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Byron Shire
August 18, 2022

Council to consider building affordable housing above its car parks

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Paul Bibby

No one can accuse Byron’s Greens councillors of being short on ideas to address the Shire’s housing affordability crisis.

An example of using public car parks for affordable housing. Image supplied

First came the plan to use vacant council land for affordable housing projects, then there was the idea of a tiny-house village and associated changes to local planning laws. Now a new scheme has emerged: building affordable housing above council car parks.

Picture the Cavanbah Centre car park with a two-storey housing development built above part of it and you start to get the idea.

‘As we all know, all too well, affordable housing, or housing that is appropriate for the housing needs of very low, low, and moderate-income households is in dire short supply in Byron Shire,’ Mayor Simon Richardson said in his notice of motion on the topic, which was passed unanimously at last week’s Council meeting.

Housing diversity

‘Byron Council has a long-held, and long-term commitment to strengthening and supporting our diverse community with appropriate housing.

‘As well as focusing on advocacy and partnership, Council is exploring how its own assets can be used for affordable housing. 

‘Now, we should join other councils, both nationally and internationally, who are looking to add value to their “lazy land”, or “lazy airspace”,’ he said. 

‘Lazy land’ is defined in the council staff report as any government site that is ‘currently occupied by a land use that could be mixed with affordable and social housing, but is currently not.’

According to Council, such ‘lay about’ sites in the Shire include the Council administration building car park, the Cavanbah Centre, North and South Lawson St, Byron Bay, and Station St, Bangalow.

Among the benefits of building housing above council-owned car parks, according to Cr Richardson, are: it allows low income earners to live in town centres, reduces the cost of new housing, and makes better use of existing assets.

The land would be leased to developers for up to 50 years at very low rates so that they could build housing that was genuinely affordable.

‘Affordable and social housing developers face significantly higher land costs today than in the last three decades,’ Cr Richardson said.

‘By providing land for a nominal fee, affordable housing provision is more possible. The value and therefore cost of land within the Byron Shire makes it difficult for non-profits to develop social housing.’

They also voted to invite housing providers to attend a preliminary session to explore the idea.

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  1. In this time of unprecedented housing prices, with so many people priced out of the market, rather than spend so many years trying do to the impossible: expecting developers to provide ‘affordable housing’ for low income earners, most of Byron Shires’ workers, why isn’t council, and our local MP, loudly demanding the state and federal governments provide social housing? They have plenty of money to throw at ridiculously expensive submarines, or rebuilding sports fields and moving museums in Sydney, but won’t spend a red cent on housing for Australians.

    We should all hang our heads in shame that in such a wealthy country so many are homeless, or families are trapped in the expensive, insecure rental market. Not to mention the scourge of AirBnB. If people are really concerned about homelessness don’t patronise AirBnB anywhere! Your cheap accommodation is someone else’s homelessness.

    Capitalism has been allowed to go nuts and it has to stop.

  2. Housing is not the responsibility of the ratepayer, it is the responsibility of the NSW Govt Dept of Communities and Justice. It is a bit difficult to find the appropriate Minister to voice your concerns but
    Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services, presently The Honourable Gareth Ward MP
    seems the closest, along with our local members both MLA and MLC.
    The idea that car parks can be covered by housing is just dumb. Think of the cost and the lack of accessibility. If we are considering the car park in Mullum, the building would have to made of glass for the solar panels!

  3. Another thought bubble from Council. There’s no clear definition of “affordable” housing and low income renters, the most housing stressed, are unlikely score a bed. Living above the noise and all those car fumes won’t produce a healthy environment, unless we rapidly transition to electric cars. Surely multi-storey carparks are far more practical and desperately needed, particularly on the Byron sites. Alleviating the traffic and parking issues clogging our streets is a worthy goal too. We need lots of innovation from the building sector if we want to survive into the 21 century. Where are the carbon neutral green buildings? Didn’t we declare a climate emergency? Don’t we support Planned Retreat? For the aspiring developers it’s just business as usual, more concrete and steel, more underground carparks in the flood zone, more congestion and paving over our green spaces. We can house people simply and cheaply, and create new zonings for social housing if we innovate and diversify our housing stock. Council needs to start talking to the community instead of listening to developers and trusting staff to steer them in the ‘right’ direction!

  4. “Inviting housing providers (developers)” is the key phrase here, not ‘affordable housing”. Any housing in a market saturated by non-resident investors, a rich short-term rentals market and a planning framework that refuses to enforce compliance will never provide affordable housing.
    Inviting developers to capitalise public land is not Greens policy…. yet more evidence of a not-Greens council.

  5. What a great idea! Only time will tell whether or not council will be able to make any such housing truly ‘affordable’, I suppose that will be down to the type of developers engaged as much as anything else? But this sounds very positive to me. Will watch with interest!

  6. For what I can see from this the housing options for development will be offered to community housing which currently manages all the social housing that we have in Byron Bay.

  7. Byron Is one of the world’s “most penetrated” Airbnb zones. Councillors and Council Staff should do what they are paid to do: enforce residential zoning. This would see how many homes returned to the rental market? Do your jobs!

  8. How bizarre … Affordable housing was living in a banana shed, with cold water, but it was great.

    And the Housing Commission provided ‘affordable housing’ to the poor in outer suburbs, helping the suburban sprawl.

    High density housing in country towns ?

    Another bandaid solution delivered by our visionless Green dominated Council.

    Gotta get to the root of the problem … too many people !!!

  9. If the cashed up developers had been required to provide a certain percentage of land in every new residential development in Byron Shire (and elsewhere) for social housing, built by the state government and rented at a nominal rental, it would have made a huge difference to the availability of housing for people on low incomes.

    Hoping for our local MPs, or the the state government, to introduce legislation to mandate this is probably being
    way too optimistic

    But something still has to be done to stop the rot of AirBnB. Many people who complain about the lack of affordable housing and the rents they, or their children have to pay, are happy to use AirBnB.

  10. The privatisation if our public assets and our public housing resources has been a total scam. social futures has tried to say they are providing affordable housing but the evidence says otherwise.
    Show me where privatisations have not lead to increased prices!!
    Another LNP con job

  11. I have to confess, I did not read the story..
    sorry.. a few comments…

    So .. what we are asking for are wealthy people, land development companies, with an interest in community, to be charities to Govt & the general public, is that what the council is expecting? I’m curious… how do they expect that little ‘dream’ to miraculously manifest?

    Businesses need to make money to exist. The presumption that ‘someone or someone’s’ going to magically give up their billions to act as a pro bono land group is unrecognisable nativity at the expense of the community.
    Slum lord! Great photo. Delightfully enticing..
    antbox housing. Perfect! Car fumes.. noise!

    Solutions to affordable community housing in this shire seem to be Council’s great show & tell of just how disconnected from this community council really are.

    Love & blessings

  12. Did anyone notice the last major land dev in Lennox, I think it was. Mowed down every single tree in the area. If anyone cared to look at the before & after of the beautiful Forrest that was annihilated & decimated by the development company given permission by Ballina council.

    Part of the estate rules were no front verandahs on any of the dwellings on moderate to varying size blocks.. which does not match the idea of being self sufficient or community orientated.. it minimises social connection with neighbours.. use of land in the front garden & is a total control of lifestyle., types of gardens etc.

    There is a very fine line. It’s a big responsibility with the need for loads of integrity. Hmmm!!!

    Loads of love in the world .. call in the love..
    with respect for nature, the planet, & the community..

    Love & blessings


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