Labor were out in force in Byron last Friday: Federal Richmond MP, Justine Elliot, the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Regional Services, Local Government and Territories, Jason Clare, and Labor’s Byron Shire mayoral hopeful, Asren Pugh, gathered to talk about the disastrous state of housing in Byron Shire.
By coincidence, the trio watched over 1,000 young people march past them, who were demanding action on the climate crisis.
Yet despite making no commitment on taking strong action on that emergency, they were prepared to recognise that action is needed to tackle the ongoing housing crisis.
Mrs Elliot said, ‘The north coast faces a huge housing affordability crisis, a rental crisis and a homelessness crisis. In our region, we’ve seen the largest increases in house prices across the nation and our rental vacancies at just 0.3 per cent’.
Mr Clare highlighted that currently the respective state and federal ministers for housing don’t even meet, and said that if he were minister for housing and homelessness, he would bring together all levels of government.
‘You have to get the federal and state governments talking [to each other] if you want to come up with effective solutions’, he said.
It was pointed out that the definition of affordable housing, currently defined as 20 per cent below the market rate, was failing Byron and other communities around the country. However, Mr Clare was unwilling to commit to an examination of the definition, even though it was highlighted that this definition failed to provide real affordable housing in the region.
Instead, he focussed on Labor’s commitment to building 20,000 social housing dwellings and 10,000 affordable housing dwellings. He told the gathered media that, ‘we need to get the balance right between short-term holiday letting (STHL), affordable housing and social housing’ to address the homelessness and housing issues’.
Addressing the issue of the short-term holiday letting crisis that is contributing to the lack of housing in the region, Mr Pugh said that ‘under 90 days as a limit in areas for STHL are needed in the Shire to beat the business model’.
Mr Pugh pointed out that regulations need to ‘apply equally and be properly enforced. They need make the rules and regulations easy to follow. There needs to be a levy on accommodation in Byron Shire. It is the only way to get a return to the community that then supports the infrastructure and the provision of everything from playgrounds to roads’.