The agenda for the Council meeting on 19th September is out now and can be found on the Council website.

Of particular interest is the decision to consider the adoption of the Affordable Housing Strategy.

There may be confusion about the differences between affordable housing and housing affordability. The words are similar but refer to different aspects of the housing market. In Victoria affordable housing is housing, including social housing, that is appropriate for the needs of very low-, low- and moderate – income households. There are eligibility criteria to ensure that such housing goes to people in need.

Housing affordability on the other hand relates to the cost of housing (rent or mortgages) for everybody. How much rent do you have to pay? What are the mortgage repayments for buying a property? And how does that relate to your income?  Housing affordability depends on the cost of land, the costs of material and labour to construct the house and the supply of houses and the demand for houses. There is a lot of data in the media that shows that the costs of houses have risen much higher than wages all around the country, meaning that it is harder and takes longer to save for a deposit and that mortgages must be larger and so take longer to pay off.

Governments at local state and federal level are all attempting to address the issue. Hepburn Shire’s Affordable Housing Strategy is one action. You may have read the recent State Government media release that announced that Hepburn Shire will receive funding as part of the State Governments’ Big Housing Build to provide social and affordable housing in regional Victoria. Homes Victoria have confirmed that $2.1m will be provided to fund 6 homes at the Middleton Field development. These homes will be provided in partnership with Hygge, the developers of the land, and are in addition to the  four social and affordable houses currently being built in Daylesford.

The Middleton Field development has been the subject of a great deal of comment on social media lately, particularly in relation to the Block, whether it was to be part of the project, although there was no formal announcement of that, and then an announcement by producers that they were not going to film the show there.

For the record Council is considering plans for the construction of five dwellings at 1 Raglan Street in Daylesford, which were submitted in mid-July this year. Council has been supportive of the broader Middleton Fields development in which this land sits. After a substantial and extensive process Council resolved to approve a planning permit for the subdivision in April 2023. The permit included 86 conditions. A small number of objectors to the subdivision subsequently sought to challenge the decision at VCAT as is their right. The developers applied for the matter to be considered for an accelerated determination by the Planning Minister as is their right. The application for the five dwellings has not been withdrawn and is scheduled for a decision at its Ordinary Council Meeting on 17 October. Officers and Council are managing the application objectively through the normal processes.

Ratepayers will have received their rate notices now. There is always confusion about how rates are calculated. The state government has introduced a rate cap which means that Councils are only permitted to increase the total amount received by up to the rate cap. This year the cap was an increase of 3.5% to the total rates income of Council.

If all properties in the Shire had increased in value by the same amount, then everybody would just pay an increase of 3.5 percent. However some areas of the Shire have increased at a higher rate than others and some have decreased in value. For example, those farming properties along the proposed Western Renewables Link alignment have fallen in value by approximately 20 percent so their rates will reflect that change. But this means that other property owners will pay more to provide Council with the total amount of rates raised.

Properties are valued by an independent valuer based on the sales prices during the year to January. The valuer also considers local factors. Council adopted the state government rate cap of 3.5 percent. Property prices in Hepburn Shire rose by an average of 9% last year. If your property value increase was at 9% then your rates will have risen by the 3.5% rate cap. If your property value increased by more than the average 9% then your rates will have increased by more than the 3.5% rate cap. If your property value increased by less than the 9% average, then your rates will have increased by less than the 3.5% rate cap and in fact may have decreased. It’s important to know the valuation increase of 9% does not give Council any more rates income.

If you think that your valuation is wrong, you have 60 days from the issue of the rates notice to request a review. Contact the Council rates officer on 53482306 or complete an objection form available on the Property page of the Hepburn Shire Council website.

Lesley Hewitt is the Deputy Mayor of Hepburn Shire and an elected councillor for Birch Ward.

Councillor Columns are a regular feature in The Wombat Post. We offer this space as an information channel from Council to the community. Councillor Columns are not subject to editorial review by our editorial committee but are published as we receive them from our elected Councillors.