More affordable and social housing must be built in the Byron Shire and private developers cannot be expected to provide it without subsidy, a housing forum has been told.
Three experts addressed different aspects of the affordable-housing issue at last Friday’s forum: Our housing challenge: local communities, local solutions at the Byron Theatre.
Independent researcher Peter Mares told the forum, ‘The solution is to build more housing and to make sure that it consists of affordable and social housing.’
‘But no major party, at the state or federal level, is truly focusing on this issue.’
Later in the event, Mr Mares said that there were many opportunities to build new, affordable housing in the Shire. ‘I look around and I see so much space right here in Byron Bay. You could build medium-density two- or three-storey dwellings set back from the street to reduce the visual impact.’
As some members of the audience gasped, Mr Mares hastened to add: ‘I’m not talking about the Gold Coast, I’m talking about building housing in the centres, to stop it from spreading into the farming and forested areas that are so precious to this region’.
Councillor Paul Spooner diplomatically highlighted the key issue facing such an undertaking.
‘I think it’s fair to say that we are deeply suspicious of development in the Shire,’ Cr Spooner said.
Earlier, Dr Kathleen Flanagan from the University of Tasmania highlighted the long-running failure of the market to provide housing for those most in need.
Dr Flanagan said, ‘The only reason politicians and the media have started referring to it as a crisis in recent years is because the situation has become so bad it’s starting to affect working families – a group that actually has a voice in our society’.
‘The answer is absolutely to supply more housing, but the market cannot be expected to do it because affordable housing and social housing are not profitable.’
The third speaker, Tim Riley, spoke about a deliberative or citizen-led development model in which local community members in Melbourne had combined their resources to buy land and build medium- and high-density housing, thereby cutting out the developer.
‘By cutting out the developer, you can build homes at cost,’ Mr Riley said.
‘You’re also giving the community members a say in the type of housing they want to build, rather than having a developer speculate about what the market wants.’
Mr Riley said this cut the cost of owning a home by around 15 per cent, yet conceded it was only for those who could afford it.
During the question and answer session, a number of speakers pointed out that affordable housing projects such as the Bruns Eco-village and Lot 22 in Mullumbimby had been put forward only to be swamped by objections from the community.