Decision to increase housing in Bega Valley town centers welcomed, but more plans needed to tackle the crisis

The Bega Valley Shire Council is trying to improve affordable housing in the Sapphire Coast region. Photo: Supplied.

A proposal to allow more residential housing in Bega Valley town centers has been welcomed, but there is a call for additional plans to tackle the Sapphire Coast housing crisis.

The Bega Valley Shire Council is seeking feedback on the proposed change that would allow a wider range of housing types in downtown areas.

Housing in the county has previously been reported to be at ‘crisis point’. The Council’s draft affordable housing strategy indicates that 19 percent of houses in the county are used as short-term housing; only 19 percent of occupied dwellings are rented privately; and only three percent are rented as social housing.

The strategy says there will be a projected need for nearly 2,500 affordable housing units by 2036.

“We need to improve housing diversity, especially housing suitable for the elderly, people with disabilities and the workforce rental market,” said Alice Howe, Community Director, Environment and planning from the Bega Valley Shire Council.

She said the amendment would allow for a wider range of housing types in some city centers, provided they are integrated into mixed-use developments.

According to the proposal, its intention is to include “residential houses, double-occupancy housing, collective housing or residential apartment buildings” as permitted developments in the centers.

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“Currently, the only forms of residential accommodation permitted in the local B2 center areas in the city centers of Bega, Bermagui, Eden, Merimbula, Pambula and Tathra are top quality housing and guesthouses,” said Dr. Howe.

“The changes we are suggesting will ensure that active street frontages are maintained in these commercial areas while providing accommodation options for key workers, business owners and the aging population above or behind business premises. “

Mick Brosnan, of Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast, said a range of options must be explored to try to improve the housing crisis because no single option is going to solve it.

When it came to the idea of ​​expanding residential housing in city centers, he said he feared that once a building opened, “people who can afford a fortune will get access to it first.” .

“We have to make sure it is open to everyone, especially those who need it,” Brosnan said.

“The basic thing we all need to know is that we need to be flexible and we need to look at all options.

“We are in desperate need of a youth shelter and we are in desperate need of a men’s shelter.

READ ALSO: Rental housing “crisis” as vacancy rates fall below 1%

Bega Chamber of Commerce chairman John Watkin said he was happy the council was looking at the issue from a practical standpoint, but as the area faces a severe housing shortage, he thinks that the amendment won’t make much of a difference to Bega.

“There will be changes in a few streets, but in reality it probably won’t open up more areas for housing,” Watkin said.

He said heritage ordinances could prevent some older homes from being destroyed and a new structure built in its place.

However, Watkin said the amendment “it looks like it will make a big difference” to Merimbula and will open up housing there.

Regarding other ideas on how to improve the housing crisis in Bega, Watkin said council could approve a 34-unit village proposal for those over 55, which is awaiting approval. for over 12 months.

To comment on the proposed plan, visit Bega Valley Shire Council’s Web page Give your opinion before the bid closing date on January 23, 2022.

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