Two ideas put forward by Byron Council to help locals at risk of homelessness have hit a fatal speed bump in the form of a Council staff report, suggesting they are unfeasible.
But councillors at last week’s meeting refused to be deterred, putting forward new options designed to address the Shire’s worsening housing crisis.
Earlier this year, councillors voted to explore the possibility of setting up temporary vanpacker hubs for those locals who have been forced by the severe shortage of rental accommodation to live in their cars or vans.
In the same motion, put forward by independent Councillor Michael Lyon, it was resolved to investigate options for establishing emergency accommodation for women in local caravan parks and backpacker hostels.
The ideas received unanimous support from councillors, but the ensuing staff report painted a grim picture.
In relation to the vanpacker hub option, the report’s authors said that van camping in streets and reserves was investigated in 2015 with a view to implementing a 12-month Freedom Camping trial.
That investigation, and a more recent review of Council land, found that there were no suitable sites that met the requirements in terms of location, space and amenities.
‘A proposed site would also need to be within permissible land use zones under the Byron LEP…’ the report stated.
‘Council must ensure it is not located adjacent to incompatible land use (eg industrial), does not form a barrier to adjacent public lands, and provides required buffers when adjoining certain land uses (eg. a piggery).’
The report went on to list several other issues with the plan, including risk of flood and bushfire, and noted that the Snowy Monaro Regional Council had imposed a ban on informal camping, which had become popular with seasonal workers and tourists in that area.
Staff did not explain how the Snowy Council’s decision was specifically relevant Byron Shire’s situation.
Women at risk
The plan to create, ‘safe and secure emergency accommodation for women at risk in local caravan parks and backpackers’ received a similarly lukewarm response.
‘A realistic emergency shelter for women needing safe and secure accommodation would need to be a collaborative effort, involving input and coordination with appropriate support services,’ the report states.
‘Given that safety is the primary priority, any site where physical access cannot be controlled, and basic physical safety cannot be guaranteed, is not appropriate for women or children at risk of family violence.
‘Accordingly, the use of tourist/caravan parks and hostels for this purpose is not advised.’
Councillors effectively accepted staff’s criticisms of the ideas at last week’s meeting, meaning that they have been effectively shelved.
However, they put forward two other options in a bid to address the crisis.
This included a plan to host a session with staff and interested landowners to look at other options for short-term accommodation, including language schools and other vacant buildings.
There was also a plan to call on holiday homeowners to consider putting their vacant properties up for rent during the quieter winter months, or transferring them to long-term rentals permanently.