Council outlines its position on housing crisis

Cairns Regional Council has outlined its approach to assist in relieving the increasing levels of housing distress across the region.

Council intends to explore a raft of measures, including financial, social and partnership opportunities, to support more people to access and keep their family in a home.

While a key focus of the policy is aimed at those groups of people increasingly priced out of private markets and have few other options, the results have flow on benefits for the entire region.

The Cairns LGA Social and Affordable Housing and Homelessness Plan 2023-2026 (CSAHHP) considers how Council is already supporting housing and homelessness as well as new ways of addressing the issue and giving a stronger voice to local impacts.

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said the housing market was a complex system and there were many factors that impact the supply, type, cost, and location of housing.

“What is apparent, is that the situation profoundly affects the more vulnerable in our community,” Cr Manning said.

“Adequate housing is a cornerstone of community health, wellbeing, functioning and prosperity. Having a safe and secure home is a fundamental human right.

“Data indicates that the demand for social housing in Cairns continues to outstrip available stock, with current levels of unmet need estimated to be over 5,000 dwellings.”

Cr Manning said that events during the past few years, including the COVID-9 pandemic, escalating living costs and more recently escalating interest rates, had added to the problem.

“Housing distress among renters is high, with rental vacancy rates in Cairns historically tight and rental costs having increased by 13% in the past two years,” Cr Manning said.

“The housing sector, both social and private, is most influenced by the State and Federal Governments and free market forces.

Cr Manning said continued and targeted advocacy for greater government investment in social and public housing was a key role for Council.

“To this end, myself, along with the Mayors of Townsville and Mt Isa, have been working together to find ways to engage with the State Government to prioritise assistance for our regions.

“We have similar problems associated with housing issues and homelessness and are committed to advocating for greater support from the State Government in this matter.”

Cr Manning said Council would also consider measures and initiatives within its own remit that can influence different parts of the housing market.

“These measures could include financial relief, modifications to the planning scheme, and better recognition and support for the more disadvantaged members of our community,” he said.

The Plan will be monitored, and progress reported to Councillors annually prior to a more formal review in 2026.

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