Raising the BARR- Week ending 18 February 2022

Raising the Barr



It seems that barely a week goes by when myself, my staff and/or my office is approached by a family that is about to become homeless. They are desperate and I am helpless.

Our local area, in 2021 and 2022, has found itself in the middle of a massive shortage in rental properties and affordable housing. There are a variety of reasons for this, which I will get to soon, but it’s extremely important to note that a recent report by Shelter NSW has identified the Hunter and Central Coast as hotspots. The Central Coast is the state’s most desperately under-supplied housing area. Cessnock is at number 3; Newcastle at number 4 and Maitland at number 7.

Our Hunter and Central Coast areas are closely linked to each other – particularly in regards to employment and housing. A large number of us are constantly moving in and out of each other’s LGAs.

When I have community meet and greets, almost without fail, one or two people arrive to say hello to their new local MP, given that they have just arrived in the area after having moved from …. the Central Coast or Newcastle. When I ask why they had moved, almost without fail it is because their previous neighbourhood had become unaffordable. From this new neighbourhood, they would say, they could still drive in/out to their place of work which is now a 1 hour drive.

Nobody reading this column needs to be reminded of the incredible tourist destination that the Hunter Vineyards have become. We experience almost 2 million visitors each year. In the past, their accommodation needs have been met by a huge tourist accommodation industry in the vineyards and surrounds. But then along came online booking systems like Airbnb and the various accommodation markets have been turned upside down.

Airbnb has had a huge impact on the number of rental properties in our area available for long term leasing. Landlords weigh up the choice of having a consistent weekly rent, or, take their chances with the less reliable but much higher income from short term rentals to tourists. Good luck to the weekenders and those landlords doing well in this market, but the flipside is that many in our local community that are just looking for a “home” now have very slim pickings.

In addition to all of this, for the houses that do at times become available, because there are so few of them, rents are often quite high and well beyond the affordability of single income families, single parent families or in general our low income families. And I won’t get started on the casualised workforce that have unpredictable incomes and live in a constant state of fear about next week’s roster.

NSW needs a plan to solve these housing problems. The evidence shows that the Hunter and Central Coast are at the top of the list of places that need a housing solution urgently. And we simply cannot rely on developers releasing more land to build more houses, because for those developers it is in their interest to strangle the market of supply so that they can maximise their profits. That is after all the business that developers are in.

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For enquiries regarding the State Government or its departments, or to put you in contact with someone who can help, please contact my office.  My office can be contacted by phoning 4991-1466, by email to cessnock@parliament.nsw.gov.au or call into 118 Vincent Street (PO Box 242), Cessnock 2325.

You can also follow me on my Facebook page “www.facebook.com/claytonbarrmp”, go to Twitter and search @claytonbarrmp or check out my website at www.claytonbarr.com.au

Cheers Clayton