The Noosa housing rental crisis. Let’s get a strategy.

It’s good to see Noosa Council thinking hard about our housing crisis, or – more precisely – our long-term rental affordability and availability crisis.

The problem is that this is an attempt to solve a political problem without a strategy to guide us. The cart is before the horse, and we know how that works out.

The political problem is that housing affordability in Noosa would not be as bad if far fewer houses in residential areas were approved for short term accommodation. In the absence of any State Government guidance or leadership, Council watched on as the STA tsunami swept through our community.   Now they find themselves under pressure to do something, anything, about the loss of long-term rentals and a workforce looking for a place to live.

The good news is that Noosa Council last year started looking at how the Noosa Plan might be amended to facilitate different types of housing that could improve affordability. This is the chief responsibility of local government in the area of housing. Council plaudits are in order for this response. The Noosa Plan needs to respond to community needs.  Technology, covid and record low interest rates have created disruptions that were not anticipated when the plan was put together prior to 2020. 

The not so good news is that Councillors seem confused about what it is they’re aiming for.  They’re searching for anything that might fit the description of local political ‘announceables’ to demonstrate that they’re working on the issue.

A July media release last year told us Councillors want to analyse options for community and emergency housing to target hospitality, health and other essential workers. It also suggests a need to advocate for more state and federal investment for social housing in Noosa. 

A December release then advised Council was investigating two council owned parcels of land for affordable housing

Another release the next day then refers to both community housing and affordable housing. It also promised that a Mayoral Minute detailing “a three-pronged plan to tackle Noosa’s housing affordability crisis” would be tabled at the Council Ordinary Meeting that night. There’s no record of a Mayoral Minute in the minutes of that meeting.

There’s a lot of interest in the community about this issue. There should be, because potential action by Council could involve significant changes to the Noosa Plan, donation of council owned public land needed for other community uses, and a commitment to expenditure of significant ratepayer funds on a permanent basis. Council had to add another $50,000 to this year’s budget recently because they are already spending money that was not previously provided.

The bad news is that decisions are being made on the run while reports and releases say that the updating last year of the 2017 Housing Needs Report will now inform a Housing Strategy. 

That’s right, the Council doesn’t yet have a housing strategy. And they have already committed funding to investigate specific parcels of land. One is koala habitat next to Pinaroo Park in Noosa Junction and was zoned open space until recently.

Council owned 30 Toulambi Street, Noosa Junction

This is being debated in Council this week. It appears that the other parcel was purchased by Council long ago to extend the Cooroy cemetery when required. 

Piecemeal responses often result in poor outcomes. Investigating using koala habitat – owned by Council -for affordable housing sends out all the wrong signals. Especially since Noosa ratepayers have borne the cost of tens of millions of dollars over the last 30 years to purchase environmentally significant land, including koala habitat.

Surely the solution is to finalise a strategy with an agreed action plan on such a serious matter. It should be developed with genuine consultation across the Noosa community, particularly when reporting, media statements and Council resolutions to date suggest a desire to take on a totally new responsibility. 

There is no suggestion that Council has decided the extent of future financial involvement in any adventure into the uncharted territory of becoming a social housing developer. Perhaps they will simply wind up fine tuning their well-accepted role in advocacy and effective planning.

 This may not make headlines, but it does make progress. Ratepayers should keep a close eye on where this is going.  

That’s the bad news out of the way. Local media statements about advocacy for more federal and state investment in Noosa public housing are encouraging. That’s where the real public housing money is, and aiming for a fair share should definitely be part of the strategy. Our State MP is an active advocate for Noosa, and no doubt will be a critical participant.

The Federal budget this year allocates $3.3 billion to the states for affordable housing. The Queensland State budget also tips in additional funds. If Noosa obtained a population-based share of those funds, over $10 million would be spent in Noosa each year by the State. 

Another way of looking at it; if Noosa received the same share of the new houses the State Government says it will build each year, we would see around 20 provided in Noosa every year.   That’s if our Council and local member make enough noise.

Not that publicly funded housing is allocated on a population basis, but communities that do not advocate for themselves can expect to lose out to those who do.


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