Cr Judge expresses concerns over Argyll Street redevelopment

CITY of Coffs Harbour Councillor Tony Judge has some concerns about NSW Government’s redevelopment of the Argyll Estate.

Mr Judge said the intention is to provide an additional 263 homes by replacing many of the current free-standing houses with higher density, multi-storey units.

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In his capacity as a concerned private citizen, Mr Judge has called the proposal a wasted opportunity to address the housing crisis in Coffs Harbour region and calls on the NSW Government to reconsider its plans.

“I was hopeful when the Argyll Estate redevelopment was first announced,” said Mr Judge.

“It seemed like a good idea to increase the density of housing in a well-located part of Coffs Harbour to provide a lot more housing.”

Mr Judge said Coffs Harbour is in the grips of a housing crisis; with low rental vacancy rates, rents quickly becoming unaffordable for average workers and homelessness being a rapidly growing problem.

“Last week I found out that homeless hub, Pete’s Place, had a growth of nearly 40 percent in the number of people using their services in just one year,” he said.

“We desperately need action from all levels of government to address the crisis and that action should start with more social housing.”

Mr Judge highlighted that for an increasing number of people in the region, social housing is the only sort of housing that is affordable and the combination of dramatic rent rises, low wages, insecure work and rising cost of living means that many working people cannot afford to be in the private rental market.

“Surely we should be using the redevelopment of a social housing estate to provide more social housing,” Mr Judge said.

He said that the NSW Government’s Land and Housing Corporation has said it will be up to the market to increase the stock of affordable housing.

Mr Judge pointed out that leaving everything up to the market has led to the recent increase of up to $100 per week in rents at Coffs Harbour, with a corresponding increase in homelessness and many vulnerable people having to leave their families and support services to find a cheaper place to rent.

“The dire situation we are currently facing is because successive governments in NSW have relied so heavily on the market to provide solutions,” he said.

“To continue to do so is just magical thinking.

“There will be lives dislocated as people are forced to move out and there is no guarantee that the proceeds of selling off publicly owned land will be returned to the Coffs region.

“I think we should be asking for a much better proposal,” Mr Judge said.

Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh said social housing in the estate will need to be upgraded as existing residents age.

He said a private/public partnership is the quickest way to do this.

“An equivalent number of social housing homes will be included in the redevelopment with a vast increase on the number of affordable homes,” Mr Singh said.

“Increasing the supply of houses will put pressure on prices to come down.

“Existing residents will have first right of return to the area,” he said.

There was a drop-in evening at Sports Central on Bray Street on Wednesday between 3pm and 6pm for residents to find out information about the redevelopment.

“We’re working closely with social housing providers to increase stocks of social housing across Coffs Harbour, including in the Argyll Street redevelopment,” said Mr Singh.

He cited the example of $5.6 million to help Mission Australia to provide fourteen more social housing homes in the region.

Mr Judge said the redevelopment has several positive aspects.

“Increasing the number of homes in the estate makes better use of its proximity to town and key services,” he said.

“It offers a chance for newer homes more suited to the need for one to two person households and it provides a chance to improve amenities and streetscapes.”

Mr Judge said if the redevelopment fails to provide more social and genuinely affordable housing it misses the opportunity to do the very thing Coffs Harbour needs it to do.

By Andrew VIVIAN

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