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Byron Shire
April 1, 2023

Council staff downplay inappropriate development with new affordable housing contribution policy

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A framework to manage affordable housing contributions and ‘to deliver affordable housing on certain land identified in the draft Residential Strategy and Byron Bay town centre plan’ is up before councillors at this Thursday’s planning meeting, August 13.

It’s called The Byron Shire Affordable Housing Contribution Policy (AHCP), and staff say that while the ‘policy is not legally binding, it is intended that Council and all persons dealing with Council in relation to affordable housing contributions will follow this policy to the fullest extent possible’. 

At only eight pages, the policy covers purpose and scope, objectives, statements of intent, and strategic and legislative context. No indication of contribution amounts is mentioned. One feature of the policy is ‘upzoning’ for lands applicable to the state government’s SEPP 70 Affordable Housing Contribution Scheme, along with Voluntary Planning Agreements (VPAs) with developers. 

Tool for inappropriate development?

A submission within the report raised concerns that ‘affordable housing could be used as a tool to lever development that is inappropriate for an area’. 

It was suggested that the ‘policy clarifies that investigation areas may contain land that may not be suitable for residential development’.

Staff replied, ‘The adoption of this policy is intended to set a framework to avoid a lever situation occurring’.

‘The Residential Strategy is the more appropriate document to provide guidance on land that is suited to residential development. Procedure item 4.2 states that: A land contribution to Council for the purpose of affordable housing requires the land is fit for purpose’.

Questions around legality were also answered by staff. The Echo asked, given the policy is not legally binding, would the policy enable developers to rort the system through upzonings?

They replied, ‘Council policies are not legally binding, but are statements that outline Council’s position and governing principles about particular issues. They are formal governing documents that are adopted by Council. Their role is to ensure compliance with Council’s statutory responsibilities, set Council’s standards and improve the management of risk’.

The Echo also asked staff to confirm if the NSW government approved a SEPP 70 Affordable Housing Contribution Scheme for Byron Shire. 

They only replied, ‘A SEPP 70 update was reported to Council in December 2019’. 

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