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.
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’.