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November 30, 2021

Mullumbimby high density affordable housing proposed

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A bird's eye view of the Railyard affordable housing development proposed for Station Street, Mullumbimby. Photo North Coast Community Housing
A bird’s eye view of the Railyard affordable housing development proposed for Station Street, Mullumbimby. Photo North Coast Community Housing

A two-storey affordable housing proposal between Byron Shire Council’s office carpark and the Mullumbimby Community Preschool would see six of the twenty-five one-bedroom units be ‘affordable’ in perpetuity, according to North Coast Community Housing (NCCH).

The DA for Railyard, which is on council-owned land, is on public exhibition until October 11.

Echonetdaily understands that a heritage precedent for affordable housing was set by the casting vote of Greens mayor Simon Richardson last year, when a similar, smaller proposal was approved on Station Street.

NCCH’s CEO John McKenna told Echonetdaily their proposal goes beyond state legislation, which requires a ten-year guarantee that 20 per cent of any affordable housing project be ‘affordable.’

‘Our financial projections are based on holding the social and affordable housing units for the life of the complex; our projections go out to 30 years,’ he said.

As for price, McKenna said, ‘Our financial projections were based on renting two of the six units we will retain as affordable housing at 80 per cent of market rent of $375, so we would be offering these at $300 per week. The four social housing units will be rented to applicants on the NSW housing waitlist when the project is completed. These units would be rented at 25 per cent of their income, typically this would be approximately $95 per week from their pension.’

Asked how the proposal would maintain the heritage of the town, McKenna replied, ‘The site is within the Mullumbimby Conservation Area (MCA) and is adjacent to the Council buildings.’  

Heritage

‘The concept design complies with the standards and criteria set out in the Byron DCP 2014 for infill development in the MCA and demonstrates respect to the heritage context in terms of sympathetic form, scale, bulk, design, and materials. The proposal is sympathetic to the “local character” of Station Street and will not adversely impact on the broader heritage values of the Mullumbimby Conservation Area. It will enhance the understanding of the history of the site through not only its built form and use of materials but proposed public interpretation devices (yet to be developed).’

Better outcome: Mayor

Asked if he supports the plans, mayor Richardson told Echonetdaily, ‘I haven’t seen the absolute details but it is certainly a better outcome than previously where we were going to lose the tree and only get a few blocks that would have sold for large sums. They are putting in affordable housing in perpetuity, beyond what is required and providing much needed smaller dwellings in a market that is filled with large houses, but I am concerned at the prices. Though the market will decide whether it is on the money.’ 

No social impact statement

The DA claims that as the applicant is a ‘registered tier one social housing provider’, a Social Impact Statement is not required.

twenty-five one-bedroom unit proposal for Mullumbimby
twenty-five one-bedroom unit proposal for Mullumbimby

Very good outcome

Cr Paul Spooner told Echonetdaily, ‘it is a very good outcome’.

‘This proposal will achieve a 24 per cent affordable housing outcome from a development that council is not supporting financially. North Coast Community Housing has to purchase the land at market value. 

By having to purchase the land from council this has meant the other units will need to be sold at market value as entry level accommodation.

This development also addresses the need for one bedroom housing especially for older single women.

Cr Spooner says he believes there is ‘no other development in Byron Shire that has delivered a 24 per cent affordable housing outcome in today’s housing market.’

Hopefully, in future Council will be in a position to invest in such initiatives meaning we will get even better housing outcomes for our community.’

If Council directly invested in this proposal rather than selling the land it could potentially achieve a 40 per cent affordable housing outcome.’

Cr Spooner did not answer The Echo’s question as to whether he was ‘satisfied this development proposal fits with the character of the town given the density?’

Further question to NCCH’s CEO John McKenna

How many of the 25 units will be managed as affordable? I understand the SEPP requirement is only 20 per cent.

‘Our plan is based on NCCH keeping six of the 25 units in perpetuity to be used as social and affordable housing. As there is no government grant funding currently available, we have based our financial projections on the need to sell the 19 units to allow us to cross subsidise the six for social and affordable units. When we presented our plans at a BSC strategic planning workshop recently, the councillors and council officers discussed the possibility of the Council retaining their equity as unit in the final project, rather than receive the $1.3 million as payment. Not sure what the progress towards this possibility is at present, as it is a decision for the Council, not NCCH.’

I understand NCCHC will purchase this land from council at market value. Has that cost been finalised and if so what is it?

‘As noted above the independent valuation on the land came in at $1.3 million and this is the current agreed purchase price.’

Will this development be exempt from section 94 developer contributions? I understand NCCH is applying for “clause 2.15 Exemptions tor Private Boarding Houses, Group Homes and Affordable Housing…” 

‘Yes, NCCH will be seeking a suitable discount in Section 94 contributions based on the current Council policies.’

If correct, what financial contributions will be made to Council apart from the sale? 

‘We will make Section 68 contributions in addition to the annual rates on the 6 units we will retain in the complex’.

And finally – where does NCCHC funding/revenue come from – is it mainly govt grants for example?

‘NCCH is a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity. The majority of our income comes from the rents we receive from the tenants of the over 950 properties we manage or own, in addition to the funding we receive from the NSW government to manage a leasehold program which allows us to rent over 170 of the 950 properties from the private market. Our turnover is almost $12 million per year with $10 million coming from rents and the balance from grants. We have also just received  a further $1.85 million in flood relief funding to lease properties from the private market for up to three years for people displaced by the floods earlier in the year, with a focus on Lismore and Murwillumbah.’

The DA is on exhibition until October 11 and is available at www.byron.nsw.gov.au/development-applications/2017/474/1.


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