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Tiny home resident facing eviction speaks out as council grapples with housing crisis

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The mother at the centre of a Sunshine Coast Council directive to leave her ‘tiny home’ on a rural property has spoken about her experience.

Angela Smith and her two young boys live in one of the three separate tiny homes on a 13-hectare property in the Sunshine Coast hinterland owned by Jacqueline Morton.

Ms Morton has been instructed by the council to have her tenants and their homes removed from the property by the end of August.

Council laws allow only one temporary home per property, and a permit must be granted for a tiny home to stay longer than four weeks.

In response, the council underlined the significance of the housing crisis on the Sunshine Coast and that it required all tiers of government and the private sector to work together. It also detailed the steps it is taking to help address the issue.

Related story: Petition launched to stop tiny home tenant evictions

Talking on the Homes for Everyone podcast, Ms Smith and campaigner Helen Andrew joined property expert Mal Cayley to discuss council’s decision and plead for a change to the local laws.

Ms Smith said that after her previous rental property was sold to owner-occupiers and she found herself in the Sunshine Coast’s tight rental market, Ms Morton and her Belli Park property were her saving grace.

“I was extremely grateful to fall into the hands of a trial finance company who financed the tiny home, and after speaking to three different landowners, who did want to help me but were worried about the repercussions from council, I was thankfully introduced to Jacqueline,” Ms Smith said.

Angela Smith and her two sons.

“Luckily for us, she was more interested in being a solution to the housing crisis than fear of council repercussions.

“We’ve been here now for 10 months and living this way in our tiny home has offered my boys and I the most security.

“It’s a beautiful home on beautiful land and we’re surrounded by community.”

A council spokesperson said the housing crisis was taking its toll on the community and that the local authority was taking steps to address it.

“Council has previously acknowledged housing affordability and homelessness is a significant, distressing and ongoing issue for people living on the Sunshine Coast,” they said.

“It is a situation that is difficult to quickly rectify, and all tiers of government (local, state and federal), as well as the private sector (including relevant industry associations and peak bodies) and the community housing sector, need a plan to work together to effectively address the current situation.

“The state and federal governments are responsible for delivering community and social housing.

“Council supports their actions by actively and consistently advocating, planning and facilitating housing and community support services to reduce homelessness within our community.”

A housing crisis is continuing to grip the Coast. Picture: Shutterstock

Ms Smith said that in the past six months, council’s presence had been strong around Ms Morton’s property.

“We have had drones flying over us, seeking aerial shots of our property,” she said.

“We have had council members sitting in marked cars for hours at a time, watching the property. They have been pacing the street, taking photos of our dwellings while our children are playing in their front yards. So, it’s quite unsettling.”

But the council spokesperson denied drones had been used and said the council had a responsibility to manage proper land use.

“In response to comments relating specifically to the Belli Park property, 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,” they said.

“Council has never used a drone on or near this site. On occasion, a council officer has made observations from the public roadway for short periods of time. This has been necessary due to the landowner not allowing council officers to undertake an inspection of the property in order to understand and respond to concerns raised by the community.

“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.”

Property expert and Homes for Everyone founder Mr Cayley called for action on the homelessness issue.

“Almost a year ago, when council was first approached by the team behind Homes For Everyone, they said this is a nation-wide issue that is complex, multi-faceted and evolving,” he said.

“They said their first priority is about keeping the people who they are said to represent safe. They said they were reviewing the instruments that caused this crisis. They said they knew things needed to be better.

“So with the benefit of this time, we ask: what’s council done, within their enormous sphere of influence, to alleviate the housing pressures and homelessness in our region?

“Who are these people council says they are working with to support them to find suitable and safe accommodation?

“Where is this suitable and safe accommodation located?

“How is the displacement of these families onto public land without appropriate amenity – such is the life of many homeless families on the Sunshine Coast – a better environmental outcome than the current use of the Morton property?

“What is the stated impact to the nearby properties and public spaces caused by Ms Morton’s use of her property, where she is providing safe and sustainable accommodation for people in need?

“So, we ask, who has the courage to stand up and do something about this for Angela and her young sons and the many, many others in the same or less fortunate positions.”

In response to Mr Cayley, the council spokesperson provided a snapshot of some of the measures council is undertaking at a local level:

  • Engaging with the homeless community, including vulnerable people sleeping in council-managed public spaces, by respecting their right to access public amenities and connecting them with organisations that provide temporary accommodation and other support services.
  • Council has successfully advocated for additional state funding for an assertive outreach officer.
  • Supporting several community-led initiatives looking at innovative and diverse local housing solutions (Transitional Housing for Women and Youth Housing project, both in Nambour).
  • Continuing to support activities from the 2019 Mayor’s Homelessness Round Table, including community-led initiatives such as Sleepbus, Hope for Homes forum, Roofs to Recovery, Dignity Circle, community services and local housing providers so our community has housing opportunities that match community need.
  • Continuing to work collaboratively with all levels of government, community services and local housing providers on initiatives to improve access to services for people experiencing homelessness and to address housing affordability issues.
  • Partnering with the Queensland Government, IFYS Ltd and Sporting Club Ltd to support the successful temporary accommodation at the Sports Hub facility at Bokarina.
  • Publishing the Sunshine Coast Housing and Homelessness Directory that incorporates essential service information to access emergency relief, housing and health supports.
  • Working with the private sector through council’s statutory planning role for delivery of housing and associated infrastructure. The council undertook preliminary community consultation to inform the preparation of the New Planning Scheme, which will assist with delivering adequate and affordable housing while also supporting new, more diverse, housing types and considering the use of council-owned land for potential new community housing projects.

“Council is also preparing a Housing and Homelessness Action Plan, which will soon be formally presented to council for consideration,” the spokesperson said.

The Homes for Everyone initiative is calling for people to fill in the form at Homes for Everyone so that the collective voice of the community can influence real, positive changes to solve the housing crisis.

Listen to the podcast on Spotify, iHeartRadio or visit Homes for Everyone.

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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