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CVC’s affordable housing policy on exhibition, but unchanged

Geoff Helisma|

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) has placed the fourth edition of its affordable housing policy on exhibition; however, no amendments are suggested, nor does the document mention the NSW government’s guiding policy, SEPP 70 (State Environmental Planning Policy).

Previous revisions of the original 2010 policy were undertaken in 2013 and 2015.

Significantly, SEPP 70 states that “the next step in the process will be for councils to prepare affordable housing contribution schemes and amend their local environmental plans [LEP] to reference the schemes”.

However, “it is optional for a council to develop an affordable housing contribution scheme”.

Clarence Valley Council has not considered an affordable housing contribution scheme, but it does enforce conditions on new developments under the LEP, which specifies that CVC “will accept that affordable housing development provision is being met by providing 1 unit of affordable housing in each 10 units of housing developed”.

The draft affordable housing policy only specifies data from 2011, which relied on research from 2009, when referring to the valley’s affordable housing problems.

Nevertheless, the draft policy’s overview is a stark reminder of the deficiency.

“There is a need to diversify housing stock and tenure options to meet the changing needs of the Clarence community, including the aging of the population, decreasing average household size and socio-economic profile,” it states.

“…The needs of older, asset poor, people who are currently in private rental will also be an increasingly serious issue for the Clarence Valley.

“Research conducted indicates clear justification for Council to seek to increase the affordable stock through its planning instruments and policies.

“There are [sic] a large number of residents in housing stress and impacted by unmet need for affordable housing.

“This policy identifies that new development has a responsibility to not exacerbate the identified current and future need for affordable housing.”

However, despite this statement, there is nothing in the policy advocating specific actions, apart from those outlined in the LEP.

Statistically, in 2009, 11.5 per cent of the valley’s renters were experiencing housing stress.

It was estimated that there was a 300 unit shortfall in the supply of social housing (housing for those on very low incomes) based on NSW average supply.

“Development in the Clarence since 2011 has added to the existing pressure,” the draft policy states.

“The Clarence Valley is undersupplied with smaller more manageable dwellings, with about one third [of] the NSW rate in this housing type.

“Using the NSW benchmark, there is a shortfall of around 6,000 smaller more manageable dwellings.”

The draft policy defines affordable housing as housing where rental or mortgage payments do not exceed 30 per cent of gross household income.

“Council recognises affordable housing through the inclusion of appropriate aims, zone objectives and mechanisms in its environmental planning instruments, and ensures that these documents encourage the retention and creation of diverse housing opportunities, including for affordable housing in appropriate locations,” CVC’s policy statement reads.

“In this sense, its policies aim to promote reasonableness, transparency, equity and feasibility.”

The draft policy is on exhibition until Tuesday July 27, 2021.

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