community living in byron shire

Models for Community Living in Byron Shire

Wroth Wall discusses various models for community living in Byron Shire, including multiple occupancies, strata schemes, and cooperatives, and emphasises the importance of proper organisation and governance to enhance harmony. He also suggests possibilities for affordable housing, such as self-managed seniors housing projects and shared rental houses, and highlights the need for secure and affordable rental accommodation for poor friends, carers, and employees. Wroth concludes that with cooperation and carefully planned cooperation, there are still great possibilities for achieving affordable housing.

The housing situation

We are living in a world where many of us find ourselves facing uncertain futures with limited housing stock available and often diminished financially, particularly in terms of housing security with overwhelming rentals, crushing mortgage payments, and the tyranny of debt. In our society, some of us exploit others and in the case of corporations and financial institutions it is their raison d’etre.

I have had wide experience in the operation of communities and multiple ownership arrangements, including their formation and dissolution as well as the resolution of conflict within such communities and ownership arrangements. Such matters have occupied my professional life for many decades.

Within the context of the local government planning framework I have been very much involved in Rural Land Sharing Communities or Multiple Occupancies, community title subdivisions, Strata Schemes, dual occupancies, expanded houses, Rural Tourist Facilities, Secondary Dwellings and companies with multiple shareholders that own tracts of land. I have also been involved in the governance of many not for profit organisations as both a director or committee member and as a lawyer I have undertaken work for a multitude of not-for-profit organizations.

Whether it be an unincorporated group without proper legal arrangements , companies, trusts or properly constituted strata schemes, I have observed both a great deal of creativity and conflict and come to appreciate the importance of proper organization incorporating many factors necessary to enhance harmony including management arrangements, decision making, communication protocols, conflict resolution procedures dealing effectively with miscreants, exit and succession mechanisms, enactment and practical enforcement of both rules and fundamental terms of agreements, and the protection against the abrogation of the rights of members by controlling cabals or bullies and many other situations.

The acquisition of partial interests in property is becoming common, particularly after forced sales arising both from marital breakdowns and impecuniosity.

Affordable Housing in the Byron Shire

The acquisition of partial interests in property is becoming common, particularly after forced sales arising both from marital breakdowns and impecuniosity.

Within Byron Shire, because of the ability to convert multiple occupancies to community title subdivisions there are generally few possibilities for affordable housing, with the exception of some of the original colonies that have not converted to community title. In most of such communities there is no mechanism that allows for the interests of members to be encumbered by mortgage debt.

There are a number of possibilities encompassed by State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing) 2021, including boarding houses and group homes, neither of which I have any relevant dealings. Consideration also needs to be given to a contemporary application of the enabling provisions within the Manufactured Home Estate legislation. Exciting small dwellings can be used instead of traditional “tin boxes” and the usual profit-oriented governance/business model could be replaced with a community based Community Land Trust or similar management regime.

Self-managed seniors housing projects

Self-managed seniors housing projects are permissible under planning laws. Until recent changes by the coalition government such schemes were open to individuals over 55 and could be undertaken on the edge of towns and villages, however are now restricted to over 60s within urban areas.  

Examples of such developments are to be found in Byron Bay and Ocean Shores and are significantly more affordable than equivalent generic Strata Developments and much better than than commercial retirement villages, that are generally designed to deliver profits to both their promoters and operators. Often Owners Corporations will appoint a Strata Managing Agent to perform a range of administrative functions including the calling of meetings and financial administration.

Secondary dwellings

Even secondary dwellings have been exploited by rapacious property owners, however, have provided a boon to some, simply by reason of honourable and generous home owners, who are not financially stressed themselves. The ability to provide such accommodation has become more stilted, with complex building regulations, dramatically increased building costs and rising interest rates.

Shared rental houses

Shared rental houses, particularly among the young, provide some relief. Housing stock available for this purpose has been significantly diminished by Air BNB, however it provides opportunities for groups of people to live in areas that would otherwise be unaffordable.

Community living

Efforts to establish communities are often promoted by self-serving individuals embarking on money-making schemes and seeking to maintain control. In my experience, there is a qualitative difference between groups of people brought together by promoters or real estate agents and those constituted by groups of people who already know and trust each other. A foundation of friendship, common interest and values is a worthy starting point.

Intentional neighbourhoods

Whether it is in the form of multiple occupancy, over 60s developments, extended dwellings or rural restoration projects, there are still multiple ways in which people can aggregate their resources, and live collectively, at least to some extent. I always say community only ever arises out of serendipity but the notion and reality of intentional neighbourhoods certainly fosters the possibilities for harmonious living.

There are a number of factors to consider, including secure and affordable rental accommodation for poor friends, and for carers and employees provided there are proper mechanisms for orderly and equitable governance.

Appropriate models for intentional neighbourhoods

There are a number of different models available for dual occupancies, extended dwellings, rural enterprises or bush regeneration projects with multiple workers dwellings incorporating agriculture, food production and even tourism.


Cooperatives offer significant possibilities as a development vehicle particularly having regard to the fact that fundraising is not restricted by the onerous restrictions placed on other schemes by the operation of the Corporations Act compliance regime which is both onerous and prohibitively expensive.

Charitable trusts

Charitable trusts and not-for-profit organisations can also play a vital role particularly in the context of affordable rental and security of tenure. They can be constituted as companies limited by guarantee or incorporated associations.  They can be used as development vehicles for Community title and Strata subdivisions and retain ownership of houses or units designated for rental.

Proprietary companies

The use of ordinary proprietary companies offering leasehold interest of buildings to their shareholders is the one that I find most attractive and is a model that I have pioneered in the context of Rural Land Sharing Communities. Unfortunately, such developments can only be undertaken in about 19 Shires under the relevant State Environmental Planning Policy. Within such shires there are countless sites that can be considered.

Apart from Lismore and Byron that have enabling provisions in their Local Environmental Plans with limited application (in the case of Byron, a mere handful), those local government areas are Bega Valley, Bellingen, Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Gloucester, Great Lakes, Guyra, Inverell, Kyogle, Nambucca, Port Stephens, Richmond Valley and Tenterfield. Once again, the coalition government in NSW has excluded their operation throughout most of NSW in the course of their last extended term in office.

Collaborative innovation

In the case of most structures including strata or community title subdivisions there can be collaborations between the members of schemes for business ventures, including cafés, food production, food processing through to artistic endeavours and a range of other enterprises.

Each of the models that I have referred to operates within a different legislative regime in which the procedures and remedies are quite different. For example, in the case of land that is owned in common the only practical remedy that the applicable law provides for is the appointment of trustees for sale and only in some cases partition. Partition is not available or the purpose of facilitating Strata and Community Title subdivisions.

Common problems with shared ownership

Problems often arise with some improvements that have been built by the person owning the interest having the beneficial ownership of the improvements, while in the case of interests that have been purchased with improvements, those improvements will be deemed to be collectively owned in the absence of properly drafted provisions in a Co-owners agreement or Deed.

Such Deeds should also address a multitude of matters including allocation of building sites, building and landscape standards, insurance, dispute resolution, enactment of rules, imposition of levies to cover common expenses, tenants and exit mechanisms including restrictions or preconditions before members can exercise their rights to approach the Supreme Court for orders that the entire property be sold, or the organisation be wound up. In the absence of proper mechanisms, there can be significant conflict about how the proceeds of sale are to be apportioned and in that event the costs payable to the trustees and the lawyers can be crippling.

Another problem that commonly arises with Land held in common is that often interests are sold and purchased and it is surprising how many new members have not signed Deeds agreeing to be bound by the original Deed or they did sign the Deed that cannot be found 20 years later, because no one has taken responsibility to see that they are all kept in the same place or some legal secretary has closed the file without removing it and placing it with the original Deed. That can be a problem when the original deed may have been destroyed years after it was closed or otherwise disappear in a flood or fire.

While the Strata and Community Title legislation invokes the jurisdiction of the NSW Commercial and Administrative Tribunal proceedings can be frustrating for the parties involved. NCAT has a wide range of powers including fines, but it does not have the power to divest ownership. It may appoint a strata managing agent to exercise specific functions and in extraordinary circumstances it may terminate schemes.

Potential solutions

When doing things together it is fundamentally important to ensure that there is common agreement between the founders. Sometimes people who enter such arrangements who do not have long histories together are surprised when one of the members reveals themselves to be a psychopath or even when individuals develop psychiatric disorders. The breakdown of relationships, marital and otherwise need to be considered.

In the case of resettlement programmes, I am of the view that multiple developments should take place simultaneously, not only for the purpose of healthy cross-pollination but also to accommodate the seemingly inevitable irretrievable breakdowns in relationships.


Careful consideration needs to be given to the means by which projects are to be funded. Difficulties often arise from the fact that individuals need to sell their own dwelling houses before entering such schemes. I have seen well-conceived plans fail for that reason. Government funding may be available for subsidised housing for rental purposes.

State-funded community housing

In earlier generations in New South Wales, the Housing Commission provided housing for those who could not afford to purchase homes. Some affordable housing is provided by state-funded Community Housing organisations, for which there are usually long waiting lists.

Institutional funding

Institutional funding will be available for carefully planned schemes that are the subject of detailed planning, accounting and architectural input. Wealthy individuals or benevolent institutions can also provide funding either in the form of grants or development finance. Succession plans need to be formulated for the owners of proprietary interests.

As they say sharing is caring. During my current travels within the Middle East I have been informed that the Quran says something about paradise being something that cannot be enjoyed alone.


There are endless possibilities that can be explored and implemented. in the case of over 60s developments provision ideally should be made for the accommodation of carers and their families and for employees who can support people as they grow older. It is vital that people be kept out of nursing homes until it is absolutely necessary for them to be there and for individuals to spend their lives and particularly their later years in a nurturing environment, surrounded by friends, and those who care for them.

With goodwill and good professional advice there are still great possibilities for achieving affordable housing. The key element is cooperation and carefully planned cooperation. It is also important for the professional advisors to work collaboratively together.

The successful implementation of projects is enhanced greatly by using experienced professionals who have established relationships with the other professionals involved and who can work effectively as a team. Such professionals may include town planners, lawyers, surveyors, architects, engineers, ecologists, bushfire consultants, permaculturalists, strata agents and contractors who will ideally all work closely with each other and the founding participants.

affordable housing options in byron shire

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