We know the region has some of the highest rents, and highest housing costs in Australia. We all know that this has virtually eliminated affordable housing. We hear the stories of women and children being evicted, of couch surfing and living in cars.
We know that forcing people to move from the region tears families and friends apart; destroys support networks; disrupts the social fabric of regional towns; and leaves the Northern Rivers without essential workers.
But what are we doing about it?
The Women’s Village Collective (WVC) which grew out of iniatives dating from August 20, was set up formally earlier this year as a registered charitable organisation to work with others in the region to tackle both the short-term accommodation emergency, and the long-term problem of housing insecurity for women.
Long term, the WVC plans to raise fund to purchase land, and seek gifts of land to be held within the organisation and taken out of the market.
A range of housing options are being developed, which will provide for both rent-to-own and long-term leases.
Right now, in this season of ‘caring and giving’, the housing emergency has never been worse. The school holiday season sees all available accommodation in the area under more pressure than ever.
The WVC receives regular emails from those desperate to live somewhere.
We have been fortunate to have been donated funds to purchase good quality furnished bell tents, and have had sites available in Holiday Parks in the region.
We have formed links with Byron Community Centre, Mullumbimby Community Centre, SHIFT, Momentum and Social Futures to assist us in selecting women for whom the tents are suitable.
Unfortunately, the Holiday Parks are fully booked from December 12 for the school holiday season.
Schools we have approached are unable to assist for public health order reasons.
And we are awaiting responses from church groups and showgrounds.
Systems are in place and we are about to put up flyers in places where women might see them, and it will be on our website (www.womensvillagecollective.org.au) and Facebook page, so we are expecting more requests.
We need caring members of the community who may have accommodation available to let us know.
Or, who may have land with a primitive camp permit and access to water. We can provide portaloos and portable showering. (Contact us at [email protected] or text 0416 101 040).
We would also appreciate (tax deductible) donations via the website to help cover site costs, plus moving and storage costs.
A new state government Housing SEPP which overrides Council planning provisions was gazetted on November 26, the day after Council’s last pre-election sitting. It allows for the installation of ‘moveable dwellings on land other than caravan parks’, without Council approval ‘to accommodate a person who has been displaced as a result of a natural disaster…’
Now, we just need some common sense and caring from all concerned (State and Local governments), to recognise that our region’s housing crisis is the equivalent of a natural disaster.
Alison Crook AO is chair, Women’s Village Collective.