SEEKING SHELTER: Northern Rivers Social Development Council’s Trish Evans, also convenor of the Northern Rivers Housing Forum Steering Group, says a shortfall in housing is hitting locals hard.
SEEKING SHELTER: Northern Rivers Social Development Council’s Trish Evans, also convenor of the Northern Rivers Housing Forum Steering Group, says a shortfall in housing is hitting locals hard. Luke Mortimer

No quick fix for Northern Rivers housing crisis

THERE'S no quick fix for the Northern Rivers' mounting affordable housing crisis.

A lack of housing, low incomes and limited public transport means an increasing number of the region's residents struggle to make ends meet.

Social service groups such as St Vincent de Paul and North Coast Community Housing say the situation will worsen.

Northern Rivers Social Development Council's Trish Evans, also convenor of the Northern Rivers Housing Forum Steering Group, said there were not enough rentals to go around and buying a home remained a pipe dream for many.

When combined with the region's low average incomes and scattered public transport, it means a growing number of locals have trouble paying the bills.

"We just don't have enough supply," Ms Evans said.

The crisis in detail

  • We're facing a 30% shortfall in housing supply.
  • Population expected to increase by a third by 2036.
  • Growing rates of rental and mortgage stress - 11.6% and 10.5%.
  • Incomes less than 75% of NSW average in some areas.
  • Roughly 1370 people homeless, 800 marginally housed (caravan parks etc).

SOURCE: North Coast Community Housing Northern Rivers Housing Study (Dec 2013)

 

"Affordability's a function of income and when you look at current rent and sales reports, particularly along the coast, rents for the predominant type of housing we have, three bedroom separate housing, is between $400-500 - about half of the average family's income.

"Incomes in the region are about two-thirds that of the State. The costs are high, our incomes are low and we're not building affordable properties.

"We need about 2500 dwellings per year. We're not coming close to that."

Ms Evans praised councils for attempting to boost development, but said: "We need large institutional investment for developments to go ahead at the scale we need it."

Ms Evans said spending up to 50-60% of incomes on rent is not uncommon, but those with mortgages also face hardship.

"It forces families to make some hard decisions," she said.

"Housing affordability and stress is not a problem only affecting a small portion of our population.

"A lot of our population work part time and casually - that's the nature of the jobs in our region - and they travel further to their jobs because they can't afford housing close by."

Ms Evans stressed affordable housing as not just a social issue, but an economic concern, as it impacts people's access to work, training and education.

Meanwhile, public housing figures by NSW Family & Community Services estimated a wait of more than a decade for a two bedroom home in most of the Northern Rivers.

The wait for one, three and four bedroom homes varied, but a two to 10-plus year wait was expected anywhere but Evans Head, where it takes up to two years to secure a three bedroom home.

North Coast Community Housing, which oversees more than 900 social and affordable properties, said its studies projected 20,000 eligible applicants by 2031, when there was less than 4000 available properties.

The Northern Rivers Housing Conference will be held on August 6 at Lennox Head.

 



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