Huge shortage of properties forcing rents through roof

By RENEE REDMOND

rredmond@northernstar.com.au

FAMILIES are being priced out of the housing rental market because of a huge shortage of affordable properties, says Lismore City councillor Jenny Dowell.

The president of the Northern Rivers Social Development Council said thousands of households were suffering financial stress because of skyrocketing rents.

This housing crisis has led to a twoday forum at the Byron Bay Community Centre from September 20-21, bringing together property developers, private investors, State and local government representatives, planners and community service workers.

Guest speakers at the Affordable Housing Solutions forum will include Byron mayor Jan Barham, North Coast property developer Adam Bennett Smith and Sydney-based joint CEO of Community Sector Banking, Peter Quamby.

Forum project manager Chris Wilson said the 2001 Australian Bureau of Statistics survey showed 11,000 households across Lismore, Ballina, Byron Bay and Tweed spent more than 30 per cent of their income on rent or mortgage repayments.

"These figures were taken before the 2003-2004 real estate boom," he said.

Cr Dowell said this year she had reports of some people spending up to 80 per cent of their wages on rent.

"It's taking away money from food, clothing and transport," she said.

Cr Dowell said the rental shortage was felt across both government and private sector housing.

But Paul Deegan, LJ Hooker Lismore principal and Real Estate Institute of NSW board member, said the hike in house prices was necessary and not unreasonable.

"The market was flat from 1994-2000, but when the first home owner's grant was introduced in 2000 the market picked up again," he said.

"It's about supply and demand, and the demand is very high at the moment because our population is growing. It's never going to get any cheaper," he said.

Mr Deegan said that over the past two years property prices had increased by almost 60 per cent.

To find out more about the Affordable Housing Solutions forum go to: www.nrsdc.org.au/affordablehousing solutions.htm.



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