OPINION: Letter to the editor of the Western Advocate

BATHURST Regional Council has already identified community housing as an issue in its strategic plan. What we now need to do is identify and focus on the ways and means by which this can be achieved.

Considerable research has already been done by such bodies as the Housing Industry Council, research units and many others.

Council has a sound strategic plan, a four-year development plan and an annual operational plan.

The affordable housing objective needs the collaboration of many parties. These include the housing associations, funding sources like the credit unions, banks and co-operatives, private investment bodies, CSU and the Western Research Institute.

Should we even create a financial research unit at CSU to focus on this issue of such national importance? 

We are not, as yet, faced with the spiralling cost of houses as are Sydney and Melbourne. Accordingly, we have a golden opportunity to define the ways and means to provide adequate shelter for our residents and through this create jobs and attract industry to the region.

We have only to look back 50 years or so when the only way to own an apartment or flat was through company shares. Then came strata titles, condominium style housing and community title.

These were introduced to overcome the inadequacies of the prevailing system. We are now faced with such a dilemma where the traditional approach to housing ownership has been by deposit and mortgage. Something new is needed.

Perhaps it is a shared ownership combined with rent approach; or long-term deferred settlement with investment guarantees.

Something new is called for, but it will only come through the collaboration of many minds and experience.

There are, of course, other areas of equitable planning. These include the supply of power with its associated spiralling costs. Should council, with the support of ratepayers, negotiate with one or two power providers for the whole region, so bringing the price down for residents? 

Should we consider a solar panel farm guaranteed by council to be paid for on the basis of usage? Even the provision of panels and batteries to each household purchased through bulk buying of council?

These are obviously ideas that have to be costed sensibly, but with the goal of reducing the burden on the residents of Bathurst.

Don Grant

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