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SCU report highlights need for affordable housing


Brigid Veale
4 April 2006
The lack of affordable housing for older people and people with disabilities is a growing problem which needs urgent attention throughout the Mid North Coast, according to a report completed by Southern Cross University's Professor of Aged Services.

Professor Cartwright, the director of the Aged Services Learning and Research Collaboration and BCU Chair of Aged Services, launched the report, funded by the NSW Department of Housing and Enterprise and Training Company (ETC), in Coffs Harbour today (April 4).

"Already there is some difficulty for older people to find rental housing that is suitable and affordable. At the moment 13 to 15% of people hit retirement age having never owned their own home and that's only going to get higher," Professor Cartwright said.

The report outlines a number of recommendations to address the housing shortage in the five local government areas of Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Hastings, Kempsey and Nambucca.

"The top end of the market will always be well catered for. What we are talking about is people who don't have the funds to go into a retirement village or who cannot afford to maintain their family home due to increasing land values," Professor Cartwright said.

"If a person has reached 65 and they've never owned a home they will never be a in a position to do so."

She said there was an urgent need for more rental housing, incorporating adaptable housing principles, to be built for older people and people with disabilities.

"The older people I surveyed said they didn't want to live out of town. They all said they wanted to be close to the city so they could walk to the shops, the doctor or the library. They also don't want to be clustered all together and should be spread throughout the community.

"The design of the houses is also very important. Houses should be adaptable, suitable, accessible and affordable."

The report recommends that joint ventures between organisations such as ETC and the Department of Housing be investigated throughout the region. Developers could also be encouraged to consider joint venture arrangements.

Mr George Ilk, chief executive officer of ETC, said the information from the report would help shape the future of affordable housing projects within our region.

"As an organisation focused on assisting the wider community, ETC is pleased to be able to contribute to the Mid North Coast region by joining the Department of Housing and Southern Cross University in this vital regional initiative," Mr Ilk said.

The report also calls for councils to develop a contributions plan to require a percentage of all new development to be allocated to affordable housing.

"This requirement must be even more stringent where developments reduce existing affordable housing stocks, for example in places such as the Jetty and Park Beach in Coffs Harbour," Professor Cartwright said.

"This region already has a higher percentage of people aged over 60 and people with disabilities than the rest of the State and this is estimated to increase dramatically in the next 10 years. We need to ensure that we provide affordable and appropriate housing for everyone in the community."

Photo: Professor Colleen Cartwright, centre, discusses the report with Pauline McKenzie, Department of Housing regional manager (left) and Jan Strom, chair of ETC.