10 May 2023

Cape York mayor offers solution to housing crisis

| Samuel Davis
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Cooktown has the capacity to grow and take the pressure off remote communities, mayor Peter Scott says.

A GROWING regional centre can double in population, easing Cape York’s housing burden while creating new business opportunities, Cook Shire mayor Peter Scott says.

Cr Scott was the lone Cape York representative at the Queensland housing summit in Brisbane last week.

Among the suggestions raised at the event, Cr Scott proposed changes to zoning laws that would allow for more medium density developments to be built in places like Cooktown.

“Currently, changing something from low density can take about two years and is a pain,” he said.

“Right now, any investor that comes to Cooktown wants to put as many residences on their land as possible.

“The problem is we’re stymied by zoning restrictions.”

A wave of southerners moving north during the global pandemic had squeezed many low income earners out of the rental market, Cr Scott said.

“People who’ve been renting for a decade all of a sudden found themselves getting kicked out,” he said.

“Maybe if you’re a single mum or someone with insecure work, you struggle. The fact of life is if you can build a residential area, everything’s cheaper because it’s all nicely consolidated.

“If it serves a purpose and is in the public interest, I think it makes sense.”

Cr Scott said increasing Cooktown’s population to 6000 residents over time would also help remote Indigenous communities experiencing overcrowding.

“We’ve got an urban footprint, along with water and sewerage in place,” he said.

“We have three schools instead of one now and the hospital is being upgraded. We have the capacity to grow. What we’re saying is give us the discretion in a low density zone to upgrade it .”

Cr Scott said he raised the issue with Housing Minister Leanne Enoch and has drafted a letter to her making his case.

At the summit, the state government said it would double the size of the Housing Investment Fund to help start construction on more than 13,000 new homes for Queenslanders.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the extra $1 billion would help more Queenslanders get into new homes.

“To tackle the housing challenge being faced right across Australia, we need to find short-term solutions and create longer term strategies to address supply,” she said.

“This increased investment means we are now targeting construction of 5600 new social and affordable homes by June 2027.”

Medium density housing typically features duplexes, row homes with small garden areas or walk-up apartment buildings.

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