Bellingen’s Community Housing Program seeks new hosts for home seekers

Sigourney and Onyx with hosts Sue McKinnon and Rob Thomas. Photo: Ute Schulenberg.

THE Community Hosting Program (CHP), an initiative of Bellingen Shire’s Housing Matters Action Group, is achieving its aim to offer a more immediate solution to the local housing crisis.

Since its launch in February, the CHP has put a number of roofs over heads and now needs more hosts.

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The idea is that homeowners with spare spaces, such as a room, a studio or a granny flat, can choose to share it with a lodger (from the Shire) for an affordable rent, with the CHP team on hand to help match hosts and lodgers and assist with the details.

Describing the plight of vulnerable locals, CHP team member Ute Schulenberg told News Of The Area, “Stressed does not even begin to describe how first-time parent Sigourney was feeling as the expiry date on her lease drew ever closer and her relentless efforts to find a home for herself and seven-month-old Onyx had led to naught.”

28-year-old Sigourney said she began exploring the option of “having to live in my car with my baby”.

“But I was also trying to stay positive,” Sigourney said.

“I knew I wanted a little cottage with white walls and running water… and then I saw the Facebook post about the launch of the Community Hosting Program pilot and there was my cottage.”

Sigourney, who spent much of her childhood in Urunga, contacted the team immediately and got to work on the necessary paperwork.

“That was on the Monday… on Tuesday she met her hosts, on Thursday they all signed the agreement, on Friday she moved in, on Saturday her lease expired,” said Ute.

Sigourney described the process as wonderful.

“Everyone has been so accommodating,” she said.

Sigourney’s hosts are Rob Thomas and Sue McKinnon, who heard about the program through local media and felt they could help.

“We liked the idea of a program that supported local people who were struggling to find something affordable to rent,” Sue said.

“We had a separate space that we used for family and friends, but I felt uncomfortable that it was empty much of the time, given the rental crisis and we didn’t want to put it on AirBnB.”

For Rob, it was the CHP’s community focus that appealed to him.

“I like that it is helping vulnerable locals but can potentially also house local service workers, such as a chippie or a nurse,” Rob said.

“The lodger can also contribute… for example, in the garden or caring for the dog if we’re away.

“The program encourages a non-commercial friendly relationship; its community focus puts humanity before money and greed.”

Sue agreed, adding that while it was not an arrangement that would suit everyone, it worked for them.

“Rob and Sue are great – Onyx and I love being here,” said Sigourney.

If you are a Bellingen Shire homeowner interested in opening your home to a local lodger, please contact or phone 6655 1121 Option 4.


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