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Byron Shire
April 12, 2021

Audit of affordable housing approvals proposed by Byron Council

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Byron Council would undertake a Shire-wide audit of developments approved under the state’s affordable housing policy, under a plan by Greens Cr Sarah Ndiaye.

Under the proposal, Council would examine developments such as The Kollective in Mullumbimby, which have agreed to rent 20 per cent of their dwellings at below market rates in return for exemptions from standard planning rules.

An affordable housing project proposed for 28 Argyle St, Mullumbimby

Cost to community

The motion will come before tomorrow’s Council meeting for a vote.

Cr Ndiaye said, ‘I want to quantify what the impact has been for our community, both positive and negative, of the SEPP (State Environmental Planning Policy) on affordable housing’. 

‘There is a cost to the community from these developments in terms of amenity because they are granted exemptions on things like floorspace ratio, parking spaces, and open space. 

‘I want to make sure that if we’re going to pay that cost that we actually get some affordable housing in return.’

Scores of dwellings have been built across the Shire under the state’s affordable rental housing planning policy since it was first introduced in 2009.

Under the audit, Council staff would firstly figure out the exact number and type of developments approved under the laws. They would then determine whether the owners of these dwellings had complied with the affordability requirements they had agreed to.

There is no plan to prosecute any of the developers found to be non-compliant; rather the information would be used to inform future decision making.

However, Cr Ndiaye said the process of conducting the audit would, she hoped, encourage developers to meet their obligations.

Staff have identified that completing the audit would not be straightforward, owing to the difficulty of determining information on individual compliance.

‘Council may not have this information on file and staff may need to undertake further checks with landowners and building certifiers to ascertain compliance or not,’ Ms Burt said.

‘This may impact on the timeframe for reporting back to Council on the recommendation.’

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  1. If there are no penalties for non-compliance what is the point?
    It is a case of moral hazard where developers know Council hasn’t the will to prosecute so there is no downside for them to flout the rules.
    The same applies to illegal building in Byron shire, which is rampant. Council hasn’t the will to address illegal development (mostly housing) because of the treat of a community backlash. Meanwhile Council keeps generating more development plans based on only the approved developments (and population figures) which understate the real amount by maybe 25%.
    Not a rational situation

  2. Hats off to you Sarah after reading that a so called affordable housing unit would be about $420 per week to rent & the income needed for that rent was approximately $70k pa, it seems there is very little real affordable housing in the Byron Shire.
    At a recent meeting which was looking at the increase in Newstart social futures claimed to direct most people to the Tweed Area due to these facts.
    Seems to be another fall out from privatisations of public assets. Looking forward to the findings. Thank you


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