Many have known it as the site of the TAFE campus in Bega, but the Barrack Street precinct is set to be redeveloped into nearly 100 new homes.
Member for Bega Michael Holland said the announcement came as many people struggled to secure a rental in the Bega housing market.
“This is so important in the Bega electorate,” he said.
“We have the lowest availability of rentals in New South Wales, as well as an increasing list of waiting times for social housing.”
Subject to approval, the NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) will develop the site to include about eight affordable homes, 65 private homes, and 24 social homes.
The development will include a 20-unit complex specifically designed for senior social housing residents.
A new Bega TAFE facility opened in late 2021, meaning there will be no impact on the institution’s offerings from this acquisition.
Mr Holland was joined by NSW Premier Chris Minns in Bega on Tuesday (29 August) for the announcement.
Mr Minns said the new housing supply would mean more choice for those looking for a home in Bega.
“The implications for somebody that can’t get a rental or social housing tenancy in a regional community are severe,” he said.
“They’re severe in the city, but they’re particularly severe in regional New South Wales, because if you’ve got kids in school and you’ve got an opportunity to have a rental property, more often than not it means you have to uproot yourself from your local community and move one town over.
“That may mean taking your kids out of the school, disassociating yourself from the local community.”
The almost eight hectares of NSW Government-owned land is currently zoned for residential use.
Minister for Housing Rose Jackson said the Government’s goal was to have construction begin in 2024.
“I do think that we are going to be needing to deliver new buildings on the site,” she said.
“Particularly for those social housing dwellings for older people, they need to be ground floor entry, they need to be disability accessible.
“We do need to be mindful about those things, and build homes that people can age in.
“We’ll be going through that design process collaboratively with the council.”
Ms Jackson said the NSW Government would be working with Bega Valley Shire Council for planning approval to redevelop the site.
“We found a lot of local councils to be really open to working with us, but you need to make it real – and what we have found is that under the previous government, there was handshakes, there was pats on the back, but there wasn’t any delivery,” she said.
“This is the delivery.”
Ms Jackson acknowledged the Bega rental market was particularly tight.
“We have a 0.24 per cent vacancy rate in this community – that is almost the lowest in the state,” she said.
“We have seen a 56 per cent increase in the priority social housing waiting lists in this community in the last 12 months alone.
“We know that the need is serious, and this government-owned site has been sitting vacant and empty since the end of 2021.”
She also said this was a different project to one previously planned for the Barrack Street site.
“The Land and Housing Corporation and the Bega Valley Shire Council did enter into a collaboration agreement a little while ago, but the reality is that’s a handshake, a gesture of goodwill,” she said.
Bega Valley Shire Council Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said the following day (30 August) the increase in housing supply would be the first step in fixing the problem.
“We are particularly excited to see this development progress and we hope it’s the first of many opportunities to help address the housing crisis in the Bega Valley Shire,” he said.
Bega Valley Shire Council and the LAHC worked together since April 2022 to determine if existing state-owned unused land could be repurposed into new housing.
“In February this year, we signed a 5-year collaboration agreement with LAHC, with the aim of increasing and enhancing social housing opportunities across the shire,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.