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Byron Shire
August 3, 2021

Housing solution?

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Australia’s crisis of housing affordability and availability is probably at its most extreme in the Byron Shire.

Efforts to provide new or affordable housing in the Shire are invariably met with opposition from local residents determined to protect their perceived self-interest. Legitimate concerns also limit development within existing communities, while unsustainable land use is one of many issues faced by new housing estates. Even secondary dwellings are contentious.

It seems that a radical solution is required. Satellite villages of medium density suggest themselves to me.

The beautiful hill-towns of Italy are a magnet for tourists; for their timeless architecture, for their intimate walkways and for the communal richness as residents gather in the piazzas at sunset. Could those hill-towns be a model for development in Byron Shire?

It is not an easy idea to sell, but no current strategy seems capable of solving this immense problem.

Feasibility studies would be needed to examine ideas for locations, size and procurement options, etc. Perhaps a community of 600–800 people would be appropriate to support a local shop and cafe, a primary school and sporting facilities, etc. Self-sufficiency of services could be a goal. A good location would readily connect with the established towns and increase viability of public transport and bikeway construction.

The housing should be targeted at local residents suffering housing stress. Short-term rentals would be strictly prohibited.

The Echo on 16 June reported on a potential rezoning of a property in McAuleys Lane, Myocum for a 42-lot subdivision featuring ‘large residential lots’. Surely it is time that such extravagant, unsustainable land uses were abandoned. Alternatively, could that property, close to Mullumbimby Road, with its potential linkages, be a site for a sustainable medium density village?

Wherever it might happen, I would suggest that this idea is a worthy challenge for the big thinkers of the Byron Shire.

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