Affordable Housing Local Solutions Forum
On May 30 & 31, the second Bellingen & Nambucca Affordable Housing Local Solutions Forum continued its focus on local solutions to the national affordable housing crisis, showcasing the work that has been progressed since 2018. We asked Rose West, Project Officer, Bellingen Nambucca Affordable Housing Action Group about this year’s forum and its outcomes.
The event’s key purpose was to highlight the emerging solutions that can make a difference locally. It was exciting to see all the local speakers share their passion for progressing solutions to our local affordable housing crisis. It just shows how much we care for each other in our community and the impact we can make when we work together.
The forum hosted a number of speakers from near and far who spoke to the practical and innovative solutions that can work locally. These included the development of a Community Land Trust (CLT), which is an innovative model that keeps homes affordable in perpetuity. Forum organiser, Vicki Parkes, thinks that CLTs can support local families to stay in the region for generations to come. “The CLT model keeps communities affordable and connected- it’s solutions like this that we are excited to explore.”
Kim Connolly from Tiny Habitat Homes brought her Tiny Home prototype along to highlight the increasing rate of homelessness among older, single women. Kim thinks that “Tiny homes represent a tiny solution to a big problem- that of older, single women retiring into poverty and homelessness.” Kim opened her tiny home up to the public and shared that she’s currently constructing a fully accessible prototype.
The forum’s keynote speakers included the Executive Officer of National Shelter, Adrian Pisarski, who spoke to the national tragedy of homelessness, the degree of stress and insecurity renters face and the need for more leadership from the Federal Government.
Adrian Pisarski used the Rental Affordability Index interactive map to show that many regional communities face housing affordability issues. Unfortunately these can often be overlooked when the focus has been on housing affordability in cities.
In Bellingen, a single parent working part-time living in a 2-bedroom home would be facing severely unaffordable rents, paying 38-60% of their income in rent. A couple on the aged pension living in a 2-bedroom home would face unaffordable rents, paying 30-38% of their income in rent. Even working families face unaffordable rents. A couple on a minimum wage, earning $75,000 per annum, living in a 3-bedroom home would be paying up to 30% of their income in rent. If you are looking for work, there is pretty much nothing in the state of NSW that would be affordable for a recipient of Newstart.
Adrian spoke of the need for a national housing strategy, which must be flexible enough to enable local initiatives to operate in local conditions within an overarching strategy. Adrian shared that he found the forum a valuable experience, connecting with regional communities, hearing about their housing challenges and learning about their innovative solutions.
The forum also heard Dr Gregory P Smith of Southern Cross University speak to the lived experience of homelessness and life on the margins. Gregory closed the afternoon plenary session by reflecting that housing affordability is a key part of ensuring that our communities remain caring and inclusive places to live.
Local government had a strong presence too, with a number of Bellingen and Nambucca Shire Councillors and staff in attendance. Bellingen Mayor Dominic King formally opened the forum after local Gumbaynggir woman and Bellingen High School student, Tahahni Berger, performed a Welcome to Country in language.
The Bellingen Mayor shared that he’s worried that “people are being priced out of the housing market. We know there’s a lack of affordable rentals in our community, that the rate of increase in the cost of renting here is among the top ten highest in the state and that our house prices are getting more expensive. We are keen to work alongside the community to figure out how we can address this issue together.”
The second day of the forum facilitated attendees keen to join working groups that will continue to develop these local solutions, including CLTs, tiny homes, secondary dwellings and new models of land ownership.
Overall, I think the forum’s success can be measured by the growing sense in our community that we can develop solutions to the affordable housing crisis when we work together.