18 November 2022

Three units to help 'shameful' homelessness crisis receive backing of Bega's council

| Albert McKnight
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Bega from the air. Photo: BVSC.

Bega Valley Shire Council will support a DA for three units in Bega for people at risk of homelessness. Photo: BVSC.

Three units in Bega intended to help with the homelessness crisis in the region have received the backing of council, with one councillor saying it would have been a “crime” to prevent access to them.

Bega Valley Shire Council’s councillors unanimously agreed to prioritise a development application from the Social Justice Advocates for the Sapphire Coast (SJA) for three moveable dwellings at Bega’s Uniting Church as well as waive the fees involved when they held a meeting on Wednesday (16 November).

“They [SJA] have people desperate to move into these units, so it’s a crime to not be able to do that,” Greens Councillor Cathy Griff, who moved the motion, said.

“How shameful, in our shire, in this day and age, that we have any homeless people.”

Council said SJA had run a number of fundraising campaigns to buy transportable dwellings that could be used as temporary housing for vulnerable people at risk of homelessness.

READ ALSO Mayor pleads with owners of second homes to help ease Bega Valley’s housing crisis

Two units are at a caravan park in Pambula, while three more were installed behind the Uniting Church in Bega.

As these three were connected to the sewer network without approval, council said SJA had to regularise the “unapproved development” through a formal DA process, which came with fees. However, paying these fees would have meant less funding to buy more units.

There was a desperate need for units like this in the shire, Cr Griff said. Ms Griff said one of the three units in Bega was occupied, but the list of people needing to move in, often being single parents with children, was long.

Cr Griff said she had been contacted by people on “reasonable salaries” who “can’t find a place to sleep”.

“This homelessness isn’t an image of people in a bedraggled state, there are people who often have work, but they are unable to rent or live somewhere,” she said.

“It could be any of us, quickly.”

READ ALSO Caravans plugging holes in South Coast housing crisis

During Wednesday’s meeting, Cr Mitchell Nadin had also commented on the legislation council had to discuss.

He remarked that this was not a new problem, available accommodation in the shire had been an issue for some time and to have this “rigid and inflexible” legislation in existence “kind of annoys me”.

After the meeting, Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said the successful motion meant the assessment of SJA’s DA would be prioritised with the “intent to provide affordable and immediate housing to vulnerable people at risk of homelessness”.

“Considering our current housing crisis, this is a good outcome,” council’s director of business and governance Illiada Bolton said.

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