Mark Dansie, executive officer of the North Coast Community Housing Company.
Mark Dansie, executive officer of the North Coast Community Housing Company. Cathy Adams

50 new homes for low-income famlies

IN AN era when governments are slashing budgets and services, low-income workers struggling to find affordable housing finally got some good news yesterday.

The State Government has announced it will build 50 new 'community' houses this financial year from Grafton to Tweed Heads.

Lismore will receive an extra 14 new homes to replace former public housing that has been demolished.

“This is great news,” said Mark Dansie, executive officer of the North Coast Community Housing Company (NCCHC), a not-for-profit organisation that will manage the homes.

“There is a shortage of affordable rental accommodation in the area, not just for people who might be on low-incomes such as pensioners, but also key workers.”

Community housing, as distinct from public housing, is managed by non-for-profit community groups, but like public housing it is funded by the State Government. Tenants pay roughly 25 per cent of their weekly income in rent.

Mr Dansie said there was an urgent need for more community housing in the area because during the property boom local house prices far outstripped wages, which are still below the national average.

The lack of affordable housing has placed more than a half of those renting on the Northern Rivers in 'rental housing stress', including more than 65 per cent of those in Byron and Tweed, according to research by the Northern Rivers Social Development Council.

Mr Dansie said the boost to affordable housing would help the local economy and businesses. He said when rents were high, companies found it difficult to attract trainees and apprentices, as well as people in low-paid key work areas such as childcare, aged care and hospitality.

“There is a huge need, especially in an area like this where the incomes are low, for people to get housing,” he said.

The NCCHC manages 550 properties on the Northern Rivers and has been growing at an annual rate of about 17 per cent over the past two years, and expects a 'significant' increase over the next couple of years.

The Government has promised to build 30,000 additional community homes by 2017, of which the Northern Rivers is expected to get a lion's share.

The Lismore-based NCCHC won a tender this year to become a 'growth provider', which means it can access funds from both the Federal and State government's to provide more housing.

“There is a significant amount of (housing) stock earmarked for this area,” Mr Dansie said.



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