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June 24, 2024

Local MP pushes for social housing at hospital site 

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What negotiations are happening behind closed doors with the former Mullum hospital site? 

It’s a question put to both Mayor Michael Lyon and local MP Tamara Smith, regarding how, and if, the valuable public asset will deliver social housing and, ‘whether communication on this important decision be improved, and if so how?’

Cr Lyon responded by repeating information already published on Council’s website and said, ‘I don’t know why you persist with this narrative in the face of all the evidence to the contrary’. 

He added, ‘We will be canvassing widely on this from industry and government, including discussing how we can incorporate social housing outcomes. Once we have firmed up the options available we will again consult the community’.

Tamara Smith MP told The Echo, ‘I think that it is hard for Council to communicate progress when currently nobody is stepping up to construct the project’. 

She said, ‘Last week, I met with the Minister for Planning and raised the opportunity for the government to deliver significant social housing on the former Mullum hospital site, particularly because there is currently no social housing in Byron Shire at all’. 

‘He recommended we approach some of the Tier 1 Community Housing Providers who can deliver the size and scale of the project in terms of construction.’

‘For the Greens, there are several issues with outsourcing a community housing provider to deliver genuine affordable housing. Under the current Affordable Housing SEPP and Ministerial guidelines, rents are indexed to market rates at typically 20 per cent below the market, the properties need only be rented as “affordable” for 15 years, and nobody is tracking the scheme.

‘If [affordable] rents are 80 per cent of market rates, in say Brunswick Heads for a three-bedroom house market rate is $1,000 per week. That going down to $800 for a small family cannot be called affordable. 

‘Eighty per cent of a hyper-inflated market rent is still incredibly high, and beyond the reach of many who qualify for access to affordable housing. 

Lax affordable housing laws

‘While some of our local community housing providers are amazing, and go over and above what they must deliver under the Affordable Housing Ministerial Guidelines in NSW and charge rents based on a proportion of the tenant’s income, they don’t have to. 

‘It should not happen only at the discretion of the provider, and what’s worse is that currently in NSW there is no central register of affordable housing across the state, meaning we have no clear picture of where and how much affordable housing exists and whether it meets community need. Who is monitoring when these properties are about to be rented back at the market rate? Or if the developers who got the kickbacks to deliver affordable housing are complying with the rules?’

Ms Smith says her party just introduced new Affordable Housing legislation, ‘which requires that all affordable housing projects in NSW be for the benefit of very low-, low-, and moderate-income households, are held in perpetuity, are rented out at no more than 30 per cent of the gross household income of eligible households and will establish a statewide affordable housing register that is maintained by the Department of Planning’. 

‘We do not expect Labor or the coalition to support our Bill’, Ms Smith said.   

‘Council have spent $6m in remediating the old Mullum hospital site, so I think it is reasonable for them to want to recoup that money. 

Retain ownership 

‘Instead of selling off any of the blocks to do that, I think the community should retain ownership of the land and lease it through a proper tender to a good local Community Housing organisation to partner with a Tier 1 provider to construct the types of homes that support a mix of social housing and key worker affordable housing’. 

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  1. Great work Tamara. You keep ahead of the issues and supply the community with relevant information. The concept of Public land in relation to Mullum hospital holds a rich history, when Democracy was socially operative. Today, politics is so ‘Corporatised” and a law unto itself. This should not deter the community from voicing Democratically the existence of Public Rights and all that ‘it’ entails. There are many ways to lead a horse to water. Again, thanks Tamara, you are a real Public Representative…..more Tamara’s please!

  2. The Tamara / Greens, the leaders showing the leadership, again.
    No doubt the always following ALP will pick the Greens idea, run with it and claim it was all their own doing.

  3. Watching this post…. it is hoped that folks share their ideas re social/affordable housing issues. I understand how hard this is in the current climate of traumatic homelessness….the government have scarce ideas on housing but it is up to the community to build and articulate their voice THEIR NEEDS on this issue. Mullum site has a rich history that covers the “Commons”. It would be a real tragedy if this land slipped into Corporate acquisition…which is profit driven. Locate , embrace the vision and energy to collectively/demand the dictates of the International Human Rights Charter… which ratifies the RIGHT TO BE HOUSED. In fact this principle could act in favour of Byron Institutions …Byron could set a remarkable example to other areas suffering traumatic structural decay. I do hope that collectivism returns to Byron, and that the Mullum site returns to its former vision. Community Commons. Housing for all. Hope and compassion lead the way.


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