Housing crisis grips region

FACED with rising rents and an economic downturn, four Northern Rivers local government areas have been classed as having a high need for more affordable housing.

According to a list released by Housing NSW, the only regional council not in need of more affordable housing is Kyogle.

The Lismore, Ballina, Byron and Richmond Valley councils were all classified as having a moderately high need for affordable housing.

However, Kyogle Council mayor Ernie Bennett says the low demand for affordable housing does not necessarily mean the area is better off.

“Those people who can't afford to live close to the coast move inland but find they have to travel for most of their services anyway. I believe housing is too expensive at all levels, not just the low income level,” he said.

Cr Bennett said he was unsure how his council would address theissue of affordable housing as pressuring developers to provide cheaper housing could deter developers from working in the region at all.

The Casino Village RV Resort was recently awarded the Best NSW Res-idential Park by the Caravan and Camping Industry Association of NSW, with one award judge referring to it as the best in the country.

The facility prides itself on providing affordable housing for 218 permanent residents, as well as tourist facilities.

Manager Julie James believes the park's model could be used as a solution for affordable housing shortages in other areas.

“We have a very strong demand and I have noticed an increase,” she said. “More people are retiring all the time and a lot of them lost super funds or investments because of the global economic crisis, but they still want a place they can retire to affordably. Our site fees for houses are considerably cheaper than looking on the commercial market.”

Rent for permanent dwellings at the RV village range between $120 and $130 a week, and the outright cost of a permanent dwelling starts from $130,000.

According to Australian Property Monitors, the average house price in the Richmond Valley LGA is $290,000.

Richmond Valley Council mayor Col Sullivan said while his council appreciated the need for affordable housing, it had no plans to construct more in the next year.

However, the Lismore City Council has been working towards getting more land on the market.

“I believe there is a big need for housing choice for home owners to encourage young families to get into the housing market,” Lismore council mayor Jenny Dowell said.

“We know that developers want to make money, but the price of land is partly dictated by the lack of choice. We want to get more land on the market and increase density,” she said.

West Ballina, Cumbulam, Lennox Head and Wollongbar have all had parcels of land zoned by Ballina Shire Council for the purpose ofaffordable housing development.

Ballina Shire Council group manager strategic and community services Steve Barnier said council's role was in supplying the land.

Byron Shire Council general manager Graeme Faulkner said the council recognised there was a shortage of affordable housing in the shire and was working towardsimproving housing options.

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