We are establishing a supported “hosts and lodgers” matching project through the Housing Hub, in partnership with flatmate.com. This is a local and immediate response to the housing crisis facing the Bellingen Shire. Once piloted it could be rolled out by other communities. This initiative will match home-owners living alone, who would like a lodger and some company, with people in precarious housing situations who would like to live in a share situation.
People would register and look for a suitable match, based things like age, gender, interests and location. Police checks would be mandatory for all participants.
We are establishing the Housing Hub in the Bellingen Sustainability Centre – Church St Lane Bellingen (behind the Ambulance Station) As the Hub grows, we will:
- Develop and disseminate tools and resources to help residents with disaster preparedness, water and energy security, solar passive housing design, landscaping, low cost environmentally responsible building techniques. and updates on progress in implementing the Bellingen Shire Local Housing Strategy 2020-2040 as well as the next stage of the Shire’s Growth Management Strategy which addresses Rural Lands.
- Facilitate community responses and solutions to the local housing crisis.
- Bring together socially and environmentally responsible housing professionals to provide advice for local residents undertaking small developments such as building low-cost, well-designed housing, secondary dwellings, subdividing large blocks into two, retrofitting a large house into different living areas etc.
- Undertake local and regional advocacy and policy development platform which helps government tackle the regional housing crisis.
Community of Practice
Bring together socially and environmentally responsible housing professionals to provide advice for local residents undertaking small developments such as building low-cost, well-designed housing, secondary dwellings, subdividing large blocks into two, retrofitting a large house into different living areas etc.
Precarious Housing – incl land hosting & innovative technology
We are working hard to understand the extent and impact of the regional housing crisis on the different groups of people who make up our communities. We are exploring immediate initiatives such as hosted land sharing and innovative technology responses.
We are also exploring and encouraging new models, such as for purpose private developments like well designed boarding houses for single low income earners; well designed Build to Rent; Rent to Buy and shared ownership options. We are working with not for profits, social enterprises, for purpose developers and entrepreneurs to increase the range of affordable housing options available regionally.
Our group is also kick starting a regional advocacy campaign. We are keen to work closely with local Members of Parliament to increase government investment in social and affordable housing and government incentives and subsidies for innovative new affordable housing responses.
Community Land Trust
The establishment of a Community Land Trust (CLT) has the potential to provide long term, affordable and secure housing and have an important role in maintaining community diversity, inclusion and self-determination.
A CLT is a not-for-profit organisation that provides housing, typically through co-ownership or a 99 year lease model. Effectively a CLT takes the land out of the market, which is a key driver in market price increases. This model can provide perpetually affordable housing and provides the qualities of home ownership along with a range of community benefits.
The Community Land Trust (CLT) will be a not for profit enterprise which owns property throughout the Bellingen Shire. The CLT will provide the opportunity for people to have a secure place to call home. These homes will remain affordable for future generations through shared ownership or long-term leases.
The homes will be environmentally responsible, sustainable and universally designed wherever possible.
The CLT will help to ensure that the Bellingen Shire remains an inclusive and diverse community by providing affordable and secure homes into perpetuity.
In August 2021 funding was secured from the Mid North Coast Joint Organisation (Bellingen Shire Council, Kempsey Shire Council and Port Macquarie Hastings Council) for a Community Land Trust feasibility study. The study will include legal and financial modelling for a Community Land Trust within a local context and is backed by an earlier research project undertaken by Housing Matters Action Group in 2018.
Local Housing Fund
We are exploring the establishing of a local housing fund to provide financial help to people experiencing housing stress locally. (For example, to help with increased rent if someone needs to stay in a short term holiday rental till they can find private rental or to help cover moving costs if someone has had to move a lot in a short period of time due to no fault lease terminations)
The fund is a way that newcomers buying into the region could make an immediate contribution to help mitigate the impact of increased property prices on the local community. People could contribute to the fund at the point of sale, purchase or at any time.
If the Housing Fund takes off, over time it could build sufficient capital to purchase land for the Community Land Trust.
Local Housing Strategy
The housing system is complex and all tiers of government have an important part to play. State and Commonwealth Governments control many of the levers which drive the housing system. However local government also has an important part in the housing story.
We have been actively supporting Bellingen Shire Council’s development of the twenty year Local Housing Strategy and broader Growth Management Strategy. It is a state government requirement of all local councils to develop these documents. We are proud that Bellingen Shire Council has been recognised for their outstanding work in relation to the Local Housing Strategy winning both the Community Partnerships and Collaboration Category of the NSW Local Government Awards 2019 and the Rural Category of the 2020 Local Government NSW A.R. Bluett Memorial Awards.
Bellingen Shire Council launched their discussion paper ‘Homes for our Future’ at our first housing forum in 2018. Following the forum, a working group was formed to support the community consultation process, host workshops in Dorrigo, Bellingen and Urunga and inform themselves of the details of the proposed strategy. The most common themes from the consultation included the need for more housing choice and greater housing affordability (over 30% of comments); protection of the natural environment (18% of comments) and protecting character and supporting community connections (15%) of comments.
The Local Housing Strategy will be a very important document that will guide and shape the growth of our community over the next 20 years. The Local Housing Strategy 2020-2040 and supporting Action Plan outline a wide range of initiatives, including quality infill development, environmentally responsible development, a number of innovative pilot projects and the potential of a Housing Hub to assist with the implementation and uptake of initiatives. We are pleased to work closely Bellingen Shire Council to continue to find local solutions to the current housing crisis.
The next step in Bellingen Shire Council’s Growth Management Strategy is to focus on rural lands and we look forward to seeing where we might be useful in that work.