Affordable Housing Forum 2018
Many months of planning and preparation paid off when over 100 participants attended our Bellingen & Nambucca Affordable Housing Local Solutions Forum, May 2018. The two-day forum was an opportunity for local residents, housing industry professionals, local government, experts and others to come together to discuss potential solutions to the complex issue of affordable housing.
Forum organisers, Emma Belcher and Rose West, said that the forum was intended to highlight local solutions to the housing affordability problem. Rose stated that “the forum’s success can be measured by the growing sense in our local community that, by working together, we have an opportunity to find solutions to the housing affordability crisis.”
Keynote speakers included the Chief Planner of NSW, Gary White; CEO Common Equity, James Brown; and CEO NSW Shelter, Karen Walsh. Local government had a strong presence too, with both the general managers of Bellingen and Nambucca Shire Councils in attendance, the Bellingen mayor and a number of the councillors and staff. Other attendees included social housing providers, architects, town planners, NGO’s and residents from housing co-operatives and intentional communities.
Chief Planner Gary White noted that simply increasing supply will not act as a silver bullet, especially considering the complex relationship that exists between taxation policy, housing prices and speculation. A central idea in his speech was that local government’s key role should be strategic, rather than regulatory. He urged local government to consult their communities to collaboratively create a story that expresses the shared values of the people, the shire and our hoped-for future.
“Put the effort into the top-level storytelling. Put in place the systems so we can deliver the right stuff quickly and pump the bad stuff out quickly. Let’s be planners rather than regulators.”
Presentations: You can watch all 2018 presentations here
With this in mind, local residents were encouraged to get involved in the upcoming consultation around the Bellingen Shire Council’s Growth Management Strategy (GMS). This document is a once in a generation opportunity for the local community to shape the way our shire develops.
Councillor Jennie Fenton echoed this sentiment and urged locals to share their needs and thinking about housing during the GMS consultation process. Councillor Fenton said that “the forum was a practical and informative first-step in developing partnerships to address the growing affordable housing crisis in our community. But we’re keen to hear more from our local community, so please get involved in the GMS consultation process.”
Mayor Dominic King, says 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.”
Forum attendees were keen to join working groups that formed after a series of workshops on the second day of the forum. These groups are exploring various local solutions, including tiny houses, secondary dwellings, new models of land ownership, multiple occupancies and housing co-operatives.
Forum organiser, Emma Belcher said she’s delighted with the show of support from the local community. “It’s great to see the community come together and be so constructive and willing to give things a try. As one of the participants said in the wrap up session; ‘if there’s any town that can do this, it’s us!’”