Social Futures has welcomed the release of the NSW flood inquiry but is calling on the Premier to commit to more social housing for the region when details of house buy-backs and land swaps are released later this month.
Social Futures CEO Tony Davies said the people of the Northern Rivers were looking forward to seeing details of buyback and land swap schemes for targeted areas at the end of August – almost seven months after Lismore was hit by the worst flood in modern history.
“However, part of the response to this unprecedented flooding, also needs to be a huge investment in social housing for the region,” Mr Davies said.
“It is impossible to say how many people were displaced by this disaster. The SES said the flooding events of February and March state-wide left 4,000 homes uninhabitable, another 8,000 were inundated and another 8,000 were storm damaged – most of that damage was in the Northern Rivers.
“Among the thousands of people displaced were renters, now unable to secure permanent housing in the Northern Rivers. Buybacks and land swaps simply won’t address the massive housing crisis this region is facing.”
Mr Davies said before the floods hit, the Northern Rivers was suffering acute housing stress.
“During the pandemic tens of thousands of people fled the locked-down cities of Melbourne and Sydney and fled to regional areas,” he said.
“The Northern Rivers is a very desirable place to live, given iconic towns like Byron Bay and Tweed Heads are here. We saw a big influx of people and the rental vacancy rate dropped well below 1%. Homelessness began to rise rapidly as pensioners, the elderly and single-parents were priced out of the market.
“We were suffering a metaphorical housing storm then at the start of this year, we were hit by a literal storm that destroyed thousands of homes.
“I implore the New South Wales and Federal governments to start building more social housing in the Northern Rivers, because we do not want to see a generation of children growing up in tents, cars and on the couches of friends and extended family.”