Bega Valley Shire Council Mayor, Russell Fitzpatrick, has written to non-resident ratepayers who he says may hold the key to easing the region’s housing crisis.
In the letter, Mayor Fitzpatrick makes a plea to owners with secondary or investment properties in the Bega Valley to consider entering the long-term rental market.
“We offer one of the best places in Australia for people to visit during their holidays—but on the flipside, we have a lot of vacant properties throughout the year and a growing homelessness problem,” the Mayor’s letter states.
“Many of the people unable to find a place to call home have a steady job and income, but increasingly this is not enough to secure a rental property.
“Put simply, there are not enough houses to rent for the people who live and work here and who contribute to our society and economy.
“We have families sleeping in cars, at temporary accommodation and on friends’ couches, and for most of the year we have an abundance of vacant properties across the shire.
“This impacts just about everyone in the Bega Valley because business owners and community service operators are unable to fill vacancies, which affects everything from your morning coffee to the provision of vital health services.”
The Mayor says Council is also working on a range of longer-term solutions as part of its Affordable Housing Strategy, but says that won’t help families needing immediate assistance.
“Writing to property owners for short-term assistance reaffirms our position that a state-wide housing crisis cannot be addressed in isolation – it needs collaboration from all tiers of government as well as the business and private sectors,” he said.
“Having lost 467 homes during the Black Summer bushfires and with many potential homes purchased as secondary accommodation during the COVID-19 lockdowns, we are facing a significant crisis for the people who live and work in the shire.”