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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Byron Council explores community land trust option for affordable housing

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Paul Bibby

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’.

Could the creation of a Community Land Trust in the Byron Shire provide desperately needed, genuinely affordable housing for locals on low incomes?

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.


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  1. I have friends in Byron Shire being moved out of houses with nowhere to go right now. This is not a solution to the housing crisis for them. The reality is, even if this high level concept is a good idea, for Lot 22 to be developed it will take take at least 5 years – first it needs to finish getting re-zoned, then DA approved, CC approved, contracted, and then the first parts of it to be built. For the entire site to be built out – ie to provide a substantial amount of affordable housing to actually make a difference – will take more like 10 years. Those timeframes assume no interference from self-deceived and self-centred nimbyism masquerading as other-centred activism. Not to mention how difficult it will be to prove up the funding model to get it off the ground.

    This needed to be planned out 15 years ago. The housing crisis – the cliff we are going over today – has been created by the lack of sensible action over the last 20 years. Since then people have been going over the cliff, albeit at a slower rate than created by COVID conditions. Of course, there are issues with the entire system not just at a local level. And that doesn’t mean we don’t do whatever we can now. However, there are going to be crash victims for the next 10 years regardless of what we do today.

    Part of the problem is that Byron Council, driven along by people who are wasting time and resources crusading on issues that deliver no benefit, are not able to focus on the making the big moves correctly, bashed from pillar to post by elements in the community that are as loud as they are poorly informed. Those elements create an environment where it is impossible to include in the process learning from the experience of the industry typically involved in the delivery process – as they are apparently a class of sub-humans who only deserve hatred and derision. This ensures that the Council and community waste their time going down numerous dead ends, trying to fix problems on the run, rather than planning for problems from the start.

    I hope this latest idea – one that was already presented to council in almost exactly the same form about 3-4 years ago – actually delivers something on the ground for the people who need it. Unfortunately, I expect it will be both too little and too late. I’m sure that the Echo will unwittingly play it’s part in ensuring that this is the case.

  2. I suggest a council flat precinct for essential low paid workers with shuttle bus transport.
    Where will we get cleaners, food and beverage servers etc?

  3. Sounds just like the proposal put forward by the Brunz Eco Village on Saddle Road which unfortunately did not get the necessary support from Council at the time again due to the opposition of a small group of very vocal people. At least now there is recognition that it is a land affordability issue at the very base of a complex problem.

  4. a/c affair last week 200 retierd pension leased land from a private company down near down past nowra cos they never had there eyes on what was going to happen as far as the lease goes a chinses company now has brought the land and they all have been told to get out there homes r worth $400 and will lose everything


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