Plans to build around 30 affordable housing units above a car park in central Mullumbimby have taken another step forward with councillors voting to put the project to tender for a community housing provider to help run the project.
Located at 57 Station Street, it currently serves as a busy car park for locals and businesses in the vicinity.
They include restaurants and cafes such as Hooper’s, Pink Lotus, Milk and Honey and The Other Joint.
The proposed three-storey development would involve a mix of studios, and one and two-bedroom units, built above existing parking spaces.
It is intended to provide affordable, long-term housing for low-to-middle income earners and to remain an affordable housing project in perpetuity.
A cooperative venture
The project is a cooperative venture involving the Council and State-owned developer Landcom, and will ultimately be approved, or refused, by the Northern Regional Planning Panel.
The matter came before last week’s Council meeting, where councillors voted to proceed to the next stage of the process, namely, choosing a community housing provider (CHP). Councillors voted to delegate authority to Council’s General Manager, Mark Arnold, to run this tender process, and then bring a report back to councillors for endorsement.
The selected CHP would play a central role in the project, including selecting and screening tenants to live there.
Once a contract with a CHP has been signed, the project will proceed to the Development Application (DA) stage.
‘Affordable housing is something we have been calling out for in this community for a long time – well before the recent election,’ Independent Councillor, Sama Balson, said.
However, Greens Councillor, Duncan Dey, expressed concerns over the lack of community consultation and the loss of public parking if the project was approved.
Plans could be amended
The meeting heard that the draft plans for the project could possibly be amended to accommodate additional dwellings and retail space; a move which would further reduce parking on the site.
‘I believe this project has gone too far without including public input and public perspectives,’ Cr Dey said.
‘As a Council, we’ve had many discussions and sessions about this, but they’ve all been limited to us.
‘We haven’t embraced opinions from the community – we haven’t even sought them. There’s quite a lot of discontent, both with the process, but also with the location of the project in terms of parking loss.
‘The project itself is awesome, so needed. But the selection of the site I don’t think is acceptable.’
Car parking investigated
The meeting heard that Council staff were investigating options for additional parking spaces in the town, which is already at or over capacity during busy times.
This includes using rail corridor land next to the Council chambers.
In a bid to address concerns about the lack of community engagement, the councillors have requested that staff develop a web page for the project to deliver regular updates to the community.
With the project deemed to be a community significant development, consultation with the community before the development application is lodged is also required.
Consultation will then also be undertaken as part of the development application process.