Tilting at Windmills and Affordable Housing

 I agree with Michelle Grant in virtually everything she says in her letter last week.
I would love it if there were a rich mix of housing in Byron Shire including public
housing, cooperative housing, good community focused caravan parks, community land
trusts, and new low cost MO’s.  However government and housing organisations have no
intention of providing any investment in social housing here, none of the $5B in social
housing stimulus money will be spent here because Byron Shire doesn’t meet the social
economic criteria.  Meanwhile I hear stories of outrageous rents and people leaving the
area all the time mainly the young and the old, being displaced by cashed up middle
class consumers. As a result our treasured social diversity disappears and middle class
consumer atrocities increase.
Contrary to Robin Crosby’s view, housing prices in Australia or Byron Shire are
unlikely to drop soon because 10 years of John Howard has warped our housing market.
Most of the productive capacity of our builders and essential tradesman was diverted
into either building huge 400sqm AC houses for small families or into mining and now,
as hard as it is to believe, there is a vast housing shortage.  Not of actual floor
space or shelter but of divisible dwellings, particularly one or two bedroom small
dwellings near services that an increasing number of people want or need. This is why I
say again the SEPP Affordable Rental Housing that allows secondary dwellings is good
policy, because it targets those that need housing particularly in Byron Shire where
there is a small supply of 1 and 2 bedroom housing.  I agree that there should be
sanctions to prevent it from becoming holiday housing and it would be nice to stop
unscrupulous exploitation, but it is a regulated form of housing that must meet
environmental standards and building codes.  Discouraging it, as Byron Shire Council is
through new development contributions for what in effect is adding 1 or 2 bedrooms,
when the 5 bedroom, 3 bathroom A/C 400sqm monstrosity built next door pays no new
contributions for either its massive ecological footprint or social impact is unfair
and inequitable.  I agree there might be better ways of providing affordable housing
and lets work on them, but there none better right now. 

Malcolm Price
Submitted to Byron Shire Echo for publication