Housing affordability is a key issue identified in the Draft Structure Plan for Daylesford and Hepburn Springs and has been an ongoing issue for Council. Hepburn Shire has an Affordable Housing Policy and an Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan, but there is little in the Draft Plans which directly addresses the current problem.

The Plan admits that there is lack of housing diversity as a result of policies put in place twenty or more years ago. The high proportion of partially occupied dwellings is due mainly to the large short-term rental market. There are approximately 500 short-term accommodation dwellings in Daylesford and another 150 in Hepburn Springs.

The Structure Plan states that Council should address this shortage by encouraging more medium-density housing, smaller dwellings and in-fill development to provide a greater range of housing choices. However, Council has little control over how people manage private dwellings once they are built.

Affordable housing projects must compete on the same terms as mainstream developments that operate at significantly higher margins and have a completely different purpose, ignoring the housing needs of our low income and vulnerable people in our community.

One of the few levers that Council can pull to ensure improved housing affordability is by negotiating with developers about greenfield sites. For example, Council could negotiate for a certain proportion of housing in a new estate to be “affordable housing” as defined by the state government as a condition of rezoning for development. This occurred during negotiations with Hygge Property in relation to the Midland Fields development.

However, there are very few remaining areas within the Daylesford township which are suitable for such developments. One area identified in the Draft Plan is farmland east of East Street.

David Evans is the Director and Founder of Homeward Housing, a registered charitable foundation that is focused on increasing the supply of safe, secure, and affordable housing for vulnerable people in Hepburn community and regional Victoria.

“The recent draft structure plans issued by council viewed through the lens of affordable housing are lacking any clear strategy to address housing affordability,” said Mr Evans. “There doesn’t appear to be any clearly defined outcomes or specific actionable items that would ensure progress in the development of and increased supply of affordable housing in the Hepburn Shire.

“To create more affordable housing, it is necessary to remove many of the barriers faced by such projects.  I would advocate for special planning provisions that council could apply to projects that demonstrate a clear benefit to the community including affordable housing. While the specific criteria would need to be agreed on, such provisions could encourage the development of more affordable housing projects by creating advantages and removing some of the current barriers.”

The Draft Structure Plans are currently available for comment on the Participate Hepburn website.

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