RELEASED February 28, 2023
On the first anniversary of record flooding in Northern Rivers, Social Futures is calling for more social and affordable housing in regions impacted by extreme weather events.
Social Futures, which has been operating in the Northern Rivers for almost 50 years, is appealing for the construction of social and affordable housing to be a central part of the recovery plan for areas hit by natural disasters, like floods and bush fires.
“The pod villages in the Northern Rivers will eventually house more than 1,200 displaced people who lost homes in the record February floods,” Social Futures CEO Tony Davies said.
“And there are hundreds still in emergency accommodation – staying in caravan parks and motels, and then there are the countless more couch surfing, living with friends and family, or camping in shells of houses with no doors, walls or windows or sleeping in tents and caravans in their yards.
“Many people still don’t know if their home is in an area eligible for a government buyback.”
Mr Davies said around 6,500 people have applied for the Resilient Homes Program to have their houses, repaired, raised or sold back to the government.
“I don’t think Australia realises that the Northern Rivers still has a long road ahead towards the recovery,” Mr Davies said.
“Delivering thousands of homes to this region in the next five years is a big ask and illustrates why government needs to get behind social housing here.
“A big investment in social housing in the Northern Rivers will help our community get back on its feet. We are calling on the NSW and Federal governments to commit resources.”
He said in the two years before the floods, thousands of people fleeing locked down cities, had moved to the Northern Rivers.
“In 2021, the year before the floods, the rental vacancy rate for this region was well below 1%, compared to 3% for Sydney.
“We were experiencing a housing crisis, then the floods hit, and it became a housing catastrophe.”
Mr Davies said many long-term residents have chosen to leave the Northern Rivers in the 12 months since the disaster struck in February.
“This region is fighting hard to look after people and maintain a strong sense of community, but sadly so many long-time locals have had no choice but to move away.”
Social Futures has been delivering homelessness support in the Northern Rivers for more than 20 years.
The Insurance Council of Australia has released data showing that the 2022 February-March floods are now the most expensive natural disaster in Australian history – with claims exceeding $5.65 billion.