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Byron Shire
September 17, 2021

Nationals MP calls for emergency response to housing crisis

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The so-called housing crisis deserves a government emergency response, one of the government’s MPs says.

Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis [Nationals] called for emergency orders in response to the NSW housing crisis on Tuesday as part of an online regional housing taskforce meeting.

Mr Gulaptis said the government had shown it was capable of an emergency response to the pandemic and the housing crisis deserved the same.

Strong regional turnout for housing taskforce

Tuesday afternoon’s meeting for the North Coast region was intended to be an in-person event in Ballina happening over two days.

But the government last week downsized the meeting to 90 mins online due to lockdowns, at that time in Greater Sydney and parts of regional NSW including Ballina.

Greens Member for Ballina Tamara Smith; Nationals Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis; Byron Shire Deputy Mayor Sarah Ndiaye; Byron Shire Council General Manager Mark Arnold; Byron Shire Director Planning Shannon Burt; and Kyogle Mayor Danielle Mulholland were some of the participants in Tuesday’s meeting, alongside representatives of social housing advocacy groups, other local government members and staff, North Coast residents and at least one man who said he was an architect from Byron Bay.

More than one participant vocalised what The Echo has repeatedly heard from housing stakeholders: limited availability wasn’t due to limited housing supply.

Mr Fielding heard participants speak of issues around short-term holiday letting, land-banking and the definition of affordable housing.

Housing for highway workers while DV and disaster survivors struggle

A participant from local government on the central coast described ‘social stratification’ in her area as the result of the housing crisis, including the example of a teacher living in her car because she couldn’t find an affordable place to live.

The meeting heard the Mid North Coast Joint Organisation was looking at the feasibility of a community land trust, an idea already adopted by the Byron Shire Council.

The organisation represented the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, Bellingen Shire Council and Kempsey Shire Council.

Meanwhile, Mr Gulaptis questioned priorities and regulatory processes for temporary housing.

The Member for Clarence said he didn’t understand how accommodation could be easily be found for road workers upgrading the Pacific Highway while emergency housing for domestic violence and weather disaster survivors was still an issue.

Big developers unresponsive to regional housing crisis needs

Several participants described unmet demand for one and two bedroom dwellings, particularly for single women over the age of 55.

Mr Fielding questioned an apparent lack of interest from developers in building such dwellings and was surprised when a participant representing the Lismore City Council said efforts to incentivise developers had failed.

Another local government representative further south said hopes for smaller dwellings lay mostly with ‘mum and dad’ investors because conventional housing developers like Lendlease were only interested in making profits from mass house and land packages.

The meeting participant described traditional house and land estates as ‘urban sprawl’ unwanted in regional NSW but acknowledged many regional residents weren’t used to seeing medium-density dwellings in their areas.

The meeting also heard of planning regulation difficulties when it came to approving kitchenettes and shared laundries in smaller dwellings and medium-density living.

Ballina MP calls for long-term rental tax breaks

Member for Ballina Tamara Smith [Greens] said she’d made a submission to a parliamentary housing inquiry last week, including suggestions for long-term rental tax-incentives.

Ms Smith said there were zero incentives for residential property owners in Byron Bay to rent to long-term tenants when they could make significantly more profit via holiday letting, current lockdowns notwithstanding.

The idea of tax concessions attracted support in the meeting’s written chat section, where participants said the housing crisis was about more than planning regulations and supply and tax structures needed to be addressed.

Submissions to the regional housing taskforce could be made via the NSW planning department online until four o’clock PM on 27 August.

The taskforce was due to report back to the planning minister in September, with a final report due in October.

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