Calls for creative housing solutions

Creative housing solutions were high on the agenda at last week’s meeting of Mount Alexander Council with residents raising the issue at public question time. 

Also on the agenda was a proposal for two 49-year peppercorn lease to provide affordable housing for over 50s in Maldon and Newstead. 

Laurel Kanost wrote to the council regarding the Housing and Neighbourhood Character Strategy requesting that the council consider using CFA properties for container-style temporary accommodation as an affordable and accessible option. 

“Every township should have temporary housing, which is central, well serviced, safe and available on foot,” Ms Kanost wrote. 

“By leading this strategy in a trial, Castlemaine could author a new chapter in homelessness and temporary accommodation, which would provide all of Australia a useful low-cost solution to temporary accommodations.” 

Council’s director of corporate and community services, Lisa Knight, responded, stating that a homelessness mapping exercise had been undertaken this year, which acknowledged the shortage of both social and affordable and social housing and a shortage of place-based services in the shire, including limitations in hours services were available. 

Michael Annear, council’s director of infrastructure and development, said the council had advocated to the state government and its agencies to make vacant land available for affordable housing across the shire, which was an ongoing process. 

John Taylor and a group of fellow residents living in McKendry Street Castlemaine also recently wrote to council to request permission to subdivide their land. The land is currently zoned as rural living, however the area is not used for rural activities, consisting of traditional residential housing and part of the Castlemaine township. 

“There is a lot of readily available rural land in the municipality that is not included in the Housing Growth and Neighbourhood Character Strategy that will be overlooked,” Mr Taylor said. 

“Including these areas in the strategy would be an opportunity to make residential land available with minimal impact as the land already has access to services. 

“A change to the planning scheme to make the area general residential and even low density would provide immediate and accessible land for housing,” he said. 

Mr Annear said rural living zones areas would be considered in early 2024 when the council undertook a rural living assessment. 

Also on the agenda was a request for community consultation around entering into peppercorn leases with Wintringham Housing Limited in order to build and operate affordable rental housing for people over the age of 50 in Maldon and Newstead. 

Cr Stephen Gardner said it was an exciting initiative that would add to the housing strategy the council had been working on. 

“It saddens me to see the cost of buying a house in Maldon creeping up to a million dollars and rent creeping up to $500 a week,” Cr Gardner said. 

“People are priced out of the market and have to move. This isn’t going to change or resolve that issue, but building some units means there’s possibly four couples over the age of 50 that can stay in community who wouldn’t have been able to afford it.” 

Cr Matthew Driscoll said he believed the strategy could be a positive future step, but at this stage the council was only seeking community consultation. 

“We all know we have a major issue with housing. It’s not going to cost the council much to do this and get a few people into solid housing,” Cr Driscoll said. 

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the motion.