Councillor hopeful for the September 12 election, Matthew O’Reilly, says he has again submitted an affordable housing expression of interest (EOI) with Council for his Saddle Road property, located near Uncle Toms.
Saddle Road landowners were invited by Council to include their property in the Rural Land Use Strategy, ‘as a priority site/s for future rural lifestyle living opportunities with a provision of at least 80 per cent affordable housing in the form of intentional eco-communities’.
A letter dated January 30, 2020 says, ‘Council staff consulted with the Saddle Road community in August 2017 and again in February 2018 in response to Council resolutions regarding the future planning of the Saddle Road area, and early implementation actions to deliver affordable housing as part of the Residential Strategy’.
O’Reilly’s proposal is for ‘twenty, 60m2 cottages nestled together to form a small hamlet among the native rainforest regeneration we are undertaking on the property.’
The EOI says, ‘We are not proposing an extensive new sub-division.
‘The 20 cottages would be clustered within a three-hectare footprint. Each cottage would contain two bedrooms plus a study loft, a bathroom, toilet, kitchen, lounge/dining room and front and rear covered verandahs. All twenty (20), or 100 per cent of the cottages would be rented as perpetual affordable housing to agricultural workers within Byron Shire who share the same farming ethic as [our] farm.’
O’Reilly’s rental estimation for affordable housing is based on 2016 Census data, which would be $55 per week less than the Byron Shire median rent of $400.
O’Reilly says, ‘I have run the application by the Saddle Ridge Local Area Management Planning Association (SRLAMPA) members to see if they think it is ok, and I have had no negative feedback so far.
‘I did it on the spur of the moment the day the EOI closed.
‘We haven’t got the money to build it at the moment, but I wanted to set some high standards that Council would be required to consider when approving other eco-villages’.
O’Reilly was very vocal in his criticisms around the process to approve the now-scotched Bruns Eco Village (BEV) project by the Dalys on the other end of Saddle Road, near the Bruns highway interchange. That high-value agricultural land is now slated for rezoning to industrial under Council’s recently adopted Business Industrial Lands Strategy (BILS).
O’Reilly says he acknowledges he will be attacked as a ‘developer’ yet he also feels that the affordable housing crisis is everyone’s responsibility, and if he can make a difference as a private individual, then he feels an obligation to do so.
‘The EOI as submitted does not allow room to make any real profit, but it does provide further opportunities for affordable intentional eco-villages throughout the Shire’.
O’Reilly adds his proposal addresses ‘what SRLAMPA saw as troubling compromises around the original BEV proposal, such as Aboriginal heritage, significant farmland and endangered ecological communities.’