Councillors split over radical tiny home plan
TWEED councillor Ron Cooper says the shire has no choice but to fork out millions of dollars for 100 tiny homes because of State Government inaction on homelessness.
He said the shire had a moral responsibility to tackle homelessness, though said he would much prefer the NSW Government foot the bill.
"I think councils should be about roads, rates and rubbish and we shouldn't have to do this," he said.
But fellow councillor Pryce Allsop said Cr Cooper was "off with the fairies" and his radical social housing proposal should be dumped.
Cr Allsop said the council would forfeit land worth more than $80 million if it forged ahead with the Smart Sustainable Housing plan. The houses are essentially granny flats.
Nevertheless, Cr Cooper said the plan has "big potential" and "big costs too".
"I expect it to come out at about $10 million for 100 of these modular houses," he said.
The homes would be rented for no more than $300 per week and about one-third would be classed as social housing, aimed specifically at preventing those facing financial stress from ending up on the street, he said.
Cr Cooper said the council would need to recoup any money spent and there would be no ongoing cost to ratepayers, if the proposal eventuated.
It comes as the council prepares to spend more than $80,000 on a concept design.
The decision over the concept split the divided council - councillors James Owen, Warren Polglase and Allsop voted against the motion but lost 3-4.
Cr Allsop said he respected Cr Cooper's passion, but did not believe the "utopian idea" made financial sense.
He believed the State Government should fully fund any increase in the Tweed's social housing.
"We have a ratepayer base of around 45,000 people," he said.
"It would be great if we were on the Gold Coast and we were all chipping in and it was affordable, but here we are with such a small population, trying to prop this up."
Cr Allsop was concerned anyone housed in the estate would struggle to find work and access services.
More than 400 homeless people are estimated to be sleeping rough in the Tweed and only 2.8 per cent of dwellings are dedicated to social or affordable housing, council data shows.
John Lee, the founder of long-running homelessness advocacy organisation You Have a Friend, has described the situation in Tweed as "worse than it's ever been".
"It's getting to the stage where I don't know what the hell we can do and I just sort of feel like I'm banging my head against a wall," he said.
Most people Mr Lee speaks to on the street are middle-aged or older, aligning with the profile of the Tweed, which has an increasingly elderly population.
Tweed MP Geoff Provest previously said the council did not take part in a Crown land review which could have identified suitable parcels of land.