Hepburn Shire’s          housing crisis in focus

February 27th, 2021Hepburn Shire’s housing crisis in focus

A GROUP of Hepburn Shire residents is determined to spotlight the issues of the housing crisis in the shire.

The group, Safe Place Homes, is determined to make a difference. And the group’s effort to make things happen within two years is extraordinary.
Community stalwart David Hall is part of that group. He insists this is a story about a crisis, about what is happening, what can be done and what needs to be done. In his words it is a “we” story.

“I attended a forum last year organised by then councillor Kate Redwood on housing issues in the shire. I learned so much about the issues facing my fellow citizens so began talking about it with friends,” he said.
“We morphed into a small team determined to make a change and over time we welcomed representatives from Clunes, Creswick and Trentham. The issue is across the entire shire so we needed contributors from those communities.”
The group met with a representative from Child and Family Services and was staggered by the information regarding the housing shortage and the stress it puts on individuals and families. It was at this juncture the group realised the issues were only going to get worse, given the number of rental properties in the area were on the decline.
“With funding provided by the Trentham and Daylesford community banks we commissioned an in-depth study into the housing situation. As a result, we resolved to alleviate some of the issues here by increasing the stock of affordable housing,” David said.
The group investigated other local government housing policies and found the majority had policies in place. But nothing of the kind existed at Hepburn Shire Council. “This, we found staggering. We made a submission to council in April 2020 urging the adoption of an effective policy.”
While it was a win for the group after the council voted to develop a set of policies (which required drafting local laws), the process was delayed as council needed to set aside funding to draft the laws.

The group lobbied councillor candidates and, in David’s words, “secured promises of support”. The newly elected council agreed the policies were to be prioritised and ready for adoption in April.
Mr Hall said there were so many options available to council that wouldn’t cost ratepayers a fortune.
“There is something called inclusionary zoning, which is a term for when a developer comes along and says I want to build 40 houses on this site, the council negotiates with them and says you can have that, but you must allocate five to 10 per cent to affordable housing.”
While the group waits for the council’s position to be finalised, it has moved ahead with its plans for affordable housing. The group has independently purchased a block of land in Creswick and hopes to build six safe and affordable houses on that site, once the council has approved the development.
The group has also joined forces with registered charitable housing provider Haven; Home, Safe, – Australia’s only integrated affordable rental housing and homelessness services provider. The group is another step closer to affordable purpose-built homes in the area.
“Many are of the view that in this shire and in towns like Daylesford everyone is wealthy. In fact, most are not. The median weekly income in the shire is below the Victorian average. There are many struggling families and individuals in the shire. This area is full of good people but we are not all lucky,” David said.
“There is a lot of work to be done and it could take many years but the moment we hand over the first set of keys…that will be thrilling.”

Public Forum – Have Your Say
Safe Place Homes has organised a public forum on affordable housing to be held at the Daylesford Senior Citizens Centre on Thursday, March 4 from 4pm to 6pm.
The forum will update the community on its efforts to date, seek ideas and encourage those affected by the Hepburn Shire’s housing crisis to attend.
Registrations are essential. Email luigisoccio1201@gmail.com or call 0469 920 365.

Words & image: Narelle Groenhout

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