Could the creation of a Community Land Trust in the Byron Shire provide desperately needed, genuinely affordable housing for locals on low incomes?
This is the question that Councillors will explore at this week’s planning meeting as they continue their efforts to address what the Council is now calling the Shire’s ‘housing emergency’.
With the cancellation of Bluesfest set to put further strain on some household budgets, the need for housing solutions has become more pressing than ever.
Under the Community Land Trust model (CLT) being considered, the land component of a residential property is owned by a community based, not-for-profit entity, while the building is owned or leased long-term by an individual household.
Byron Council is considering setting up such an entity so that Council-owned land on two sites in Mullumbimby – the old Mullum hospital and Lot 22 – could be used for affordable housing.
By removing the land cost, the overall cost of the housing is significantly reduced.
The CLT would charge an ongoing ground lease to the household, but this could be heavily subsidised to ensure that the housing is genuinely affordable for those on low incomes.
‘CLTs offer householder’s many of the benefits of home ownership, including householder’s control over a dwelling, security of tenure and transfer of occupancy rights, and the potential for some asset wealth building,’ Council staff said in a report attached to the agenda of this week’s meeting.
‘The ground leases on which the homes are built are inheritable, and properties on leased land can be bought and sold at prices determined by a resale formula spelled out in each CLT’s ground lease.’
‘The intention is that, rather than the initial subsidy dissipating when the household sells; the community partner’s ongoing financial interest ensures the home will remain affordable for future households.’
The plan being considered by councillors at this week’s meeting would see Council set up an independent entity to manage the land trust – Byron Shire Land Limited – with the permission of the Minister for Local Government.
Once permission has been obtained to set up the entity, Council would then explore how the entity could be funded and resourced.
It would then draw up a Memorandum of Understanding between council and the legal entity to ensure the latter’s independence, and then secure parts of the land at Lot 22 and the old hospital as assets to be held by the new entity.
‘The establishment of a Byron Shire Land Trust has been raised directly with the Minister for Planning and Minister for Local Government,’ the staff report states.
‘The support of both will be necessary if Council is to take the next steps as per the report and recommendation.’
However, the use of Lot 22 and the Old Hospital site for housing is almost certain to draw strong opposition from sections of the community.
The proposed development of Lot 22, in particular, has previously been criticised as being an inappropriate use of the site from an ecological, socially and planning perspective.
The use of the old Mullum hospital site for affordable housing has also been criticised by those living nearby because of the potential impacts on local amenity, and the lost opportunity for other projects, such as provision of supported accommodation for older people.
It remains to be seen whether the worsening housing crisis has shifted the views of these opponents.