REVEALED: Extent of homelessness in Coffs Harbour
A perfect storm of rising house prices and declining wages means more and more people are finding themselves homeless across the region.
The findings are contained in a recent Coffs Harbour City Council options paper.
It shows house values and private rental prices are on the way up, rapidly outpacing wage growth.
House values in the Coffs Harbour Local Government Area (LGA) are now significantly higher than Regional NSW with the median house price being $532,814, compared to $491,579 for Regional NSW in the June quarter of 2018.
Median rent in the LGA ($400 a week in the June quarter of 2019) is also the highest in the Mid North Coast region.
Meanwhile, median household incomes in Coffs Harbour are lower than NSW overall and 22 per cent of households are defined as 'lower income households' compared to 17.8 per cent for NSW overall.
For a low income household (earning less than $650 a week) affordable rent would be $195 a week - far below the $400 average currently on offer.
In general terms, housing is considered affordable when it costs less then 30 per cent of gross household income.
Those paying more than that are considered to be in 'rental stress' and in the Coffs Harbour LGA there are over 3,230 households experiencing this rental stress with numbers even higher in Sawtell, Coffs Harbour (North East, Central) and Toormina.
The situation is inevitably leading to escalating rates of homelessness, with official statistics not reflecting the gravity of the situation.
The report indicates there could be as many as 2,000 homeless in the LGA. The 2016 Census recorded just 323 homeless people (a 15 per cent increase from 2011).
There has been a changing role for Local Government in this area and a number of Councils including Byron Shire, Bellingen, Lismore City and Tweed Shire have adopted their own strategies to deal with the problem.
This is just one of the many options outlined in the Affordable Housing - Issues and Options Paper 2020.
It's one of several documents to be considered at this week's Coffs Harbour City Council meeting.
The papers are part of Council's draft Local Growth Management Strategy - Chapter 7 Residential Lands.
If endorsed, they will go on public exhibition for feedback.