The Mudgee Guardian polled readers on the issues they consider most important in the community. Among the many responses, five stood out as the 'top' issues. They were: roads, rail, sustainability, entertainment and housing. An email was sent to each ungrouped candidate and each lead candidate in each group on Monday, November 8 asking for their response.
This week, we look at housing.
As housing and rental affordability drops as prices surge, what will you do to combat this and keep locals from moving out of the region in search of more affordable housing?
Housing and rental affordability has become a major concern in our local government area as it is in many areas of NSW in recent times.
Council co owns some affordable rental properties in the major towns of our region.
Some of these properties were built in collaboration with the State Government and are managed by Housing Plus. Council identified and supplied the land and the State provided the funds to build these properties.
There are 379 properties, these include all public housing, social housing, affordable housing and crisis accommodation and is an increase from 347 in 2015. Housing Plus has been awarded a contract by the NSW government to build 14 new homes in our region, to be delivered by December 2023.
These are good outcomes but with State Government funds in high demand we must lobby for additional funding using the sweetener of free Council land. This strategy may result in more funding for additional affordable rental properties for the region.
I think we must also consider joint ventures with other interested stakeholders to build more affordable housing so that even better outcomes can be achieved.
In recent times Council has purchased the Mudgee Bowling Club land for affordable housing and I will be pushing for the development of this site for this purpose.
Housing affordability has become a serious issue across regional NSW, and particularly in tourist hotspots like the Mid-West with the popularity of services like Airbnb. There's definitely a role to play for Council in the regulation of short-term tourist accommodation so we can balance the economic benefits of tourism with the need to ensure affordable housing for locals. The issue requires significant thought, research and input from the community, subject matter experts and other councils that have already implemented policies in this space. We welcome newcomers to the Mid-West and the opportunity they bring, but locals are the heart and soul of our community and we don't want people forced out of the region due to unaffordable housing.
This issue has been around for a while now, and has been highlighted by the migration of people from metropolitan areas to the regions due to the changes brought about by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Governments at all levels are struggling to find any meaningful solutions.
While council cannot affect the price somebody is willing to pay for a property, it does have the legislative mechanisms and financial capacity to alleviate some of the supply issues associated with buying or renting property.
Developments like the one undertaken by council in Saleyards Lane can be repeated and a certain number of blocks made available to builders/buyers for affordable housing. A sensible approach to the zoning or rezoning of land, and a more positive and timely approach to development decisions would go a long to helping solve some of the immediate problems.
I think that opening up the region through a connective transport system e.g. buses, would make it easier for people to live in one locality and work in another. I also believe that revitalising the small villages, such as Windeyer, Hargraves and Lue, and having a more positive approach to allowing dwellings to be built in these areas would take the pressure off the supply of housing in Mudgee.
None of these approaches will fix the problem on their own. Council will need to embrace a raft of measures quickly, and be willing to think laterally in order to make a significant difference on front.
Council has not carried out effective promotion and or consultation around affordable housing opportunities. 'Every decision, every time' believes this to be a failure. There are many opportunities available for property owners in the area to provide affordable housing under the Affordable Housing SEPP. In addition Council documents that impact on Affordable Housing such as the Local Strategic Planning Statement (LSPS) and the Local Environmental Plan (LEP) were developed without extensive consultation.
Council has failed to promote these to the relevant property owners. Council's Affordable Housing Strategy was not promoted widely enough resulting in limited feedback. Most people do not know that Council has bought property for affordable housing in Saleyards Lane in Mudgee and is considering developing housing on the old bowling club site in Mudgee. 'Every decision, every time' would be informing and consulting with the community around these and future plans.
Housing is a pet grievance of mine. With our increasing population I believe we should have more land allocated to housing.
I heard this week that several building blocks around 450sq metres were sold a couple of weeks ago on the outskirts of Mudgee. What can you put on a block of land that size? I am appalled that council would allow our beautiful landscape to be divided up into those tiny blocks that can only cater for a house the size of a butter box. I believe there has been a good deal of outside investors buying up property. This must contribute to the increase in housing prices. One of the things that attracts people to our region is the beautiful landscape.
Council needs to be more sympathetic to this. The last thing we want is acres and acres of roof tops sitting on top of one another. I would be pushing for more family affordable housing to be available for the needs of our local families who are making up a greater portion of our population and we can't afford to lose them because they can't afford to purchase a house.
Affordable housing isn't an issue for Council, it's a crisis. Significant increases in the value of house and land, especially in recent times, has translated into significant increases in the cost of rent. There's no doubt that it has created great opportunities for property owners, but as with all situations in life, whenever someone is winning, there's usually someone losing too.
This issue isn't something new, it's an issue that existed long before this pandemic. Rental properties have dropped out of the market as owners move to online platforms such as Airbnb to monetise their investments, and increasing demand for housing means rental prices are going through the roof. High demand, and limited supply. The end result? People are struggling to find affordable housing, or to realise their dreams of one day owning a home.
As a Council, we have the financial capacity and legislative ability to make a meaningful difference. We can change the way we approach planning and development decisions, and we can use our strong financial position to obtain, provide or develop land and open it up to young families. Having adequate land available for development simply isn't a solution.
We have to promote rezoning and make it viable so we solve the affordable housing issue. We've definitely made some progress, but we can make a lot more, and we need to do it now. I am committed to seeing this through in another term on Council, and I will do everything in my power to make it easier on families to live and work in our region. It shouldn't be a struggle.
For a small region we are blessed with a booming economy that is the envy of many other parts of NSW. Unfortunately, that boom does not benefit everyone in our community and I really feel for people on low or no wages, or those people trying to buy their first home. We are an ageing population too and housing and rental affordability in our region is a significant problem.
Council should be a strong advocate. I believe Council should take a partnership approach with all levels of government and social sector not-for-profits to explore the depth and breadth of the problem, and then develop a range of long-term solutions. Participation in the Regional Housing Taskforce would be key. I suspect that simply throwing a whole lot of money at the issue would only solve part of the problem.
I am conscious that the provision of housing may not be 'core business' of local government and am very concerned about the risk of cost-shifting service and infrastructure delivery to local government with no matching money to deliver what our community needs. We need to come up with sustainable solutions rather than lumbering the community with more infrastructure that must be managed and maintained by ratepayer dollars.
Council should be an enabler to encourage increased diversity of, and investment in, affordable housing - working with both developers and not-for-profits. Zoning and planning instruments need to allow this to occur, taking a long-term view as our community grows and changes.
We need to develop a whole of Mudgee Region Plan to improve the availability of and access to housing by better integrating our smaller towns and villages into the bigger picture of a regional focus. This can be achieved by better roads and infrastructure and public transport options and a commitment to small business as a key driver of employment.
We might encourage smaller and more sustainable housing developments The NSW Department of Communities and Justice has developed a Local Government Housing Kit and MWRC has an Affordable Housing Policy in place to investigate and deliver quality solutions for Affordable Housing in the region.
We can also develop on existing MWRC plans to support Housing Plus.
Affordable housing is becoming an issue in most regional areas. We, as a Council, will need to continue to identify land opportunities where affordable housing can be built. I also believe that we will also need to continue to pursue developments where a mixture of housing opportunities are identified.
One of my election commitments is to request a review of the Local Land Use Strategy with a view to increasing the areas where land may be rezoned and houses may be constructed.
A review of allotments available for housing construction is monitored by Council on a regular basis as are development applications before Council.
Council has also acquired land which may be developed by Council and sold at an affordable price or Council could sell the land to Housing Plus for them to develop as rental accommodation or sale as affordable housing. Council has promised to make two residential blocks available to Housing Plus Council itself has limited rental accomodation and this could be expanded.
Council's General Manager Brad Cam occupies an executive position on Housing Plus so Council is in a good position to work with that body to develop affordable housing.
Not all people wish to reside in towns so land needs to be provided to serve the needs of these people. There are many existing There are many existing parcels of land which do not have a building permit. Perhaps consideration could be given to rezoning such land where infrastructure such as sealed roads are available and the land does not have good agriculture value.
Council is in the position to make a big difference to the amount of affordable housing available in our region, and the sudden rush of new residents and subsequent leap in housing prices have made this a vital responsibility. As an immediate priority, the new council will need to decide how it's going to address our current housing crisis. It affects not only current residents that are being priced out of the housing market, but vital professionals who cannot move to town because they either can't find or can't afford housing in our region.
Council can develop new homes available for low income residents to rent or buy. It is a massive project, one that involves large investment and extensive construction work, ongoing property maintenance and tenancy relationships, but it's worth it and it's absolutely necessary.
Council has access to land, it has funds available, and it is hopefully more likely than private enterprise to taken on the less-profitable project of providing affordable housing for low-income families. Even once the decision has been made, the work of establishing more housing will take extensive time and resources, so it needs to be begun as soon as possible. The crisis is happening now.
Housing is an issue that this area can not afford to ignore. Without adequate housing you are limiting employment access for those seeking to move to the area for all industries. It is an area that I am most concerned with. If we do not consider options for what we can do our community will only operate between Thursday to Sunday for the tourists who visit and can afford to experience what our region is so regarded for. I would like to look how council can collaborate with the other stakeholders of our area to make a solution that will be unique to our community.
Access to affordable housing strengthens communities. This is becoming a massive issue for a lot of regional areas and it takes a proactive, innovative approach from Council to ensure the area has a solid plan in place. Rent has increased more than 11 per cent in regional areas this year. That's a scary thought for many people, especially families that are low to middle-income earners. The housing needs and preferences of the community have changed over time and will continue to change.
Driving a research agenda to promote innovation and delivery of effective housing solutions is a really important first step for Council. A solution that promotes low-cost, sustainable and energy-efficient homes in areas that people want to live and can effectively be obtained by those who need it outside of market conditions is at the top of the agenda. The social fabric of a community is what keeps the cogs turning; the supermarket workers, waste facility staff, people who work in and clean the hospitals and educate our kids.
If those people can't afford to live here, our whole community is affected.
Housing prices are soaring. It is good for some but disastrous for others, especially our most vulnerable.
We need to increase the availability of affordable housing and key to that is to make suitable land more available. Council has resources that could be mobilised to ease the shortage in available land.
In our more disadvantaged area I would like to see Council partner with Not-For-Profit organisations and State Government to increase the supply and quality of housing.
If elected to Council I will fight for Council to establish an office to foster the return of the limited housing cooperative. Yes it's an old idea but didn't work. And frankly, as a community I don't know why we let it go. It helped a lot of people get a start.
We have many distinct and unique areas in our Region, Gulgong, Mudgee, Rylstone, Kandos and every village in between. What would work for one will not work for another, however we all need to have people move into our area for employment and for them to have somewhere to live.
Current opportunities are limited in our smaller towns and our LEP needs to reflect this without interference from State Authorities as they have in the past. Minimum lot sizes for building entitlements needs to be changed. One size does not fit all and there needs to be a realistic change so more housing options are available. There is plenty more on all these topics that needs to be addressed and said but I thank the Mudgee Guardian for the opportunity to explain a small part of what needs to be done.
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