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Byron Shire
April 14, 2021

Intent v actions in housing affordability

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The notion of affordable housing pricks the social conscience. Indeed it dominated the ambience at Council’s Our Housing Challenge last week.

Affordable housing must not be confused with social housing. Affordable housing is provided by the private sector, social housing by the public sector. This is the starting point for any discussion on housing.

Consideration should be given to the question: ‘Should Byron Shire be exempt from affordable housing?’ The question needs addressing because legislation targeting affordable rental in the form of secondary dwellings and earmarking a proportion of developments has failed.

The legislation fails at the outset because developers know that after 10 years the dwelling reverts to the marketplace, by which time the depreciation benefits  are mostly written off.

In Byron Shire, the cost of the land component would make affordable housing supplied by the private sector an impossibility if it is to meet its target population.

The impact of Airbnb cannot be overstated in relation to taking-long term rental stock out of the market.

The state government is not sympathetic to the part Airbnb is playing in escalating the local housing crisis. Neither is it prepared to take responsibility for providing social housing in this Shire.

In the meantime, Council has given away heritage in Mullumbimby to embrace the social conscience of affordable housing and may do the same in Bangalow. 

Tweed Council has embraced a social-housing project but the Local Government Act (LGA) does not provide for councils to do so. The legitimacy of what Tweed is doing will have to be tested.

In the meantime, as I sat listening to the speakers at yet another housing forum, I was aware that some of the attendees, while embracing the gravity of the issue, have themselves operated or are operating Airbnb. It would seem the social conscience stops when it threatens household income.

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  1. Affordable housing provided by the private sector “used” to be primarily provided by Caravan Parks.

    As a Member of the National Civil Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) at a recent hearing stated quote: “there is no affordable housing around anymore”.

    This can be directly attributed to the NSW Government and Council demanding higher and higher standards from Park Operators, along with NCAT not allowing rent increases beyond the CPI, as well as making it impossible to remove aggressive, violent “bottom feeders” who prey on other weak and vulnerable residents.

    I have had residents before the Tribunal on numerous occasions for serious matters and attempted to terminate their Residential Site Agreements. On the third occasion involving one resident the Tribunal Member once again refused to terminate stating quote: “I find the resident has committed a serious breach of the site agreement, however the breach has to be persistent.”

    I asked the Member how many times constitutes persistent before you will terminate?

    His response with a smile quote: “that is up to me to decide”

    This is democracy in action as there are more residents who vote in caravan parks than park owners.

    The result, park owners like myself close the park as the only way to remove the “bottom feeders” with the result than many innocent and needy residents end up on the street.

    The obvious answer is you can’t help those that can’t help themselves.


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