A new draft report, released as house prices continue to rocket upwards, sheds light on the extent of the affordable housing crisis in the Bega Valley.
Bega Valley Shire Council’s draft Affordable Housing Strategy says 19 per cent of homes in the shire are used as weekenders, short-term letting or holiday accommodation – more than double the rate of regional NSW at nine per cent.
Only 19 per cent of occupied homes are privately rented, compared with 27 per cent for NSW, and only three per cent are rented as social housing.
Both private rentals and social housing has declined over the 10 years to 2016.
Across the shire, median household incomes are much lower than average and are particularly low within and around Eden and Wallaga Lake.
The median rent for a three-bedroom home is $380 a week, which is affordable for only 47 per cent of those on moderate incomes.
The draft report says it is important to note that only 26 per cent of local housing had two or less bedrooms compared with 64 per cent who were lone person and couple-only households in 2016, so there was a “growing mismatch” between housing supply and housing need that, without intervention, was likely to intensify over time.
It found there was a need for almost 2500 affordable dwellings by 2036, with 67 per cent for renters and the rest for purchasers. At least 75 per cent of this need is unlikely to be met through the market.
“Availability of housing for people on low, very low and moderate incomes in the shire is at a crisis point; profoundly impacting on people across the housing continuum,” Bega Valley Shire Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said.
Long-time advocate for affordable housing, The Greens’ Councillor Cathy Griff said the issue had not traditionally been included in the responsibilities of local government. That it was now was a reflection of how desperate the situation had become.
“It’s not an abstract crisis. Everyone knows someone experiencing housing stress,” she said.
“For homeless people it’s dire, there just is no rental accommodation.
“It’s worse for people on low incomes, but it goes through to professionals who have been offered jobs in the Bega Valley but can’t take them because there isn’t accommodation.”
Council recently resolved to enter into an agreement with Southern Cross Housing and the Department of Communities and Justice to develop more community housing in the shire.
“We’ll be investing the proceeds from the sale of Narira Village Complex in Cobargo in this partnership, as well as ensuring the Narira Village Complex in Cobargo is retained as community housing into the future,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.
Cr Griff said “multiple tactics” were needed to tackle the crisis and council could look at land allocation, zoning, planning and partnerships.
Council is seeking community feedback on its draft strategy, which proposes measures to support an increase in the diversity of housing stock to meet the needs of people who live and work in the shire.
Feedback on the draft strategy through council’s Have Your Say webpage will be accepted up to 6 February 2022.