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December 1, 2023

Saddle Road affordable housing EOI lodged

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Matthew O’Reilly. Photo supplied.

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.’

20 cottages

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.’

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  1. It is well known that this area is significant to Aboriginal people, you cannot let this happen these standing stones started being moved back in 1938. Now they are popping up all over the shire, Byron Bay roundabout being a cluster of these stones . It is appaling this development must not be approved under any circumstances. You are desicrating a sacred site, I suggest Council check with the rightful custodians of this site, not the ones that claim ownership

  2. Hi all, Matthew O’Reilly here. I know better than most the significance of the Saddle Ridge area for local Aboriginal people having co-authored a report on the areas significance and having had three separate Aboriginal cultural heritage assessments carried out on our farm. A short article cannot do justice to all of the factors involved in our EOI or the significance of the area. I have been widely sharing the below dropbox link which includes the full EOI Aboriginal heritage reports on the area and all the background documents on the whole Saddle Road development saga which has been playing out for over four years.
    I suggest before you criticise me you familiarise yourself with the background and you will see that I have acted with integrity, transparency and good intentions at all times and have not said one thing about the Bruns Eco Village and then done another thing for myself.
    Blessings Matthew O’Reilly

  3. It blows my mind that there is no comment below this story on how wrong this development is on pristine farmland.
    20 “cottages”. Come on, do you really think the people of Byron Shire are that dumb. You call a 2/3 bedroom house a cottage and suddenly it isn’t a 2/3 bedroom house? What do you call a person who builds twenty – yes twenty (!) – houses, if you don’t call them a developer?
    Every other affordable housing job in Byron is sledged as a grab for cash by greedy developers. But somehow this bloke is untouchable. Serious hypocrisy.
    Talking a builder I know, he will build those places for less than $250k each. So if you are getting at least $350/week rent, you are still $5k a year ahead on every house, of course all indexed to rental inflation.
    Not a bad earn on 20 “cottages” Matt? Extra $100k a year net for sitting back on the ironically named FARM, “not being a developer”.
    Wake up Byron.

  4. I appreciate your skepticism John. But if you read the EOI, which I have made publicly available above, you will see that nothing is proposed on any significant farmland. In fact all of our significant farmland is already leased to sharefarmers. We have specifically prohibited any development within 50m of any significant farmland. I also agree that the standard construction costs for each cottage would be approximately $250k each. The costs will however increase significantly to make each cottage non-flammable up to a high bushfire attack level, to fit out each cottage with 20KV of solar panels, inverters and batteries, high quality wall, ceiling and floor insulation for better energy efficiency, LED smart lighting throughout each cottage and internally wired optical fibre internet to each room. Our estimates are that each cottage will cost closer to 300K -320K for these environmentally friendly additions. However, before even a single cottage can be built our cost estimates are that we would need to spend around $2 million on earthworks, bitumen internal roads, a wastewater management system, a stormwater management system, a central community facility, centralised car parks, electrical vehicle charge stations, a water treatment facility, optical fibre to the premises, landscaping, planting of 20,000 native plants as bush regeneration and carbon sequestration in perpetuity, Mullumbimby road widening and turning lanes, an essential energy network upgrade to export any additional solar power generated and sediment and erosion control measures.
    Something like this could never be built all at once. It would have to be in many stages and it would all have to be financed with debt borrowed from the banks. We simply do not have the funds to do any of this with our own money. So if the total build cost is closer to $8 million or $9 million and it is all financed with debt Currently ten year fixed investment loans are set at about 6.5% for the four major banks. 5 year fixed rates are about 3.5%. At a 6.5% fixed rate annual interest repayments would be $520,000 to $590,000 per year. At 3.5% they would be $280,000 to $315,000 per year. If each cottage was rented for $345 per week at present rates then the maximum gross income before and repairs and maintenance costs are deducted is only $360,000 per year. Where is the massive profit you were talking about John? It simply doesn’t exist. R&M on an eco-village that size will easily chew through $100,000 – $200,000 per year (which at less than 1% of capital costs is a very low figure). At the present 5 year fixed interest rates the eco-village will continue to make a loss going forward. At the ten year fixed interest rate it would be insane to invest in it. The only way it would even be able to break even would be if fixed interest rates move to 2.5% or below. Please read the EOI link here and tell me just how the eco-village would make money? Any regular “developer’ would do teh numbers and then walk away. But we are not property developers. I get at least one call, text, email, or IM per month from a friend or a friend of a friend asking if they can move onto our farm and live in a caravan, tent, tiny house or van etc. Unfortunately every time I am obliged to say no as it would not be an authorised development by Byron Council. I have dozens of friends who have faced homelessness in Byron Shire over teh last few years as they were evicted from their homes and were unable to find another. We have homeless people camping in their vans and cars along the Saddle Road because they can simply not find anywhere to live. Even the mothers of my son and daughters have faced eviction, rental stress and homelessness sin Byron Shire. At present, we have five different share farmers leasing parts of our farm as their main source of employment. All of these people are facing rental stress or are living in sub-standard accommodation in Ballina, Shire, Tweed Shire or unauthorised housing in Byron Shire. This is not a situation I can allow to go on without trying to make a person difference. These are my friends and family that are in these situations and yet you see fit to criticise me for trying to make a difference. Shame on anyone who makes ignorant comments without bothering to read the documents I provided and not taking action yourselves to rectify this terrible situation facing our community.
    Blessings Matthew O’Reilly


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