Regional Housing Taskforce Chair Garry Fielding says recommendations around short-term holiday letting regulations will feature in his report to planning minister Rob Stokes later this month.
The Echo sat in on the North Coast Regional Housing Taskforce virtual meeting after a two-day in-person event scheduled for Ballina was cancelled in response to lockdown restrictions.
Participants were asked to suggest what changes might be made to planning regulations in order to boost regional housing supply.
Higher council rates considered for land-bankers
Mr Fielding heard concerns around the planning department’s focus on supply, mostly related to land-banking, whereby developers in NSW seek and gain approval for large swathes of land to be developed for residential housing only to wait years, even decades, before acting on the approval.
‘There have been some suggestions at the round table sessions we’ve had as to how we might address that,’ Mr Fielding said when reflecting on the series of virtual forums.
‘One was that perhaps after a number of years, the land would be back- zoned from residential back to rural,’ he said.
‘I don’t know that that’s an acceptable course to address land-banking’.
Mr Fielding said the taskforce would consider ‘other suggestions’ to address land-banking, including the proposal for residential land to attract higher council rates when developers failed to start building within ‘a certain number of years’.
Housing ‘supply’ definition includes existing stock
But the experienced town planner said his definition of housing supply wasn’t limited to new land releases.
‘It’s much more than that,’ Mr Fielding said.
The planning department was ‘concerned about rental accommodation and rental accommodation shortages’ on the Northern Rivers, Mr Fielding said.
‘For example, we’re aware of quite an acute problem that essential workers, people that are on relatively low incomes that may be baristas, or working in cafes, and so on, they just find it so, so difficult to afford rental accommodation,’ Mr Fielding said.
‘Many of them are even living in cars or in campsites and things like that,’ he said, ‘so in a social sense, as Chair, I’m very concerned about that sort of issue’.
Planning minister to be presented with short-term holiday rental ‘social issues’, says housing taskforce chair
Mr Fielding said an increase in housing prices on the Far North Coast was a factor in diminished housing affordability and availability but wasn’t the whole story.
‘It’s been made very clear to us that the prevalence of short-term rental accommodation is seriously aggravating that problem as well,’ he said.
‘People that may own the dwellings on the Far North Coast, maybe absentee landlords, they just find it more attractive to put their places on the short term rental market than have long term renters there,’ Mr Fielding said, ‘and that is bringing about quite a serious social problem, in my view’.
‘We’ll be certainly addressing that issue in what we put to the minister,’ Mr Fielding said.
The Regional Housing Taskforce was due to deliver a preliminary report based on the August series of meetings to planning minister Rob Stokes in September and another report with recommendations in October.
Mr Fielding said the reports would eventually be made public after Mr Stokes and the rest of the NSW government had seen them.