Calls are being made to address the lack of affordable housing in Grafton. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Calls are being made to address the lack of affordable housing in Grafton. Picture: Dylan Robinson

Could Grafton CBD support medium-density apartments?

Trying to find a place to live in the Clarence Valley has become an impossible task with some residents already facing homelessness.

"It's happening everywhere in NSW and the situation is a very complex one," Grafton Chamber of Commerce secretary and board member for North Coast Community Housing Phil Belletty said.

"From a social housing perspective, we recognise that there's a significant shortfall; over a thousand people are on a waiting list for housing."

However, even middle-income earners aren't immune to the region's accommodation squeeze.

When Sharni Bonfield moved from Sydney to Grafton in early November 2020, she was shocked by the difficulty in finding a rental.

"I have been fortunate enough to have temporary accommodation with family in the meantime, however, I moved here to make a life for myself and settle in here," she said.

"I have been searching for and applying for rental properties in the area for those three months.

"What I've found is that the prices of rentals are on par with Sydney rental prices at the moment which is unaffordable for the location we live, that's if you are lucky enough to come by one and get approved by the real estate agency."

Sadly, Sharni's experience is one of countless playing out across the Clarence Valley which Mr Belletty said was symptomatic of a looming crisis for regional towns.

"It's like the chicken and the egg: If you want to see regional centres thrive, especially after COVID, you need the capacity to provide incentives for businesses and people to relocate here, but in order to do that, you first need to provide affordable housing," he said.

While more land releases will generate more housing in the long-term, Mr Belletty said there should be more strategic development around the Grafton CBD to help ease the strain.

"They talk about subdivisions out at places like Junction Hill and that it's a great opportunity and a great location, but there are no services out there for people, such as a shopping centre," he said.

"Some of the old government buildings along the water could be developed into medium-density apartments with alfresco dining while all government services could be housed in the one building."