Byron housing crisis

By MEGAN KINNINMENT

SOCIAL workers are warning of a housing crisis in Byron Bay as rising property prices escalate rents and sea changers push out low-income earners.

Social workers met yesterday in the bay for an affordable housing forum and welcomed a move by Byron Shire Council to employ a second affordable housing officer.

The impact of sea changers and increased tourism were pushing people to the limit, according to Centrelink social worker Debra Notley Smith.

"Fifteen years ago it would have been rare for a parent to come to me saying they had nowhere to live and were sleeping in their car. Now it's a regular occurrence," she said.

"This region has changed so much.

"With coastal areas becoming more popular it's having an effect on housing and rental costs, and puts more pressure on low-income earners.

"We used to get cycles where it was hard to find accommodation, such as Christmas and Easter, now it happens all-year around.

"With rising real estate prices people are getting pushed out.

"ore and more caravan parks won't take in permanent residents," she said.

Byron Shire Council's community development officer, Robyn Masters, said Byron Bay's affordable housing problems were worsened by the number of out-of-town investors.

"Over a third of homes in Byron Shire are owned by those living outside the area. It's even higher in Byron Bay," she said.

"The need for affordable housing assistance is being felt up and down the coast, but Byron seems to be impacted the most," she said.

While the percentage of people in private rentals nationally is 19.7 per cent, in Byron Bay it is 30.5 per cent.

Byron Shire Council will vote on the new housing officer position at its next ordinary meeting, however funding has already been awarded through the state's area assis- tance scheme.



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