Covid and the Coffs Coast’s housing crisis

Yet again Covid is changing the World we live in. Living in large, densely populated areas is becoming a fearful existence, lives changed governed by enforced lock downs.

By Rodger Pryce, Mayoral candidate for the Together We’ll Fix It Group

Our future in Coff Coffs Harbour is not going to be the place we thought it was going to be, increased pressure on housing is in my opinion going to accelerate with a corresponding call to immediate action required at a local government level.

We call on our Council to urgently revisit the refusal of a recent Development Application, requesting the use of ‘Dongas’, or portable cabins, (pictured above) as temporary accommodation to house seasonal workers.

Both Grafton and Nambucca Councils permit this use, yet our seasonal farm labour force is many times larger and Coffs Harbour’s City Council have refused this application.

Apart from these farm workers being forced to live in compromised conditions due to a lack of temporary housing, our rental market comes under real pressure as thousands of temporary workers occupy housing that could otherwise be made available to the broader community.

Instead of refusing such an application, should we not be encouraging the use of this form of seasonal accommodation? We believe so.

Grafton and Nambucca can find a way to make this housing policy work, why can’t we?

Very shortly the by-pass will be staffed by a large, temporary workforce, many of whom will undoubtedly be housed in Dongas. It will be permitted then, we need to be able to house our temporary farm workforce, in exactly the same manner, now.

One of the cornerstones of our group’s electoral strategy is to promote a future of inclusiveness, to embrace all of our community, all of the stakeholders.

Here is a classic example of why we need to change.


Photo: CC Together team

Rodger, the housing crisis is one of the major issues in the upcoming election, what is the solution that your team proposes?

Quite some time ago, Coffs Council developed their own residential estate, between Toormina and Sawtell, known as the Weller Estate. This was a great success and, in our opinion, we should be the driving force behind the easing of supply of land on to the market. There is no better time than now, to get more residential land on to the market.

Where does the land come from to develop?

Council owns quite a large amount of land in different parcels, some of which would make ideal residential land estates. I also see no reason why, as a Council, the community should not invest in acquiring land from private landowners at a fair market price, engaging private enterprise to produce blocks of land. We have done it before, we can do it again.

What other advantages do you see coming from this?

The desired outcome is controlled via covenants, some lots would be large enough to accommodate low density, multi housing enclaves, spread between single dwelling lots.

It has been proven that large scale housing developments designed to accommodate the lower socioeconomic members of our community, produces an undesirable outcome. Integration has proven to work. 

The community, being the owners, control the outcomes. The objective is not to maximise profits, it is to produce residential land at minimal profit to assist with the easing of supply. As owners of the lots, controls put in in place determine who the buyers are.

What other solutions does your team propose to ease the housing crisis?

We know that housing is primarily a State and Federal matter. We need to be on our elected representative’s doorsteps, working as closely as we possibly can.

Our team is not yet elected, but already I have been engaged in dialogue with our State Member, constantly seeking ways to ease the crisis. The Bray St/Argyll St initiative can only be the beginning, we need to keep our governments focus on this urgent issue.

The delay in getting approvals out of Council for the release of land is not only a local issue, it is a State Government issue also. Our relevant Council employees are hogtied with legislation, that requires them to go through hoops to complete their assessments. Urgent issues require urgent action, our neighboring Councils face exactly the same concerns, we need to work together to affect change.

We propose to initiate an urgent review of the Council’s priorities for infrastructure and the deployment of personnel who are engaging in carrying out infrastructure in areas outside our LGA, as a result of tendering for additional work.

Land zoned for residential use cannot be released because of the need for Council to upgrade it’s own infrastructure. $47 million of budgeted infrastructure upgrades, in this current financial year will not happen. Council is the source of land, the source of houses. The source of housing our community.

Homelessness, an ever-growing major issue. What are the thoughts of you and your team?

The Government assisted agencies involved locally, require every assistance, the maximum level of cooperation, we can afford, to give them as a Council.

Our team member candidate, Tammy Mills-Thom, spends a lot of time with, in particular, the African community, many of whom seem to have fallen through the cracks in the system. Getting to understand them, helping them to understand us and helping where she can.

Recently, homelessness is spreading through to other sectors of our community, where quite simply, there are no properties to rent. This is a crisis placing those who never imagined not being able to find a place to live, into a world of uncertainty. The only solution is more accommodation to ease the supply, lessen the demand.

You were involved in the Coffs Harbour property industry for a long time, why are you wanting to do this?

In my opinion, we have a lot to contribute. Personally, I know the residential side of the industry very well. I know first hand what it is to be a struggling tenant, I’ve been one.

Both the ladies on our Fix It team are single. Nikki is the Mum of 10 y.o. triplets, saving for a block of land. Tammy lives with her Mum and Dad, she lets out her house, she can’t afford to live there. John lives at Nana Glen, which has limited services.

When in business my company managed more residential property, knew more tenants, than any other company in Coffs Harbour for years. We assisted with the development of many residential housing estates throughout Coffs Harbour. I understand it, know how it works.

Initiatives create solutions, we must speed up the release of land, just like our neighbours. We can be creative and be involved as a Council, leading the way with our own land releases, producing the desired outcomes, creating the opportunities for our ever-expanding community to be housed.

Again, why are you doing this? 

I know all about struggle. There is a level of shame associated with growing up poor in an otherwise affluent society, which was what it was in NZ, where I grew up.

Nothing is ever as it appears to be. My heart remains with those who endure struggle. It’s time for me to do what I can, to ease the burden that those who are less fortunate are facing.

I shudder at the decision that has been taken to spend over $80 million, for the benefit of what I view, as being a small minority of the 77,000 who reside in the Coffs Harbour Local Government Area. The cost of the Council Offices, within the Gordon St proposal will exceed $40 million. If elected as Mayor, out of respect for those who are not in a privileged position, I will never sit in an office in that building, I could not do it. 

The ‘Together We’ll Fix It Team’ for the 2021 CHCC election

The above are two media releases by the Together We’ll Fix It team for Council. The first is from Monday 28 June and the second (interview) is dated 17 June 2021. Merged together as both on same topic.

Coffs Coast Outlook will publish all media releases by candidates for the council elections on the Coffs Coast so long as they have legally acceptable content. Media releases can be sent to [email protected]

Lead photo of Dongas (Portable cabins) – Healthy Home Ventilation

2 thoughts on “Covid and the Coffs Coast’s housing crisis

  1. From humble beginnings, our family could never have afforded a home. In 1964 we secured a Crown Land residential block on a 99-year lease, with an option to buy at any time during that lease. Had this opportunity not been available, our children would not have enjoyed the security of their family home. There is every good reason for our State Government to reintroduce this principle.
    Further, since the Housing Commission faltered in its primary role, it needs to be modified to promote success. Government housing should promote an end goal that the tenant should ultimately be able to gain ownership. A permanent tenant has no sense of ownership and this can lead to neglect. Raise their aspirations to future ownership and they are encouraged to take pride in their home.
    We have an excellent example set by our indigenous community at Wongala Estate. In 1967 they set out to rise above their living conditions, and today Wongala is a beautifully manicured estate of which the Gumbainggirr people can be justly proud.

  2. Two mayoral candidates, with two positive perspectives. One asking Council for housekeeping, which I presume is an immediate call, not far now from the caretaker period, and the appropriate thing Council should right now do. Another with a wider and overall strategy exhibiting clear knowledge in being able to resolve a major problem and having taken initiatives already to do so. Very positive.

    This pre-caretaker period is a bit of a worry. What are the incumbent buggers going to get up to, before the restrictions kick in? Are they going to pull another mongrel political stunt, as they did with hurrying the contract for the so-called CCS? Just so they know … we’re aware and watching.

    What’s strongly evident though is the role the NSW Govt is going to play now that it’s moving into the area. It’s well worth contemplating what can happen. We don’t know much, yet; what is showing up though is that Coffs is one of four regions chosen to decentralise the State Government operation. (Maybe Greater Sydney is full? Maybe they’ve seen the beaches?) Maybe their intention is noble, wishing to empower regional NSW.

    We only know yet some sketchy details of what government instruments will be coming. ‘Planning’ has been mentioned. We don’t know yet the levels of them. If we’re getting non-determinative employees then what this comment is really about won’t happen. But if higher, determinative levels of NSW Govt arrive then it brings forces we should consider.

    The first thing to consider, I feel, is that it acts as a ‘test case’. This provides opportunity. Imagine if the State Government moves into a regional area and effectively turns it back on that area, going about its business, barricaded off from assisting the locals? Not a good look. It must surely come bearing open arms, at least to some extent. If not, the next point comes into play more strongly, again to our benefit.

    Because if we are getting higher levels of State Government here, then it comes with media, powerful media.

    If that isn’t leverage, nothing is. It is, of course, and we can use it — or, rather, a mayor with a bit of nouse can use it. (The GM is clueless, in my view.) We’ll be getting reporters who don’t play by local rules, local rules which are not publicly expressed, being: beneficent. State and National reporters don’t care about reputations. Rather, these consider them a scalp. Local media could have had a dozen scalps, but chooses not to, in our recent history. State reporters don’t have that constraint.

    This is only if we get those higher Govt levels, of course. Reporters may not be here all the time, but they’ll come, in any case, early on to report on how things are going, what’s been happening. If this isn’t a chance, absolutely guaranteed, then nothing is. It’s a beauty. Mayoral candidates, and councillors who can see it, opportunity is on your doorstep.

    But we have to open the door. The State Govt will come bearing gifts, but these will be tight and limited, as it maintains its self-regard. We have to push further in, prise wide all that we can.

    We can do this because, guaranteed upon their arrival, and longer if higher levels come, we have that media leverage. CHCC can be part of the overall media coverage, part of the success of the move. We should make sure that we are.

    (One of the reasons we have to stop the silly CCS, it’s a national embarrassment, and if built, it’s certain to make its way into coverage, with names and histories as open slather.)

    Being the location for what is in part a test case, we can embed ‘ourselves’ into that test, for we have nothing to lose. The State Govt does. We can make sure we get every benefit we can from it, benefits outlayed here these last days on CCO, and in gaining those benefits we both look good: local and state jurisdictions. If the State doesn’t want to work with us, the test will be seen as their fail.

    Again, this is all far beyond the mien of the current CHCC leadership. It is part of the turning point that has arrived, part of the gifts that have been given, if we have the eyes to see them. These are gifts we have to work to get, work to cultivate. Work to align ourselves with.

    There is a perplexing miasma of views on government. From the superwealthy at a national and state level who regard government as an extension of their office agenda, out to people who regard government as a dark entity, back the other way to those who regard government as a parental comfort. It’s up to us how we choose to view the move here of the State Govt. Surely though we can agree that any level of government does serve the community. How well or not is a different issue, and doesn’t affect the way we can do our best to benefit from this opportunity.

    It’s some way off, no site has been chosen, scant information given. The hell with that! Let’s make sure we aren’t just cushions for them to put their bums on whenever and however they wish. Let’s let them know we are very sure of ourselves, very keen to work together, very certain we are a shared player in this move.

    Let’s keep the initiatives moving. Being forward. Being bold. Not accepting brush-offs. Let’s welcome the State Government with strong arms. It is our ally, not our foe. Let’s get a new council that is bold and visionary, who can put together the threads of interaction and grow from them to create this truly visionary future … which sounds a lot like commonsense under these most opportune circumstances. It sounds, actually, a heck of a lot like fun.

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