Byron Bay housing crisis the worst in the state

According to the Regional Australia Institute, the number of people moving to Byron Shire from the main cities increased by 33 per cent in the 12 months to June 2021.

Liz Ritchie, chief executive of the institute, said the pandemic has prompted an exodus from capitals to the countryside but has also prevented people from leaving the regions, depressing an already strained rental market.

“Rental housing accounts for just 20 percent of the regional housing stock in NSW, while in Sydney it accounts for 40 percent,” Ritchie said, noting that housing construction has not kept pace with regional population growth for two decades.

Kirkwood said during the pandemic “everyone in the world seems to be moving to Byron Bay for a sea change” and that it has exacerbated an already existing crisis.

He’s since bought a second property to house 10 of his chefs, waiters, bartenders and managers, and he’s renting it out to his employees at a below-market rate that covers his repayments.

“We are not alone. There are many other companies that have done the same thing,” he said. “You have a bus that they bought. They rent a house in a remote village, they pick up their employees by bus and they drop them off back to town [for work] … people are doing everything they can to solve the problem.”

Chef Sanket Acharya came to Byron Bay from Sydney.

Chef Sanket Acharya came to Byron Bay from Sydney.
Recognition:DanielleSmith

One of Kirkwood’s tenants, Sanket Acharya, said he was relieved to be provided with accommodation when he moved from Sydney to Byron Bay to take a job as a chef at Kirkwood’s restaurant.

“I saw my friends and colleagues in Byron fighting for housing. It is very expensive. I was very lucky,” he said. “Finding accommodation in Byron is much more difficult than in Sydney.”

Byron Community Center director-general Louise O’Connell said the housing crisis had been building in the county for some time, “then COVID hit, then the flood hit, and what was a housing emergency is now a disaster”.

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O’Connell’s organization opened a drop-in center called Fletcher Street Cottage in April, which is run on donations from people like Chris Hemsworth and Bernard Fanning and provides breakfast, shower and laundry services to people who need them, as well as access to social workers.

“You’re seeing a very different demographic of people coming to us asking for help — people who have never accessed services before,” O’Connell said. “There are children in their school uniforms coming to breakfast with their parents. It’s so bad.”

She said the short-term vacation rental market has reduced the supply of long-term homes in the area, making it harder for even professionals to find housing.

More than 15 percent of homes in the Byron local government area were vacant as of census night, six percentage points higher than the national average.

The council last month won state government approval to limit short-term holiday rentals in some parts of the Shire to 90 nights a year and has now submitted the proposal to the public for comment.

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https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/i-ll-just-rent-you-my-house-byron-bay-housing-crisis-the-worst-in-the-state-20220811-p5b955.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national Byron Bay housing crisis the worst in the state

Joel McCord

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