Almost 6 months after the devastating floods forced tens of thousands from their homes, the region’s housing crisis shows no sign of abating.
“Unless someone is willing to roll up their sleeves, it will just continue to spiral out of hand.”
There have been more than 140 new homeless registrations since the flood in the township of Murwillumbah alone, and many flood victims will never be able to return to their homes.
“People in low-cost housing tend to be in areas that are low lying, prone to flooding,” Social Futures chief executive officer Tony Davies said.
“Some of the housing stock won’t be repaired, and another problem is if a landlord has to rebuild, they have to rent the property at a higher rate.”
That is the problem facing Kristy Barendrecht and her 10-year-old daughter Elsie, who were forced to abandon their flooded Murwillumbah unit in late March.
They have been staying with friends and family over the past five months, and when their unit is rebuilt, Kristy is expecting a 30% increase in rent.
“I don’t understand, but it just is,” she said.
“You’re pretty much told you’ve got to like it or lump it.”
Kristy, a single mum who works part-time at the local golf club, says she is struggling to find anywhere affordable to live.
“It’s just a roller-coaster of emotion, it’s just really hard,” she said.
“I wish I could provide a better home for Elsie.
“It’s a big shock to the system.”
But there is some good news.
Following 7.30’s report in May about the extent of homelessness in Murwillumbah, the New South Wales Government released $12 million specifically for flood victims looking for accommodation.
Sam Blackadder’s family are among the beneficiaries.
The lack of affordable rental property had forced Sam, her partner and two children to live in their mouldy flood-damaged unit for the past five months.
And they are now in the process of moving out to a government-subsidised rental place nearby.
“We got a phone call asking for us to be nominated for a house and I said yes, of course — and it was one or two days later they rung up and said we’ve been approved for one of the houses,” Ms Blackadder said.
“I’m looking forward to not having to worry about falling through our floor, or the kids worrying about not having a house.”
But community leaders in Murwillumbah are worried this $12 million over three years will only scratch the surface and are looking for longer term solutions.
A change to planning laws, they argue, is a good way to start.
“The state and federal governments, certainly state governments, need to bite the bullet,” Tony Davies said.
“They should require a proportion of affordable housing to be built into all new developments.
“They do it in London; 30% of all housing projects have to be affordable.”
Mr Davies believes that will be the only way the region will have adequate social housing stocks, which he says are far too low.
“We’d need several thousand properties to be built in our region to just build us up to the same level as New South Wales as whole,” he said.
Source: ABC News