Council should turn blind eye

BYRON Shire Council should turn a blind eye to unauthorised housing unless there is an obvious health and safety risk, a Byron Shire councillor says.

Councillor Tom Tabart says unauthorised housing in Byron Shire has become a mainstream source of low-income accommodation and 'raids' by council were only causing extra stress to people in already difficult circumstances.

Cr Tabart's comments follow a recent council 'raid' on local identity John Anderson's - aka Fast Buck$ - Coorabell property for a number of unapproved dwellings.

It caused angst among alleged tenants at the property, who claimed their accommodation was comfortable, safe and affordable.

It received much local media attention, but Cr Tabart said the Fast Buck$ case was just one of many.

"We (councillors) know of many others, but because of the plight of the people it's kept confidential," he said.

Cr Tabard will put a notice of motion to Thursday's council meeting that compliance action be restricted until there is action from the state and or federal government on "to fully address the growing problem of the affordable housing shortage".

He told The Northern Star he did not expect the motion to get up, but that it was more of a plea for attention and recognition of the plight of the homeless.

"I'm basically daring the councillors to do this, so .... hopefully the local government association will object and we can say to the pollies: "We've got this homelessness problem - what are you going to do about it?"

Staff comments on the notice of motion indicate the matter is complex and sensitive, with no easy resolution.

"If council took formal action that required a property owner to cease using and to demolish or remove unapproved structures, then vulnerable people could be at risk and could become homeless.

"On the other hand, if a tenant is killed or injured whilst living in an unapproved (and possibly unsafe) dwelling, then council may have a degree of vicarious liability," the report said.

It said tenants might be allowed to remain in certain unauthorised structures, subject to strict terms and conditions.

Cr Tabart said it was time for some discretion.

"It is unrealistic to hide behind the anachronistic requirements of the legislation in the face of a major social crisis.

"When they (the council) get a complaint they have to act.

"How they act on it is another matter," he said.

Cr Tabart said the council's compliance action should be directed to holiday letting, describing it as an abuse that severely reduced the housing stock available for residential use.

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