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Byron Shire
February 24, 2024

Affordable housing project priced above market rate

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Artists impression of the front of the development at 116 Stuart Street, Mullumbimby.  Photo Byron Shire Council

Paul Bibby & Hans Lovejoy

It was trumpeted by the developer as ‘a major step forward in relieving the acute shortage of affordable housing in the northern rivers’.

But as the ‘Kollective’ unit development at 116 Stuart Street, Mullumbimby, hits the market this week, some locals are wondering whether it is making the affordable housing situation better or worse.

It throws into question councillors’ eagerness to approve anything presented as ‘affordable’ and the effectiveness of such policies.

Eight units, each consisting of one or two loft bedrooms and a downstairs work space, have been advertised on local Facebook pages for $550 to $600 a week.

This is higher than both the median rent for a three-bedroom free-standing house in Mullumbimby (around $550) and a unit ($350).

Interview declined

The manager of the development, Duncan Band, declined an interview request from The Echo.

He provided brief half-responses to our questions in writing, but was unwilling to confirm the prices listed in his company’s online advertising.

‘Market rent is still being determined by open house inspections,’ he said.

When asked whether the advertised rents were above average for the area, Mr Band referred The Echo to a general pre-written blurb, which included the claim that ‘by increasing housing diversity in the Shire, The Kollective aims to provide housing at a variety of price points’.   

Prior to receiving development approval for The Kollective, Mr Band’s company, The Kollective, promised that two of the eight units would be rented at below market rates.

When asked whether the company would keep this promise, Mr Band’s written response was ‘yes, the Kollective in [sic] currently in discussions with two housing organisations’.

No further information as to the identity of these providers, or when the two ‘affordable’ units would be available to rent, was provided.

When The Echo went to the site for a pre-arranged inspection on Monday, we found an employee padlocking the gate.

No inspection was provided.

DA supported by Greens, Labor

At Council’s November 17, 2016 meeting, mayor Simon Richardson used his casting vote – with an absent Cr Cameron – to approve the development after a long-running dispute with the developer Koho.

The plans were also championed by Cr Paul Spooner.

A Land and Environment commissioner visited the Stuart Street site on January 24, 2017 to hear residents’ concerns.

Under affordable-housing provisions within the State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPP), a 30 per cent affordable-housing component is required.

Many objections were raised from neighbouring residents at the time. They claimed it was out of character for height and bulk; the site is zoned R2 low density.

Cr Basil Cameron, who voted against, told The Echo in August 2016 that this would likely create a precedent ‘that will weaken the heritage provisions of the Byron LEP and DCP.’

He said, ‘In large part this is because of the NSW State Planning Policy (SEPP) that overrides local planning law.


‘Any time a SEPP is used, it tends to override or weaken local provisions. In this case, the precedent will have greater effect as the development is the first test of the heritage provisions in this part of town.’

While the development was led at the time by Koho’s Adam Bennett-Smith, he told The Echo recently that ‘neither I, nor Koho, have any affiliation’ with The Kollective and their developments, including the Stuart Street property.

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  1. I lived in Waianae (Hawaii) in the mid 70’s when developers wanting to build large housing development claimed to build low income rentals…yet all they did was build flats that were too expensive for the locals to purchase or rent.

    Developers used “low income housing” for a wide range of other developments on Oahu (main island of Hawaii) but it was a sham every time!

  2. A couple of units may become Community Housing (based in Lismore and Tweed Heads for the local area), perhaps (whatever constitutes 30%) where a couple of people i their own units pay 25% of their income and the govt subsides the rest, so the developer/owner gets his desired amount anyhow. As if he would do otherwise.

  3. 8 units at $600 per week = $249,600 per year to the developer. This is a scam, and councilors voted for it!
    There’s also a current “affordable housing” 8 unit proposal for 28 Argyle Street Mullumbimby.
    Submissions / objections for this D.A close on 16th January 2019.
    If you care about Mullum you need to submit an objection..

  4. The “kollective” developer may get $249,600 per year at $600 per unit.
    Pretty sweet deal if you know the right people in council.
    There’s a current eight unit “affordable housing” D.A for 28 Argyle
    Street Mullum, with objections ending on the 16th of January 2019, if you
    See the BSC website and get busy.

  5. The “kollective” developer may get $249,600 per year at $600 per unit.
    Pretty sweet deal if you know the right people in council.
    There’s a current eight unit “affordable housing” D.A for 28 Argyle
    Street Mullum, with objections ending on the 16th of January 2019, if you
    See the BSC website and get busy.

  6. I think they are really nice. We need more units like these in the Shire. People don’t want to live in large houses and pay a fortune or live in someone’s shed and these units are so much nicer than Gold Coast hi-rise. Yes, really expensive, but if there were more available they might have to drop the prices.

  7. “the NSW State Planning Policy (SEPP) that overrides local planning law”

    Why do we bother having any local councils at all?
    Roads, garbage collection, water supply etc may as well be managed by a State government department.
    Then property developers etc could just apply direct to the relevant government department to override any local concern and obliterate out heritage.

  8. What a total sham and an absolute vindication of the view that assumes all these “affordable” development “aspirations” of developers are a total load of bollox, perpetrated upon society by people without conscience or care. I would like to see who is responsible for this development on the front page of our paper expressing how getting at least 8 times the appropriate rent from a space that used to house one house can be deemed ethical or viable or wanted…a wanton abuse of power for profit…THE HORROR, THE HORROR…as captain Kurtz might have said…

  9. Remember the LNP sales pitch before the 2011 election that if elected they would reform the NSW planning laws? This was a big reason why they won government – the people of this state were angered and appalled by the corruption enabled by the previous Labor government’s planning regime.

    Now, eight years later, all sort of dodgy manoeuvres that allow developers and miners to still grab everything they desire are lawful! Some great “reform”, eh. Thankyou Honest Barry/Mike/Gladdy and your Nationals buddies!

    This legalised theft and fraud perpetrated on the people of NSW by both ALP and LNP governments will only end when enough of us STOP voting for their candidates. Simple as that.

    Or maybe in four years time I’ll again be writing that there are none so blind as those who will not see, people?

  10. Surprise! Surprise! What a gullible lot our councillors are. Simon Richardson used his casting vote to approve this development having been (as many are) mesmerised by the words “affordable housing” included in the Development Application. In doing so the approval of this development, as others have already said, has set a precedent to be used for the future change of the “look” and feel of this lovely town; and all for the sole benefit of Developer profits. Hardly an “affordable” dwelling to be seen.

    By the way, when did Adam Bennett-Smith and Koho offload the financial interest in the project? I believe Koho was the original purchaser of the site and subsequently submitted the DA which Simon Richardson and co approved. Now Adam Bennett-Smith disclaims any association. How does that work?

  11. Perhaps a law stating that they actually should be under the current median prices should be put in place before building.

    Does not sound too hard to me. Who is allowing this rort to happen? Median prices can be determined by anyone.. Council.. Real estate agents.. It really doesn’t seem like rocket science.


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