our diverse environment here and the combined relaxed and somewhat alternative country and beach lifestyle our shire is famous for. We have a real opportunity to be a showcase region for eco-living, sustainability, self-sufficiency, permaculture and organic food if we have a council that is willing and able to help us make this a reality. My hope is that you will all be a part of history by being the forebearers of this evolution.

    As the old saying goes ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results’.

    It’s really not that difficult to instigate change for the betterment of all people in the shire if one applies logical thinking and sets aside greed and profiteering for a moment, please – indulge and give serious thought to the ideas below.

    Major concerns:

    Affordable housing in the shire. This is not only about rental prices but also buying prices. So many lack long-term security.
    Holiday letting preventing locals from utilising these rooms and residences as a secure home.
    Over development benefiting only the greed and profiteering of investors, real estate agents and banks.
    Degradation of local (and national) natural environment, flora and fauna habitats again due to greed, profiteering and an insane premise of infinite growth on a finite planet.
    Food security on a local. national and international level.
    Lack of respect and knowledge of the indigenous people, their knowledge and culture.
    I’ll also include wwoofing hosts as an issue in our shire as too many are taking advantage of locals and visitors. A 20hr week for a room or 25-30hrs a week for room and board ensures the host gets the better end of the deal and the wwoofers are working for way below minimum wage.

    So let’s look at some other factors to consider:

    A diverse population requires diverse solutions to housing affordability. We all have different needs for required housing be it if you’re single, single parent with children, have a large family, indigenous peoples or elders. We need ways to benefit all members of our community.
    Not all people want to live in in an apartment or a suburban enclave a few meters from neighbours with little privacy or nature around us although this suits many people too.
    Some people love to garden and grow food, others prefer to spend their time on other pursuits and buy their food.
    Some people love to be involved in bush regeneration, permaculture and building of community and others don’t.
    Many people are simply not in the position to ever afford to buy a home or land and let’s be realistic – some choose not to participate in the economic slavery in the form of a mortgage to a bank. And that’s ok too.
    The cost of providing council housing, emergency housing and food vouchers, retirement homes for elders and unemployment subsidies is huge and a huge proportion of that money could realistically be utilised beneficially and appropriately to enable more people to become less or not at all dependant on these existing social schemes.

    So let’s look at some solutions to consider:

    1 – The most logical and easy idea is for Council/Government to provide and implement long-term (99years) very low cost leases ($300 a month maximum including rates) of crown/council land of around 2-3 acres in size that willing and able locals could then at their own expense place or build a tiny/cob/straw bale house that is self sufficient/off grid.
    Another option is low cost rent to own lots – seeing as council and crown land is being sold off anyway, it should benefit local people not overseas investors. Some of this land could and should be given back to local indigenous elders to enable building of communities if they wish or participating in the other models presented.
    The land will be utilised for a combination of native regeneration/permaculture/organic small scale farming enabling an income to the leaseholder as well as a secure homestead and peace of mind in small community type clusters. This enables communal resources like tools, seeds, knowledge and labor to be easily shared with neighbouring lots. Local environment for flora and fauna will improve beneficially and well as an influx of clean organic food into the local economy in our shire and can be sold locally or to close towns and cities.
    Council/Government can pre-approve several designs for these homes to avoid the lengthy and costly council approval process and provide grants or interest free loans to those that need them to help them set up.
    A solution like this will help with unemployment/underemployment, homelessness, affordable housing, mental health issues and food security for many people while saving the council money at the same time as providing a modest income for council. When granted the land rights certain guidelines are in place such as that within 2 years it must be utilised or it will be given to someone else.
    This idea can also be encouraged amongst private land owners as long as they pertain to the same guidelines of fairness and stability for the lease holder. All the farmers with 100acre+ blocks could be encouraged to lease out 5+ suitable 2acre lots for this use too that are held in perpetuity even if they sell the land, this will also help them have extra income of $1500 a month on 10 acres and at the same time not affect their principle farming income of dairy etc. They are struggling enough.
    This idea will enable people to be self sufficient and not dependant on social securities within a very short time. There are many people in this area who can and will make this happen if given the opportunity. It’s a win win on all levels.

    2 – How easy is it to only allow developments for eco-villages instead of ordinary suburbs! Any and all proposed new developments must adhere to environmental and sustainability guidelines set by council. Solar/clean energy a must, rainwater collection a must, composting toilets a must, greywater recycling into gardens a must, space to grow food a must, bike paths a must, community garden a must, centralised community transport like shuttle buses and carpooling suggested and encouraged. Even local small schools can be set up within these communities along with different sizes and types of dwellings to suit all types – singles, youths, families, elders. See Bruns Eco Village as a perfect example of what our future looks like. Our shire could be a living example of a better way to live in harmony with nature and each other.

    3 – For those not willing or able to farm land or buy a home in an eco-village we need other options too. Let’s look at a way we can help elderly people, differently abled people and single parents for example. We already have council homes, now if some were sold to raise capital to utilise the above eco-village idea as a council estate providing 1 bed dwellings to elders and 2-3 bed dwellings for single parents. They would pay a very reasonable amount of rent under $300 a month to maintain affordability for pensioners and others on social payments. But the difference being the option of rent to own in particular for the single parents for example. We would have a situation of elders being able to offer time and skills to help out the single parents while they are at work, improving mental health of elders who may find themselves cast aside into nursing homes in todays society, the children will benefit from wisdom of elders, all can participate in growing food in the communal gardens etc as written above. Many local jobs will be created by all the above ideas as well.

    4- Rental prices capping. What some unscrupulous landlords get away with charging for a house not to mention a ramshackle shack or caravans is astounding.
    5 – Establishing fair work guidelines for wwoofing positions to ensure fairness of labor exchange to make it fair for both parties.
    6 – Fining the holiday letters – it’s ridiculously easy to find them on Air BnB etc – a $5000 fine for hundreds of places makes an excellent income for the council and then council will not have to put rates up, can fix roads and improve tourist infrastructure without impacting local taxpayers to bear the brunt of these costs. The all those available rooms and houses can be on the rental market to provide much needed homes (under a rental cap to maintain affordability of course).

  7. Peter Hatfield says:

    One contributor to the problem is the refusal of the government to include the family homes at all in the assets test for the aged pension. Older couples or single people who want to pass assets to their family prefer to stay in high value homes, tying up assets and increasing their pension. I suggest the Government include the value of family home above a reasonable amount be included in assets; I suggest the amount be set at the average value of a home across Australia. Those above the limit could have any pension topped up to its current rate, but the top-up would be recovered from the estate much as a HECs loan is recovered from earnings. That would free up some homes in expensive arrears, and ensure the welfare system is not supporting someone’s choice to live in a high value home and the only real looser will be their kids inheritances.

  8. Dianna says:

    My family and I relocated to the region late last year so that my teens could finish their schooling at a Steiner School (not an option in our hometown). Finding suitable rental accommodation has been a nightmare. My partner and I are a Special Needs Educator and a Mental Health Nurse. We have good jobs and an impeccable rental history. Our rental applications were rejected for reasons such as the ages of our children. Apparently, teenagers are all vandals these days, and left unattended they will have wild [email protected] Our tiny Chihuahua dog has also been an issue, although the same Chihuahua hating landlords would allow cats.

    In the end, we moved to an area near Lismore and commute into Byron. Once the kids finish school, we are out of here. Who wants to live in a place where only wealthy people with no children, pets or individuality are welcome.

  9. James says:

    Buy a property and run it at a virtual loss. Use someone in a less fortunate situation to pay it off for you. If thats not parasitic i dont know what is.

  10. Paul Harrison says:

    Oh my goodness the comments to this issue are on one hand informitive, great ideas but overall very humurous.
    Im from the northern rivers love to visit the area when I can, but straw bale houses and asking landlords to cut down rent and not advertise on airbnb with a $5000 fine?
    Unfortunately ‘you can’t stop progress’ ,you also can’t stop life and other people taking advantage of the principles of supply vs demand.

    This is general stuff you learn in school.
    I agree there definitly needs to be housing provided for the chef, the baker, the waiters the bar staff the lower paying jobs etc.
    Yes there need to be affordable housing, good luck asking the government, if the government were a private organisation, there would be money left over for things like housing affordability.

    Its simple move away or get a higher paying job.
    Byron has been unaffordable since the early 2000’s, this is not a new problem.

    • Nathan says:

      It has very little to do with so called ‘supply and demand.’ It has much more to do with laws that enable wealthier people to pretend to be super rich with their ‘property portfolio’ which is another term for just being ‘parasites’ and then pretend they have nothing to do with the inequality of the housing problem so they can blame the poor as being ‘privileged’ ones just because low income families want stability for their families and to live in close proximity to their friends.
      When people say things like, “just get a better paying job” they show just how ignorant they are.
      How about eradicating all ‘investment properties’ instead?
      Just own what you live in and stop being greedy.
      You know, ‘a fair go.’

    • Nathan says:

      It has very little to do with so called ‘supply and demand.’ It has much more to do with laws that enable wealthier people to pretend to be super rich with their ‘property portfolio’ which is another term for just being ‘parasites’ and then pretend they have nothing to do with the inequality of the housing problem so they can blame the poor as being ‘privileged’ ones because low income families want stability for their families and to live in close proximity to their friends.
      When people say things like, “just get a better paying job” they show just how ignorant they are.
      How about eradicating all ‘investment properties’ instead?
      Just own what you live in and stop being greedy.
      You know, that Australian concept of ‘a fair go?’

  11. Nathan says:

    All these people saying ridiculous things like “can’t afford it, then just move elsewhere.”
    Where is your heart and your brain?
    Seriously.
    A poorer family has to leave all their long established friends and their children have to leave their friends to move to some cultural desert or isolated location just because the government is unwilling to address this greedy ‘investment property’ negative gearing nonsense?
    At least Victoria has started addressing the renter’s rights by enforcing 5 year leases that landlords must adhere to if it is requested.
    How else will poorer families raise their children with stability in one place if they are forced to move on every 6 to 12 months just because some rich person who earns their cash by owning multiple properties decides they want to profiteer by selling up?
    With school zoning coming far stricter these days, a low income family has to keep ripping their kids out of their school to go to another and another each time they’re forced to move.
    Landlords shouldn’t have that power over low income families as it has negative impact upon the mental health of low income families and therefor the community at large.
    Stop picking on the lower income families and start picking on those cashing in on the inequality.
    Byron (and NSW in general) needs to enforce longterm (5-10 year) leases. The federal government needs to abolish negative gearing and raise land taxes.
    Can’t genuinely afford to own multiple homes on your own income? Then you can’t afford multiple properties. Simple.
    Why should poor families pay your mortgage for you? It’s sickening. You and the real estate industry should hang your heads in shame if you stand by such unethical greed.

  12. Dee says:

    Glad to see I am not the only one who thinks the age of entitlement has to end! Some people really do need a reality check. The facts of the matter are that the Byron Shire is a cultural, scenic and lifestyle paradise. World and Australia wide, comparable areas always come with a premium price tag, to simply arrive on the scene and think that the government, or landlords should provide you with affordable accommodation is simply ridiculous.

    This article paints a picture of mega rich landlords sitting in Melbourne or Sydney, eating up 15.3% of the areas accommodation, when this just simply isn’t the case! I myself have had to move away from this beautiful location for work, to save and pay for my mortgage. I would be included in that 15.3% and resent the fact that some people are angry that my home is unoccupied on Census night (sorry I’m not home, I’m away paying taxes and stuff!!).

    Another quick search of the ABS website will show that comparable towns from Evans Heads to Rainbow Beach have an unoccupied from 13% – 48%, so the Byron Shire is on the lower end of this scale (inaccurate as it is).

    I have lived I many rental properties in the area and agree, it is expensive. At times it has been too expensive and I have had to move. In Brisbane you can get a three bedroom apartment in the city for $400 a week and there are a lot more employment opportunities than exist in Byron, go to Gladstone and you’ll get a 4 bed with a pool for $250, as stated by one of the earlier contributors its simple economics, supply and demand, high school teaching.

    This “Housing Crisis” is not what some would want us to believe.

    I agree, it is expensive, it’s also paradise.

  13. Leanne Wilson says:

    Maybe if the people in the story washed their hair and got a job, they’d have more luck finding a rental property

  14. Nais says:

    James, I really object to your comment ‘Use someone in a less fortunate situation to pay it off for you’ as being parasitic. I will say once again- if you choose to live in Byron Shire, you choose to pay the rent being asked. My tenants chose to rent my house- I did not ask them to live there, they could choose to live somewhere much cheaper any time they like. Yes the rent they pay contributes to my mortgage, but it by no means pays it off, and they do not pay my rates, the pump when it breaks down, installation of TV, and all other maintenance costs. It is a choice to get a mortgage ( if the bank will lend it to you) and it is one that many people are not prepared to do- not wanting to be ‘tied down’ to a mortgage but the first ones demanding someone give them a cheap house by the sea.
    Dianna- Byron does not hate kids, pets or individuality, that’s just your sour grapes about not being able to find a rental. Maybe stop pouring money into Steiner schooling and put a deposit on a house.There are other steiner schools in other areas you could have chosen, but I bet you had an idea about Byron that has not panned out the way you wanted it to. My tenants have dogs and chooks. A common theme I see is people moving to Byron for some outdated idea of what they think it will be- peace love and happiness, where we can all just not work, spend our days frolicking at the beach and growing vegetables and everyone will love each other and we can all live in paradise for free because we all deserve it. What nonsense. I agree that this is not a new problem, Byron has been expensive for almost 20 years, get used to it. People on this post are saying but if everyone moves away we will lose the essence of Byron- well newsflash- the essence of Byron is totally different to what it was when I was a kid, 30 years ago. It has already changed. The original people have already HAD to move away to make way for this new breed of people who claim that ‘their’ Byron is now being ruined. It was my Byron long before that. It’s called the inevitability of progress and the mass swarming to move to a cool town and come up with ‘new’ ideas like sustainability and organic farming. I mean really this is so funny- my parents were living with solar power and growing organic food on a commune 30 years ago outside Lismore. Some hipster opens a clean eating restaurant and farm in Byron and suddenly it’s a new idea??? Crackers. I better stop writing. I’m currently working night duty 3 hours from Byron to pay off my mortgage…oh sorry I mean to supplement my income while my poor disadvantaged renters get to live in Byron.

  15. Paul says:

    The above comments lift a lid on a septic tank

  16. Al says:

    Hahaha, this is all so way off the mark. Does anyone actually believe any of this or is this just a babble of self-interested rationalisation?

    The comments that say “Why should the government subsidise your living arrangments?”…. What do you think negative gearing is! It is a subsisdy for the wealthy, or for those who are looking to find their way into the upper-middle bracket. Not saying that it shouldn’t exist, just that it should be offset so that rental prices don’t become unaffordable – and the gap doesn’t widen!

    This is so much more than just Byron. Granted Byron should have allowed for mixed-use housing around the shire (rather than just housing developments), with much greater densities in less eco-sensitive areas, but who really cares about Byron? Give it to the wealthy, they can sub-divide it to their hearts content. It was the freaks who fought to make it what it is, and once the freaks go it will be like any other coastal tourist hole.

    Bugger it. It will be sad to see the hinterland get whored out though.

    This is much bigger than Byron. The division here misses the point that it is exactly the governments role to ensure that we don’t end up with socio-economic segregation. Are we too stupid to learn from lessons from the past.

    The housing bubble could burst at anytime, but we keep driving up those prices, flipping over-inflated houses and pushing rental prices through the roof. It will burst, and there will be cries for empathy for all the people who got burnt, very similar cries to the ones for empathy for those experiencing housing stress.

    Even if you have no interest in equality you have to see that this idea of shipping the poor away is just dumb. Who will make all the latte’s?

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