Byron Council and State Government-owned housing developer, Landcom, are proposing to build a block of affordable units above a car park in central Mullumbimby as part of the attempt to address the Shire’s housing crisis.
Under the proposal, up to 30 units would be built above the Council-owned car park on Station Street next to the La Familia Mexican restaurant.
It is understood the site would still function as a car park – though a number of parking spaces would be lost – with a structure of two stories to be built directly above the parking area.
Details revealed April 5
Byron mayor Michael Lyon, one of the key supporters of the proposal, said the detail of the plan would be released in the agenda to the next Council Planning meeting on April 14.
The agenda will be published on Council’s website on April 5.
‘Just to give you a little snap-shot – we’re looking at somewhere between 20 and 30 units above that car park for affordable housing in perpetuity,’ Cr Lyon said at the official reopening of Byron’s Fletcher Street Cottage last week.
‘My view is that if we can do 100-odd of these over the next five years, which is a conceivable number in partnership with our community, we might break the back of this crisis.’
Landcom approached Council about the idea earlier this year.
There have been ongoing discussions between the developer and a number of councillors, as well as a formal presentation to councillors and staff last month.
Concerns have been raised in some quarters that the plan is going full-steam ahead without sufficient public transparency or community input.
‘What scares me is that the next step (likely in April) is Council being asked to sign a commercial agreement with Landcom to run this project,’ Greens councillor Duncan Dey said.
‘The agreement is being drafted now, and will likely lean on concepts the public has never seen. The public will first have information on the project after Council (the developer here) has committed to it. The secrecy of these procedures goes to the edge of unacceptability for me as an elected community representative’.
Cr Dey said he believed the public should have been informed earlier, and better, by Cr Lyon, and the others who support the proposal.
But Cr Lyon said Cr Dey’s comments were inaccurate and amounted to fear-mongering.
‘Nothing will be signed until the matter comes before the next planning meeting and the detail will be out there for all to see before that meeting.’
‘A notice of motion at that meeting will request councillors’ support so that staff can enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with Landcom. That’s a high-level, non-binding agreement that will allow Council and Landcom to work on that project.’
Cr Lyon said the development would mean a reduction in parking spaces, but that this would be offset by creating a new carpark, most likely in the rail corridor next to Council’s existing Station Street carpark.
The region’s housing crisis has been exacerbated significantly by the recent devastating floods, which have reportedly displaced 15,000 people.
While the recovery effort rightly remains focused on finding temporary accommodation for those left homeless, there is also a renewed focus on providing longer-term housing solutions.
‘We have an availability crisis, not really an affordability one,’ Cr Lyon said of the broader housing crisis.
‘It’s the lack of available housing that is really creating the problems.’
In reply, Mr Dey said he did not oppose the project, but wanted the process to be conducted properly, with all of the issues being considered and the community involved.
‘I think this is a good project, but we need to look at some of the issues around loss of parking and building heights in the CBD,’ Mr Dey said.
The idea of building housing above Byron Council’s carparks was first formally proposed in early 2020.