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Byron Shire
June 15, 2024

Plans move ahead for apartments above car parks

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The subject site, which is close to the entrance of Mullum. Photo from Council agenda

Up to 29 ‘affordable’ units that could house 50 people will be built above a Mullumbimby car park, after councillors agreed to work with Landcom, a development corporation owned by the NSW government, at their planning meeting last Thursday.

The car park location is between the newly named Hoopers restaurant, the Other Joint Cafe, and the Pink Lotus restaurant.

Another ‘affordable’ housing project is currently underway on the same road, Station Street, adjacent to Council’s office building. 

And, because this is the age of government announcements, there are many details yet to be finalised.

It became apparent during the meeting that the proposal was still in its infancy, and would take around two years to complete. Nevertheless, councillors gushed at the prospect of developing affordable housing, with Cr Mark Swivel saying it could be a template for future developments in the Shire.

And it appears to be a template, given Landcom representatives told councillors this was their first such project. An affordable housing partner will need to be found, councillors were told.

And given NSW planning laws allow ‘affordable’ housing to be sold after ten years, and only a percentage of floor space needs to be considered ‘affordable’, a framework may be needed so that the project remains ‘affordable’.

A gushing Council press release described it as a ‘landmark agreement’ that ‘received unanimous support from Byron Shire Councillors’.

Over the next six months, Council say they will ‘work with Landcom to develop and agree on a concept design; Confirm a community housing provider to partner with to develop and manage the project; Investigate options to secure funding for the project including working with the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation’, and ‘Obtain all relevant partnership approvals’.

Matthew Beggs from Landcom told councillors on Thursday they will work with Council regarding any potential flooding at the site, and said rezoning the land could take two years.

So what will be the financial return for Council? ‘A peppercorn rent’, was the reply from Mr Beggs.

Cr Asren Pugh (Labor) said the project was ‘wonderful’, and wanted to know if more similar development could be done if it wasn’t for the parking problem.

Diminished parking

Mayor Michael Lyon said in his press release, ‘Recognising that parking is a premium in Mullumbimby, we will also use the next six months to look at securing land on the fringe of the town’s CBD for additional parking. I am hoping this will be the first project of its kind with Landcom and Byron Shire Council because we have other sites, such as the old Mullumbimby hospital land, that lend themselves to this type of partnership’.

‘I really commend Landcom for being so receptive to this project and working with us, because affordable housing is not something that Council can solve by itself’, Mayor Lyon said.

The only distraction for the meeting was when Michele Grant form the Brunswick Valley Community Care Council asked why Council wasn’t taking more immediate action with the rail land across the road on Prince Street.

Ms Grant later told The Echo, ‘With Council’s emergency housing declaration, Council hasn’t been much help for the homeless. In fact, they’re still fining people for camping in the wrong place, and having unleashed animals with them’.

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  1. An inevitable loss of yet more parking when every year the population and need to park increases. Also inevitable that the tenants will take the remaining parking spaces. The railway land adjoining Princes Street is a very obvious site which would enable a very significant quantity of so called affordable housing and be easy on the eye with a good architect and complementary planting. The carpark site is a dog’s dinner of issues and amenity loss for very little real affordable housing gain and certainly not past the 10 years when market value rents and unit resale values can and most certainly will apply.

  2. This is a great incentive to relieve the housing burden up here and kudos to those who inspired this.
    Homelessness is no laughing matter, and when we have whole families sleeping in their cars, who gives a damn about parking!
    Great work team! 🙏♥️

  3. The notion of ‘affordable housing’ has political leverage for any politician be it at local, State or Federal level. Warm and fuzzy, it is understandably embraced in the electorate. Sadly, no one wants to look to the root cause of the problem of why has housing become ‘unaffordable’? It is my position that unless this is rooted out, then this project is like ‘the little boy who put his finger in the dyke’. In principal, (a) the financial industry, the main stakeholders in mortgages, has since deregulation, removed itself from the real world and further into the risker derivative market (e.g. gambling on whether or not a mortgage will be paid) where fortunes can made or lost on a click of a mouse.
    (b) government, in full knowledged that it doesn’t work, embraces Quantitative Easing (money printing).
    (c) Reserve Bank, and here be mindful of the close connections between it and the International Bank of Settlement , the International Money Fund and at the local level, Treasury, APRA being the regulator have kept interest rates low thus providing cheap credit, particularly for housing.
    The result is INFLATION has moved into equities and real estate. The latter has seen a massive transfer of wealth to those who have taken the opportunity to ‘cash in’ on the rabit speculation.
    Solution: Yes, the financial industry was deregulated and we are no better off because of it…….so regulate it…..hive off the ‘meat and potatoes type banking i.e. small businesses and home mortgages and put a fire wall between it and investment banking.
    So, with the aforementioned background, I look at this project in that context. Consequently, I am dismayed by it and the shallowness of the decision-making behind it. It is definitely not a case of being heartless at all to the increasing economic inequities but a project at this scale, within the context of a housing issue in the Shire….NO! The following is NOT my idea, but I do believe it has more merit. Council needs to review its planning strategy for industrial, commercial, agricultural and residential land and rethink those potential zonings and look to land, that in view of the consequences of this rain bomb, would be better suited to residential zoning. This may mean potential industrial land is given over to residential?


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