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Byron Shire
June 19, 2021

Could Mullumbimby’s Lot 22 affordable housing proposal be put on hold?

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Lot 22 Stuart Street, Mullumbimby, the site of a proposed ‘tiny home’ affordable housing development. Byron Shire Council have asked the NSW planning department for permission to rezone 22 hectares just south of Mullum’s CBD.

Paul Bibby

Plans for an affordable housing development minutes from the centre of Mullumbimby could be put on hold at next week’s Byron Shire Council meeting following a flood of opposition from local residents.

Council has earmarked a 29.2ha site behind the Mullumbimby Community Gardens, known as ‘Lot 22’ , for affordable housing in a bid to address the Shire’s worsening affordability crisis.

But in a report to be tabled at Council’s April 11 planning meeting, council staff recommend the preparation of a new study and structure plan for the site which would delay any progress on the proposal for at least six months.

Staff also recommend that there then be a further report to ‘consider the future of the planning proposal for Lot 22’, something which could spell the end of the project entirely.

The staff recommendations follow a raft of written submissions objecting to the plan, and a community consultation meeting for the site on February 6 at which scores of residents, and the SES, also voiced their opposition.

Among the biggest concerns expressed by residents in relation to the proposal was the flood-prone nature of the site.

While a Council-commissioned study found that this risk could be ameliorated through careful design, many residents disputed the data and analysis that this study was based on.

They also argued that the land in question was needed for public recreation (it is currently zoned for this use), and that a housing development would create traffic and access issues.

A small proportion of those who attended the meeting spoke in favour of the proposal, arguing that urgent action was needed to address the affordability crisis in the Shire, which is forcing out young families and frontline workers such as nurses, teachers, community services workers and police.

Some of these residents argued that trying to keep things as they are by opposing new housing development was ultimately counterproductive because it simply led to an accelerated process of gentrification in which the Shire turned into a place that was entirely populated by rich people and retirees.

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  1. Creating more homes is a BandAid on the real issue. By dealing squarely with the AirBnb/Holiday rental issue and limiting the number of days owners can rent out their homes unattended will make many investors think again before snatching up more potential housing for their investment portfolio, returning those properties to the market for sale by people who intend to live there, and many of those properties will move back to long term rentals easing the pressure on the rental market.

    First things first. Let’s see where we are once we fix the existing problems that are staring us in the face.

  2. People are encouraged to express their position about the short term holiday rental issue on page 29 of Council’s ‘ Talking Future Tourism’ – Kitchen Table Discussion Handbook 2019. Submissions close 14.4.19. I would wager that the tourist operators are flat out putting in submissions. It is really up to members of the community to counter-balance that in their responses to the survey.

    Things you may want to consider:
    (a) why hasn’t there been an audit on the Tourist Management STrategy 2008-2018 in order to more foreward
    (b) look at the figures on page 13 and 14. And I’m happy to stand corrected on the arithmetic but if Tourist income/rateable property is $30,866.67 and servicing costs are $1,533.33/rateable property and the 2.0m tourists spend $231.50/rateable property then there is a loss of $1,301.83 which may well signal the extent of subsidising ratepayers are picking up on/rateable property (business + residential + agriculture properties).

    The text book multiplier diagram on page 16 does not identify any leakages of the $465m income stream as a result of absentee property and business owners. Also, sadly, the tourist economy is supporting and indeed dependent upon low paid workers who can no longer afford to live in the Shire. They have the added burden of having to travel into the Shire to work, whilst the higher income households travel out of the Shire to work. which explains, in part the origin-destination in traffic flows.

    At a recent Kitchen Table discussion I heard of the need to encourage a ‘quality’ tourist to the Shire. Personally, I baulked, wondering what a ‘quality’ tourist would be look like. I learned that ‘quality’ is equated to higher spending tourist…..so it looks like the push is for more tourism rather than considering the impacts of the scale of tourism????? Byron’s ratepayers are unable to support the existing scale because 15,000 rateable properties doesn’t generate sufficient revenue to even catch up on the required infrastructure.

    People are definitely encouraged to get a copy of the survey and express their position on what they would like to see happening as part of an action plan for the next 10 years. One position may well be a justification for USER PAY targeting the tourist economy. At least that may make it ‘cost-neutral’ for ratepayers?????


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