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