Housing sector

The housing industry is pushing for a small solution to a big problem

Facilitating the construction of tiny homes and grandma’s apartments is one of the quickest solutions sought to help hundreds of Sunshine Coast residents who have nowhere to stay.

A Sunshine Coast Housing and Homelessness Network (SCHHN) workshop – the first since the pandemic – took place this week to develop an “action plan” for the housing crisis.

Delegates said the situation in the area was so “catastrophic” that residents “in all walks of life”, such as nurses, emergency workers and families, had nowhere to live.

The 40 participants who are part of the SCHHN represent all major housing and community services, the three levels of government, community groups and the private sector.

The workshop highlighted that one of the quickest fixes would be to change local and state laws that currently restrict granny flats and tiny homes.

Another idea was for the area to be more involved in the Sunshine Coast Council’s new town plan to encourage more diverse housing.

Other ideas that were assigned to “action” were:

  • Highlight best practices and innovation in community housing solutions
  • Advocacy for the continuation of the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) which must end
  • More help for people leaving justice and hospitals
  • Better coordination between services to manage referrals and transition of housing clients.

An example of a modern granny flat. Image: The Shed House

Jackson Hills, of Q Shelter who facilitated the meeting, said housing solutions that could be implemented quickly were “low hanging fruit” that would be brought forward.

“Grandma’s apartments and tiny houses would open up a lot more opportunities for housing options for a lot of people, Mr Hills said.

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Currently, state law makes it illegal to rent granny flats to tenants who are not members of the same “household,” and there are other local building rules.

Last year, Noosa Shire Council said it would consider piloting a solution for ‘second homes’ such as granny flats to ease its housing shortage.

REIQ data shows the Sunshine Coast has a record vacancy rate of 0.5%.

It is estimated that around 100 people are rough sleepers in the streets of the coast.

However, there are hundreds more who sleep in cars, on sofas, with friends or while camping.

The 2016 census found that 785 people were “designated homeless”, but since the pandemic the number is thought to be much higher.

There are approximately 1,377 applicants on the local public housing registry (60% of which are considered to be in very high need).

The area also has some 962 homes registered with the federal National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS), which is to be discontinued.

Homeless Network co-chair Lee Banfield said the coast was experiencing a “perfect storm” that had made the housing situation one of the worst in the state.

“It’s not just the low end, but in the whole housing industry there’s a world of pain and a world of stress,” she said. Sunny Coast News.

Ms Banfield said the area had reached a ‘critical point’ and lockdowns needed to be eased to allow more types of housing.

She said some changes to the legislation that had been promised, such as an end to no-fault tenant evictions, should be offered.

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Ending the federal government’s NRAS program would have a “huge impact” as the rents of hundreds of subsidized tenants would rise.

Ms Banfield suggested that new developments on the coast should be required to provide a percentage of affordable housing.

“Not necessarily social housing, but affordable housing, for workers like servers and reception,” she said.

“But even nurses and emergency personnel find it harder to afford. There are so many people with precarious housing.

“It’s always increasingly a problem that people can’t find another property and end up camping or sleeping in their cars.”

The Sunshine Coast Housing and Homelessness Network workshop.

Q Shelter executive director Fiona Caniglia said key people with experience in these areas would drive the workshop’s solutions forward.

She called on Australian federal leaders, currently on the campaign trail, to come forward with their housing plans.

“We collectively call on all elected federal politicians in the new government to commit to serious investment in housing solutions,” she said.

“Housing availability and affordability is truly a national emergency.”

Ms Caniglia said the network would meet again once the action plan was developed, with working groups formed to provide specialist expertise.

“It was very encouraging to see such collaboration from the network and a willingness to focus on the most important issues facing the sector and bring solutions to the table.”