There was a housing crisis on the Northern Rivers, then we had the floods of 2022 and the issue has left increasing numbers of people homeless and struggling to find alternative accommodation.
One Mullumbimby family, whose rental property flooded, are struggling to find a home that won’t split up their family.
Dan Barr and Karla Chartres and their five children live in Tallowood Estate, Mullumbimby and their rental home flooded during the first ‘unprecedented’ flood event at the end of February 2022.
‘We have been in this house for eight years. In 2017 the flood lapped a the back and front door but did not come inside,’ explained Karla.
‘This time it came in and was shin-deep,’ said Dan. ‘We lost all the carpets and the floating wooden floor. There is no power currently below waist height.
‘We rent, so now we have to find somewhere else to live. So far we’ve not had a lot of luck. We are trying to get funding for people in this situation but we’ve been refused twice.’
‘We are now in the process of applying for the third time, with all the same documents,’ says Karla.
Shut out of the system
This is a story that is being repeated again and again throughout the region as people who meet all the criteria for flood funding, as set out by the Resilience and Service NSW guidelines, are refused again and again.
Another local who is unable to access their home, and most likely will never be able to retrieve their belongings due to landslides, told a similar story.
‘It is like being traumatised again and again,’ they told The Echo.
Local Greens candidate for Richmond, Mandy Nolan, said it is a story she is hearing repeatedly.
‘I’m hearing the same story over and over again. That people are being shut out of the system.’
‘It is just getting exhausting going through the process and doing again and again,’ said Dan.
‘I don’t want to separate the kids,’ says Karla. ‘I don’t have a date when they can come back. It is really hard, it is so uncertain. Kids like structure and predictability. The kids keep asking “did we get the house?” or “did you look at that house?”’
Dan and Karla said that it is stressful for everyone involved not to know where they are going, if the family can stay together, and if they can’t, how long they will be separated for.
‘The government said at the time that they would cut the red tape and get the money where it needs to go. But when legitimate cases are in the system and they are coming up against this it’s frightening,’ said Dan.
Investment properties about money not people
Greens MP Adam Bandt told The Echo that ‘One of the things that I’ve heard very clearly is that there was a housing crisis before the floods and the floods have made it worse. We are heading into a federal election and none of the others are talking about the housing crisis.’
Mr Bandt and Ms Nolan explained that ‘recent data from the independent Parliamentary Budget Office reveals that: 89 out-of-towners own a massive 889 investment properties in Richmond. These people each have seven or more properties in the electorate and together get Coalition- and Labor-backed tax handouts of $19 million a year. Each one of these property moguls gets an average of $211,236 in public subsidies each year for their Richmond properties.’
There are 96,778 dwellings in the seat of Richmond and the Parliamentary Budget Office also revealed that 10,885 properties, or 11 per cent, are owned as investment properties by people who live outside of the Richmond electorate.
‘Of these, 7,725 properties are owned by 2,705 out-of-area property investors that each have two or more investment properties and together get Coalition- and Labor-backed tax handouts totaling $165m per year. On average, out-of-town property investors with two or more investment properties in Richmond get a staggering $61,000 per year in tax handouts,’ Bandt and Nolan stated.
‘This data confirms what many locals have long suspected,’ said Ms Nolan.
‘A handful of wealthy property moguls from out of town own a huge chunk of the area’s property. Locals aren’t just getting locked out, the Coalition and Labor are also making us give handouts to the property moguls buying up our towns.’
Fixing the crisis
The Greens have said that they would scrap the taxpayer handouts going to people who own two or more investment properties, freeing up $63b across the country to invest in affordable housing and tackling the cost of living.
‘As part of the Green’s $21b plan to build 1 million affordable homes, the Greens will also build 15,000 new, climate-resilient and affordable homes in Richmond and Page, to fix the housing affordability crisis and help those affected by the floods,’ they stated.
Comparatively, Labor has said that they ‘will create the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund which will build 30,000 new social and affordable housing properties [across Australia] in its first five years, and create thousands of jobs.
‘Over the first five years the investment returns will build around: 20,000 social housing properties – 4,000 of which will be allocated for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence and older women on low incomes who are at risk of homelessness. 10,000 affordable homes for the frontline workers like police, nurses and cleaners who kept us safe during the pandemic. This will mean they can live closer to where they work, and it will mean better services for everyday Australians.’