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Byron Shire
October 25, 2021

One man’s vision for an affordable-housing development

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A 100-acre lot could accommodate approximately 300 homes and 500 people, says planner John Sparks, which is ‘half the normal low density of six houses per acre.‘ It is also designed to be sustainable with energy, water, waste and food. Illustration John Sparks

Does NSW planning law adequately provide affordable housing for those subjected to the ever-increasing wealth divide?

Semi-retired planner John Sparks doesn’t think so, and has just published Empowering People to be Self-Sufficient, a manifesto to ‘empower individuals to work with nature in providing our basic needs of shelter, warmth and food so we can interact within our society to fulfil our purpose and grow together.’

It attempts to look beyond the standard tools of legislation and policy, something Sparks believes is part of the problem. The aim is to create ‘a new model that will make the old paradigm obsolete.’

Easy answer

Sparks writes, ‘The answer to affordable housing is easy. All you do is get a 100-acre (40.5 Ha) block of land and put 300 prefabricated modular houses on it ranging in size from studio to three bedrooms and rent them accordingly for $200 up to $260 per week. This rental is based on people living full time onsite and giving six hours per week of their time for ongoing community activities and maintenance.’

Sparks says an agreed sum of money could compensate the co-op for those six hours if a tenant is unable to do the work.

‘As a bonus, we can make this totally self-sufficient in energy, water, waste and food and zero carbon using current proven technology and rehabilitate the land as a natural environment that provides all the needs of those who live there.’

His example of 300 houses on 100 acres would accommodate approximately 500 people ‘with no restrictions on age, socio-economic status, race, creed or employment.’

Community facilities include open-space play areas, forest discovery trails, walking and cycle trails, a food hub, craft hub, community meeting centre, shop, cafe, childcare centre and administration facilities.

To achieve the model, Sparks says the rural lot should be under one ownership and all infrastructure services need to be contained within the site. All residents should be involved in running their own community and ‘be responsible for everything within the site.’

Experts would be employed in energy, water, waste and food to train, manage and oversee the projects

‘The property market and political system are all about extracting money into their separate agendas, which is then reflected in real estate market prices to pay for all the parties involved in the development process, which then makes it unaffordable for low-income people.’

Sparks can be contacted on 0417 088 806 or by email [email protected]

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