Byron Council will host a housing summit in a bid to generate ideas and galvanise community support to help address the Shire’s worsening housing crisis.
Proposed by returning Greens councillor, Sarah Ndiaye, the summit is intended to give new councillors and the community an opportunity to hear from industry professionals, focus intentions for the new council, and come up to speed on current projects.
It was one of a number of housing-related measures adopted at last week’s Council meeting, as the newly elected and re-elected councillors sought to make good on their election promises to tackle what has emerged as the most pressing issue in the Shire.
‘At the start of the last term we had a housing summit, and we brought great minds together from across the country and across the state,’ said Cr Ndiaye.
‘I feel that this would be a great way to get everyone together on the same page.
‘There are people that are wanting to contribute. The more things we have ready, the more funding opportunities we can seek in the lead up to the federal election.’
Newly-elected independent councillor, Peter Westheimer, disagreed.
He said that a summit would be a ‘talk fest’ that would ‘delay taking meaningful action’.
‘I don’t think we’re going to come out of it with anything… and it’s going to create considerable extra staffing costs,’ he said.
‘We need to get on with acting now, not having summits and patting ourselves on the back.’
But Cr Ndiaye said the summit had the potential to generate new solutions to the crisis – a view echoed by Council’s director of sustainable environment and economy, Shannon Burt.
‘I think it value-adds to what we’re already doing,’ Ms Burt said.
‘There are enough smart and interested minds that can make a contribution.’
Ms Burt also said that with the housing crisis now also significantly affecting surrounding local government areas, the summit was more likely to attract input from outside the Shire.
Council has come up with multiple plans in a bid to address the crisis, from building tiny homes and emergency housing, to placing a 90-day cap on short-term holiday letting.
But most of these have either proven to be unworkable or become mired in State Government bureaucracy.
Mayor, Michael Lyon, expressed frustration at the government’s apparent hampering of the Council’s efforts to address the crisis, and foreshadowed the possibility of a more targeted political approach during the new term of Council.
‘The problems affecting our community warrant more direct action,’ Cr Lyon said.
‘The only way that we’re going to get action is if they feel the pain that reflects the pain that our community is feeling.’
Councillors voted unanimously in support of the housing summit.
Also receiving unanimous support was the creation of a housing affordability advisory committee.
‘I want to propose that we have an advisory committee that can be involved in this space which is productive, proactive and very practical,’ said Cr Ndiaye, who also proposed this motion.
‘This is a way of harnessing some of the incredible talent and skills that exist in our community.’