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Hard cheddar if you fall through the cracks


Council has just put out its draft Community Strategic Plan to seek community feedback. They advise the ratepayers and residents of Eurobodalla that the Community Strategic Plan is the highest level plan that a council and its community will prepare. Its purpose is to identify the community's main priorities and aspirations for the future and to plan strategies for achieving these goals. Council tells us "In doing this, the planning process considers the issues and pressures that may affect the community and the level of resources that will realistically be available to achieve its aspirations. While Council has a custodial role in initiating, preparing and maintaining the plan on behalf of the community, it is not wholly responsible for its implementation. Other partners, such as State Agencies and community groups are also responsible for the delivery of the plan. The aim of the plan is to encourage council, the community and other agencies to work together as one community to deliver on our vision for the future." So what does the community plan say about affordable housing or social equality? Well - in a nutshell - sweet bugger all. Here is a quick scenario. Down on their luck a single parent family finds that they can no longer afford the rent they pay. Centrelink or a local charity might be able to assist however it is found that there are NO rentals to be found and there is no crisis accommodation available as the family don't qualify and even if they did the resources for crisis housing are stretched to the limit and are at best short term. If there was any rentals at all available these are so rare that the landlords can be very picky and the properties are usually conditional of no children, no dogs and often only offer a short term lease. There are other more insidious "conditions" set by landlords that no-one talks about - these are huge elephants in the room - such as racisim.... yes, if you are an Aboriginal looking for rental accommodation on the south coast it is virtually impossible to find rentals. so.... as a community let's not talk about the great Koorie double-income family with kids at school who couldn't find ANY rental accommodation between Wallaga and Batemans Bay. It wasn't about affordability - the various landowners, when advised by their real estate agents of prospective tenants, simply did not want Koories. so..... as a community let's not talk about the invalid pensioner who, while able to just afford a small flat, could find no-where to live because she had an visually obvious mental condition that was kept in check under medical care. Even with doctor's letters to state that she was more than capable to live independently she was told, one property after another, that she had not been successful. Turns out the South East has a bit of a housing affordability crisis and that it is getting worse. The recent announcements that Batemans Bay ranked third in the the latest Residex Predictions Report which predicted home values in Batemans Bay will grow an average of 8.29 per cent each year over the next eight years. Stiff cheese if you don't own your own home and are still renting. Rents will increase as values do. Hopefully your wage will increase (or you will keep your job) otherwise the increased rents will see you renting down market..... but alas; there isn't much available down there for you to rent and the contest for it is solid. Home ownership in Eurobodalla (source) • 44.6% own their own home (Regional 36.6%, NSW 31.9%) • 22.6% are purchasing their own home (Regional 29.7%, NSW 31.9%) • 24.9% are renting (Regional 27%, NSW 29.1%) • 38% of homes are owned by non-resident ratepayers i.e. second homes In the Anglicare Australia Rental Affordability Snapshot of April 2017 From the report: "The Rental Affordability Snap shot highlights the extent to which the private rental market has failed to provide access to affordable and appropriate shelter, let alone a home, for millions of Australians. As the report shows,there is a dire shortage of affordable rental houses for people on low income, particularly the 10% of Australians reliant on government payments. In addition, this experience of rental stress is for many coupled with a lack of rights to make the place they are renting their own." Social Housing wait times in South-East NSW according to the Rental Affordability Snapshot of April 2017; Across NSW, the waiting period to access a Housing NSW property is significant. Low income households who cannot afford the cost of rent in their area may spend many years on waiting lists falling deeper into poverty and social exclusion. In South-East NSW, estimated wait times for Housing NSW properties are: Bateman’s Bay: 5-10 years (3 bedroom properties) or 10+ years (1, 2 or 4 bedroom properties) Moruya: 10+ years (1 bedroom properties), 5-10 years (2 bedroom properties) or 2-5 years (3 or 4 bedroom properties) So what has Council said it will do under its Community Strategic Plan - "it is not wholly responsible for its implementation. Other partners, such as State Agencies and community groups are also responsible for the delivery of the plan." The document does however say: Council will "6.2 "Encourage and support the development of a more diverse, innovative and affordable range of housing". And on the matter of mental health - NOTHING - it does however say "Council will advocate for better health services" From Council's own documents (source) "Our demographic profile and rate base are not aligned. 38% of property owners have their principal address outside of Eurobodalla and 31% of dwellings are not permanently occupied. 27.1% of us live alone. "When compared to similar communities, our population is significantly older. Our largest population age group is people aged 65+ and our median age of 50 is much higher than regional and state comparisons. 26% are aged 65+, this is expected to grow to 33.8%in 2036 "6.9% of us need assistance due to a disability (Regional 5.8%, NSW 4.9%), 10.3% receive a disability support pension (NSW 5%) "We have a higher indigenous population compared to the state, in line with other regional communities, highlighting the cultural significance of our region.Statistically, we have lower incomes. Our ageing population trend is expected to continue into the future. This means a smaller working age population which affects income levels and capacity to pay for goods and services. It also increases the proportion of residents eligible for rate rebates and concessions. Infrastructure will need to be capable of handling population growth and seasonal population. There was an overall low population growth for 2011-2016 of 2.6% 0.85 GP’s per 1,000 people (NSW: 1.13 gP’s per 1,000 people) and 40% experience problems accessing health services primarily due to lack of local services or transport issues Eurobodalla has a high overall health risk profile. In comparison to NSW we have: • Smoking rates that are 2.5 times higher • 5% fewer women who attended their first antenatal visit before 14 weeks gestation • 21.1% more alcohol attributable hospitalisations • Higher rates of cancer and cancer related deaths • Higher amount of overweight or obese (64%) • Significantly higher rates of risk drinking (31.2%) Our unemployment rate is 7.03%(Regional 6.15%, NSW 5.2%) Dependency ratio of 68%(Regional 59.1%, NSW 46.9%). This means only a third of our population are of working age Home ownership • 44.6% own their own home (Regional 36.6%, NSW 31.9%) • 22.6% are purchasing their own home (Regional 29.7%, NSW 31.9%) • 24.9% are renting (Regional 27%, NSW 29.1%) • 38% of homes are owned by non-resident ratepayers i.e. second homes Despite housing prices that are low compared to many parts of the State, with low average income levels, home ownership is not affordable to at least half the households in the Shire and, while our rents have remained low over the past years, there are still a number of households with an income of under $1,000 a week in housing stress. From the above figures it is clear that the bulk of Eurobodalla's residents and ratepayers live in a financially fragile state and that there is little flexibility in their affordability of any increases beyond CPI and even then they are hard pressed to afford those changes. Eurobodalla was one of only 52 councils (37%) to be declared Fit for the Future in October 2015. Council advised us that : "This means Council is responsibly and sustainably managing financial and physical assets on behalf of the community." The fact is that it might be deemed as being Fit For The Future ONLY while Council continues to get the income it needs from rates, user fees, grants and investments, however if you look at the above figures the future of the cash cow council relies on doesn't seem that vibrant. Council's Draft Fees and Charges can only suck so much out out the ratepayer before they jack up. Increased Tennis Court fees will only see less utilisation. Increased swimming pool admissions will see less folks use the pool. Increased hall hire fees will see less impetus for the community to hold meetings. The funny thing with Council's current proposal to increase water charges above CPI is that it will drive down demand and that will drive down income so they will have even less money to spend on maintenance and will need to put up water rates further to cover the burden of maintaining the infrastructure, irrespective of its level of use. The Increases Council are proposing in 2017-18 TO YOUR RATES include: • a 6.5% increase to the General Rate in all rating categories (residential, farmland and business); • a 2.4% increase to the environment levy; • waste collection charges increasing by 1.5%; • average water charges increasing by 2.8%. The access charge increases by 5.1% to $309 and the usage charge increases by 0.9% to $3.55 per kilolitre; and • sewer access charge increasing by 3.1% and the usage charge by 2.8% to $1.78 per kilolitre. (source) Those increases WILL be passed on from home owner to renter. Even to the casual reader it is very clear from the figures above that our community has a high dependence on Social Security. We also have a community that, by the above figures, is doing it tough. Normally a high prevalence of alcohol and tobacco use indicates a community under social pressure. So too does drug use and the NSW South Coast has a considerable drug problem from marijuana through to speed and ice. It is not known what the test results for drugs in Eurobodalla wastewater reveals from the National Wastewater Analysis Drug Monitoring Program are however recent tests across the country of sewer systems indicate that ice use is on the rise. Michelle Preston from a newly formed Narooma group set up to help methamphetamine affected families called “ICE Turning family pain into Power” says “There is an increasing amount of suicide associated with this problem and suicide is often the end-point for those hooked on ice.” If the supposition that Centrelink might link the findings of HIGH drug counts detected in the waste water with their area of drug testing for social security recipients then we can expect a domino effect in Batemans Bay, Moruya and Narooma where it is already known that there is high drug use. The Government has not named the locations for the two-year drug testing trials, but has said that areas with high illicit substance use will be targeted. And WHAT IF social security payments are withheld as proposed? Can we expect more homelessness, more crime and more social inequity. So back to Council and the Community Strategic Plan - if you were a town planner, a social strategist, someone writing a plan for the WHOLE community then might you not identify those 25% in the community who fall through the gaps and build a strategic plan for them as well. To our Council this seems to be someone else's problem While Council has a custodial role in initiating, preparing and maintaining the plan on behalf of the community, it is not wholly responsible for its implementation. Other partners, such as State Agencies and community groups are also responsible for the delivery of the plan. The aim of the plan is to encourage council, the community and other agencies to work together as one community to deliver on our vision for the future." If only there was a score card; a Mystery Shopper report on the Town Planners (local and State) ,the strategists and the politicians (at all levels) who have allowed our community to get to a point where the poor, the old and the disabled are left to fall through the cracks. The spin from all sides in "control" says "everything is going along fine" but when we scratch just below the surface the reality of what is going on, unreported, is soon revealed.


#Opinion #LeiParker

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