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Campaign launched in bid to stop council evicting people living in tiny homes on private land

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A campaign has been launched in a bid to stop Sunshine Coast Council evicting people who live in tiny homes on private land during the housing crisis.

Coes Creek resident Helen Andrew is calling on the wider community to join her campaign to address the “region-wide issue”.

It comes after council gave eviction notices to four families in tiny homes living on Jacqueline Morton’s 13-hectare (32-acre) property in Belli Park. They must leave by August 31.

Under local law, council requires people temporarily living in a tent, car, caravan or mobile home on someone’s land to apply for a permit, which lasts 18 months.

The regulation usually only allows one temporary dwelling per property. Earlier this year, council waived the permit fee of $514 for people experiencing financial hardship.

Ms Morton, who is also a lead campaign petitioner, said neighbours’ complaints sparking the original council investigation centered around the “aesthetics of her property.”

Lead campaign petitioner and Belli Park property owner Jacqueline Morton.

A Sunshine Coast spokesperson said the current nation-wide housing crisis was a complex, multi-faceted and evolving issue.

“Council appreciates the cost of owning or renting a home on the Sunshine Coast has been causing some people to consider moving into temporary accommodation,” the spokesperson said.

“Our first priority is to ensure everyone – including our most vulnerable people – is safe.

“Council works directly with affected parties to support them to find suitable and safe accommodation and in this instance, council intends to work closely with the landowner to ensure that the tenants are provided with adequate time and support, to relocate to suitable alternative accommodation.

“While it is important to support people who need access to temporary housing, council also has obligations to protect and manage health and safety, the environment and reduce impacts on nearby properties and public spaces.”

Ms Morton said she let the families stay on her property because of the housing crisis and her desire to be part of the solution to the “big issue”.

“Each dwelling has appropriate greywater provisions and smoke alarms,” she said.

“My tenants include an elderly woman and two sets of single parents with young children.

“I have been inundated with calls from people asking if they put their dwellings on the land, because people are unable to rent houses with all the rents rising, more people in the area and more houses being purchased and being unable to be rented.”

Angela Smith with lead petitioner Jacqueline Morton. Ms Smith lives on Ms Morton’s Belli Park property with her two sons in a tiny home.

She said living in a tiny home was a “grey area” that the council needed to acknowledge.

“People are choosing this way of life now, because they can’t afford a house, they can’t find a rental and they need to have a roof over their head and their children’s heads,” she said.

“It can be a lifestyle choice for these women, especially the ones here. They purchased a tiny house because they’ve got no way into the property market.”

She said her tenants had been on a “rollercoaster ride” due to “the council flip-flopping on whether they had to stay or go”.

“It is akin to living in your home and council coming and saying, no you can’t live here anymore, you have to go,” she said.

“I am feeling a little bit weary.

“I’m very concerned for the future of the ladies we’ve got here. I would be absolutely devastated to see them keep just getting pushed around.”

Angela Smith and her two sons outside their tiny home.

Ms Andrew launched the campaign after being unable to sit with an “uneasy feeling” she couldn’t shake after a similar experience with the council during the pandemic.

The petition asks Sunshine Coast Council to “cease threatening and evicting people off private land when they are living in caravans, buses and tiny houses during this housing crisis; recognise in the new town plan that caravans, buses, tiny homes on wheels and modular housing are permanent choices of accommodation, so they can live with certainty and security; and allow rural landowners to have several small homes on their properties so they can not only be part of the solution to the housing crisis but provide a safe place for people to live”.

Both women said the situation shone a light on the bigger issue in the region.

“This just seems a really good medium-term solution to the situation we’ve got now with housing,” Ms Morton said.

“If you care about your community and people, then you would believe that people would have a right to have a roof over their head and live on land with somebody who is willing to host them – this is what the petition is all about.

“I would like to see us being able to work with council to address the issue in a calm and compassionate way and find a solution. Maybe we could start working on how we can do this, not, you can’t do this.”

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The spokesperson confirmed council was drafting a new planning scheme and there would be opportunities for the community to provide feedback on housing solutions.

“On a broader level, council remains committed to advocating to other levels of government for collaborative action to address housing affordability, reduce homelessness and facilitate the delivery of housing options,” they said.

“Council is mindful that policies need to help reduce inequity, promote inclusiveness and contribute to our region being a great place for everyone to live – a region that is healthy, smart and creative.

“We are also supporting community-led initiatives including community services and working with local housing providers to help alleviate the housing shortage.

“Council continues to explore a range of initiatives to improve access to services for people experiencing homelessness.”

Ms Smith watching Ms Morton sign the petition.

Ms Andrew said the issue stretched further than rural areas like Belli Park.

“When I heard about Jacqueline’s situation, I thought this is crazy, we’ve got to do something about this,” she said.

“We’ve just come out of a pandemic and gone straight into a housing crisis.

“We have landowners who want to host people on their caravans, tiny houses and buses and they can’t because of council – it’s a simple as that.”

She said there were many in the same situation living in fear of “losing the roof over their head and their security.”

“All they need is a neighbour to complain and they are moved on,” she said.

Without an electronic petition option with the council, she said only being able to circulate paper petitions made it harder to campaign and was a frustrating process.

“We launched it three weeks ago and there are three lead petitioners with petitions circulating in the Belli Park, Coes Creek and Maleny hinterland areas,” she said.

“We have close to 500 signatures combined so far.”

She said they were continuing to engage with council as much as possible around the issue.

“The community is letting council know through this petition process that they are also wanting change,” she said.

She hoped the petition would be enough “for council to actually come to the table and start having some meaningful conversations around this issue”.

“We’ve got two components of our community that actually want to work together and provide a real meaningful community initiative, that has no cost to the taxpayer whatsoever,” she said.

Ms Morton in her tiny home she had built, but doesn’t live in.

“We have a window of opportunity for us to actually migrate these living choices out of a local law and into the town plan (Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme 2014), as it is currently being reviewed, to give people security and certainty.

“Our main message is, if we don’t stand up and use our voice and advocate for change, then nothing changes.”

To access the petition and join the campaign click here (you must sign up first).

Do you have an opinion to share? Submit a Letter to the Editor at Sunshine Coast News via news@sunshinecoastnews.com.au. You must include your name and suburb.

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