THE proponent of a "visionary" idea to provide more affordable housing has come away from his meeting with Bathurst Regional Council filled with cautious optimism.
Maxwell Stephen Wilson, who goes by Stephen Wilson, met with the council's Environmental, Planning and Building Services department on February 7, 2024 to discuss his idea.
In essence, he wants to see either council-owned or Crown land made available through a leasehold arrangement, whereby people could lease the land for 99 years and be permitted to will that lease to their descendants upon death.
The land would be available via a ballot system, which is means tested, with the successful lessors having to pay their share of their subdivision development costs upon entering the lease.
They can then select a permissible prefabricated home - which they pay for themselves - to be assembled on their block of land.
The lessor then has to pay the landowner rent for the leasehold each year.
Mr Wilson said the costs involved would be far less than purchasing a home and people would have much of the same autonomy over their property as traditional homeowners do.
"The thing we are talking about here is housing for battlers in perpetuity," he said.
How the idea was received
Mr Wilson said he felt like he was received "brilliantly, with open arms" while at the civic centre, where he spent around an hour discussing his idea with department head Neil Southorn.
"It was a wonderful conversation," Mr Wilson said.
He learned that the council, of its own accord, had already been investigating some of the elements he had included in his proposal.
For confidentiality reasons, he has chosen not to reveal what those are, but said he thought they were "on the same page" on a few matters.
Anticipating community criticism
The idea Mr Wilson has proposed is uncharted territory for Bathurst and he expects there will be some criticism of it.
One of the things he thinks people might fear is that it will impact on the heritage of Bathurst.
However, he thinks the wants and needs of the community need to be weighed up appropriately in the context of housing.
"Yes, there is a heritage argument, which is an argument about preservation, but what about the argument about need, human need?" he said.
"Heritage arguments do not meet human need. All those things follow wants. It's important to make that distinction."