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Byron Shire
July 16, 2024

Occupiers of North Lismore buybacks report no eviction past deadline

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Supporters of people occupying otherwise empty bought-back houses in North Lismore say Monday passed peacefully without any eviction attempts.

One of the recent occupiers to join a group living in a house sold to the NSW Reconstruction Authority (RA) in Pine Street, a young flood survivor from Lismore, spent Monday morning trying to stay calm.

The occupiers received a letter days earlier from the RA saying they had to leave by midday Monday.

Lachie told The Echo his experience of the 2022 disasters and the ongoing housing crisis on the Northern Rivers and how he had found a welcome home and community in Lismore’s fledgling occupy movement.

The people who used to own the property he was in were supportive of the occupiers, he said.

Lachie and others occupying properties sold to the RA under the Resilient Homes Program say they aren’t going anywhere.

It’s unclear how or if laws governing private landlords apply to the RA when it comes to the properties or the occupants, who on Monday set up a caravan, two yurts and a tent in the yard of one of the occupied houses in case they were kicked out of the buildings.

House You founding member Chels Hood Withey said the situation was effectively a form of public housing, which was exactly what the region needed.

The housing advocate said it was up to the RA as to whether they would make a good landlord.

Lismore’s occupy movement predictable

58 pods are located at 125 Tweed Street, behind the Brunswick Heads Sports Fields. Photo www.nsw.gov.au.

Some, including Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon, have predicted occupy movements in the region in past years but the comments were usually made in response to pressures of short-term rental accommodation.

Nobody predicted the 2022 floods and landslides and nobody predicted just how dire the already declared regional housing crisis would become.

Shortly after the disaster, government authorities changed official rules to allow multiple forms of temporary accommodation on private properties.

Vans, bulging sedans, various attempts at tiny homes, tents and basic tarps slung across carports have become a common sight across the region, particularly in areas most significantly impacted.

Meanwhile, many families, like Lachie’s, moved back into damaged homes with little other option and the RA has been left to defend a slow and contradictory approvals process.

Debates over short-term rental accommodation regulations and development in the area continued.

Landlords with habitable investment properties after the disaster could compete not only in the tourism sector in areas like Byron Bay but could also rent properties to survivors through high-paying insurance companies.

Time and again data since the disasters have shown a tightening and costlier local housing market.

Meanwhile, waitlists are reported for emergency temporary housing pod villages set up in a prolonged process after the disasters, with the state government recently requesting a lease extension on a village in the Tweed Shire.

The Byron Shire recorded the state’s highest count of rough sleepers for the second year in a row.

So-called ‘squatters’ rights’ may exist in some places around the world outside the Northern Rivers but given the local reality, Lismore’s occupy movement seems one of few predictabilities.

How authorities will respond is less clear.

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