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Byron Shire
September 26, 2022

Rural housing rules eased

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There are concerns that the new rules will just turn rural communities into defacto suburbs but without the amenities. Photo David Lowe.

Those living on rural Community Title (CT) properties will be able to use their land for secondary dwellings and dual occupancies, after Byron Council amended the planning rules at its last meeting.

Councillors hope the decision, which also affects rural Multiple Occupancies (MOs), if they convert to CT, will provide much-needed additional housing to help address the Shire’s housing crisis. It means that those who own land on Community Title properties will be able to submit a Development Application (DA) for permission to build a cabin, granny flat or even a second house on their land.

They have previously been forbidden from doing this, even though those with conventional Torrens Title ownership in rural areas have long been able to do so.  

Those with a holding on a Multiple Occupancy will also be able to submit DAs of this nature, but only once the property in question has been converted to Community Title.

The move follows a month-long community consultation process, which produced 144 submissions, 133 of which were in favour of the plan.

With the amendment passed by councillors, it will now go to the Department of Planning for final approval before being passed into law. ‘The reasons why this move is needed: the housing crisis, and the mass exodus of long-term residents and families from the area, have increased many-fold since Council’s original resolution on this matter,’ said Avital Sheffer from Northern Rivers Intentional Communities.

‘It’s a rational, forward-thinking response to the crisis of housing and social cohesion.’

Opposition

But there is also opposition to the plan.

Some locals expressed concern during the consultation period that the new rules cannot guarantee an increase in affordable housing, only that CT land will have greater land value.

In response, staff acknowledged that there was currently no mechanism to guarantee any additional dwellings would be used for affordable housing.

‘The proposal will only enable additional housing supply in our rural areas,’ staff said.

Another key concern is that the additional dwellings will end up being used as Airbnbs and other forms of Short Term Rental Accommodation (STRA).

Again, Council staff acknowledged that there was ‘no guarantee that additional dwellings don’t end up being used for STRA’. They said that conditions of development consent could be applied by the Council which forbade this use, but these could potentially be overridden by State policy.

Council have also not demonstrated an ability to enforce the requirement that granny flats built with the signed agreement that they will not  be used for STRA.

Cognisant of this concern, councillors have previously requested a report from staff exploring Council’s ability to enforce consent conditions existing now, or in the future, which limited short term rental use of residential accommodation.

Finally, concerns have also been expressed that amending the rules will precipitate a development free-for-all in the Shire’s rural heart, with CT and MO landholders lining up to knock up a new dwelling.

In response, staff noted that controls within the Shire’s key planning documents, the Byron LEP and DCP, would remain in force.


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2 COMMENTS

  1. Its reasonable in terms of equity with a similar sized block held in a private title, but State gov Holiday letting regs overrule any Council regs, but for Community title blocks they can Adopt to only allow Holliday letting in owner occupied houses – ie must be dominantly use for permanent residents and only allow Holliday letting for a minor period of the year – but who is overseeing even that reg, noting that with events of up to 58,000 we dont have enough houses if every Shire house is used for holliday letting – will Holliday Letting turn our shire into dominantly just a holliday letting asset for the Tourist industry with the increase income form holliday letting over residential letting driving removal of residents?

    • If everyone in the area was itinerant, next time there is flood or a fire, the population can simple go home.
      How about we just let land owners do what they want with THEIR LAND. Let the market decide who can afford to live near Byron and who can’t.

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