Patricia Warren, Brunswick Heads
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.