Social Futures CEO Tony Davies has presented to the NSW Rural and Regional Summit in Sydney, calling on government to support regional and rural by people by investing in social and affordable housing – especially in communities impacted by extreme weather events.
The Northern Rivers had a vacancy rate below 1% in the year before the floods hit, compared to 3% in Sydney.
Figures from the National Emergency Management Agency show 1,337 residential properties in the Northern Rivers were badly damaged during the floods of February and March this year, with almost 5,000 homes suffering minor to moderate damage.
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.
Social Futures, which has been operating in the Northern Rivers for almost 50 years, is appealing for the construction of social housing to be a central part of the recovery plan for regions hit by natural disasters, like floods and bushfires.
“The pod villages in the Northern Rivers will eventually house up to 1,800 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.
“Most people still don’t know if their home is eligible for a government buyback.”
Mr Davies said more than 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.
“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.”