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'Need an interim option': Noosa MP wants former charity site used for housing crisis

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A mostly abandoned site in the north of the Sunshine Coast has once again been thrust into the spotlight over its ability to provide an interim solution to the housing crisis.

It comes as a local state MP has pushed for the government to “intervene” to allow for accommodation options at the former House With No Steps site at Doonan.

The property has remained vacant since mid-2019 when the disability charity, now known as Aruma, walked away from the facility due to the costs associated with running it.

The 21-hectare site has also historically been used by Rotary clubs within the Noosa region to run its RYDA (Rotary Youth Driver Awareness) road safety education courses, which are still held at the site periodically throughout the year.

Located at 60 Fellowship Drive, the property falls within the Sunshine Coast Council footprint and is zoned as Community Facility.

The council is trustee of the state government-owned site, which is a Reserve for Environment Park, Public Halls, Recreation and Sporting purposes.

Since 2019 several discussions between state and local government, plus housing and homelessness agencies, have occurred over the potential future use for the land.

In June 2021, mayor Mark Jamieson said the council was working with the Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy to investigate ways to best use facilities on land under the control of council, including at Fellowship Drive.

Then, last year the council called for tenders for a 10-year lease of the site, however the process was unsuccessful with no lease entered into agreement.

An outline of the site at 60 Fellowship Drive, Doonan. Picture: Nearmap

Over the years, independent Noosa MP Sandy Bolton has been championing for the site to be used for emergency and affordable accommodation.

She recently posed a parliamentary question on notice to Housing Minister Meaghan Scanlon calling on her to intervene on transitioning the site for the provision of accommodation use.

In her response to Ms Bolton, Ms Scanlon said the site was “incompatible for residential redevelopment”.

“The site is considered unsuitable for the development of social housing due to the current zoning (Community Facilities) and the reserve purpose, which is incompatible for residential redevelopment,” she said.

“Housing development on the property would be further constrained by vegetation protection, bushfire hazard, koala habitat and flood planning scheme overlays.

“When acquiring properties for the development of social housing, opportunities are assessed against the department’s acquisition criteria.

“An important consideration under the criteria is the proximity to amenities and essential services for tenants.

“The site is some distance from amenity and the department would target properties that are better located for tenant needs.”

Affordable housing continues to be a problem on the Sunshine Coast. Picture: Shutterstock

In a statement to Sunshine Coast News, Ms Bolton said she believed the property could still be used in a temporary capacity, similar to how land is used during disaster events.

“This site could have been, and still can be, made useable to address our needs, possible under the mechanisms available to state, to house residents temporarily on sites zoned for other purposes as is done during disasters,” Ms Bolton said.

“With our current affordable housing projects in development stage, our workers and their families need an interim option until these become available.

“Instead of ‘why we can’t’ we need to look at ‘why we must’ to avoid homelessness and evictions of families in their tiny homes from private properties.

“This site is suitable for tiny homes and demountables, having previously been utilised for events and camping with toilet blocks on site.”

She said regarding concerns about the site’s proximity to amenities that it was a five-minute drive from Noosaville, within walking distance to a large, well-stocked service station plus a bus stop located on Eumundi-Noosa Road.

“Following my ‘question on notice’, we have written again to the Minister for Housing to urgently intervene,” Ms Bolton said.

Sunshine Coast Council was also contacted for comment reading the use of the land.

The aerial imagery in this story is from Australian location intelligence company Nearmap. The company provides government organisations, architectural, construction and engineering firms, and other companies with easy, instant access to high-resolution aerial imagery, city-scale 3D content, artificial intelligence data sets, and geospatial tools to assist with urban planning, monitoring and development projects in Australia, New Zealand and North America.

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

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