Murray Bridge council must be ‘unrelenting’ amid housing crisis, councillor argues
The city’s mayor and council CEO are taking a patient approach, but Councillor Karen Eckermann wants more to be done about the “desperate emergency”.
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The Murray Bridge council must be “unrelenting” in its efforts to address a housing shortage, a councillor argues, but its leaders say they’re doing all they can.
At a meeting on Tuesday night, Cr Karen Eckermann described the lack of affordable and social housing in Murray Bridge as a “desperate emergency”.
“I don’t discount the new Labor (state) government’s commitment to some social housing in Murray Bridge … but sadly it’s nowhere near enough,” she said.
“Murraylands housing insecurity is an emergency, and we need to be unrelenting with our requests for help in dealing with the desperate crisis being faced by our community.”
She suggested councillors:
Write to the prime minister, premier and state and federal housing ministers to advocate for more social and community housing in Murray Bridge
Work with local homelessness service providers to make sure existing housing was well maintained and available
Push the issue at a regional and state level through local government associations
More than a year had passed since councillors had made similar demands of former leaders Scott Morrison and Steven Marshall, she noted – it was time to press the issue.
But Mayor Brenton Lewis, on the advice of CEO Michael Sedgman, rejected the proposal before it could be brought to a vote.
It would be premature to write more letters when the council had not yet opened a dialogue with the new state government, Mr Lewis said.
“It’s not that we’ve got a blind eye to it,” Mr Lewis said.
“We’ve worked more (behind the scenes) than you’ll ever know.
“We badly need worker accommodation; we need affordable rental accommodation, that’s really urgent; and we need straight-up-and-down social housing.”
He suggested the council return to the issue next month.
Mr Sedgman told Murray Bridge News that the council was best suited to be an advocate – a facilitator – and to leave the house-building to the state government and private developers.
“If the new federal Labor government gave me $10 million to build some houses, I’d be happy to do it, but that’s not our job,” he said.
“We’re absolutely content to do anything we can do in terms of advocating for outcomes on behalf of our community.”
For example, he hoped Housing SA might consider renovating some of its existing stock in Murray Bridge – generally three-bedroom houses built in the 1950s and 60s – into smaller duplexes that would suit single residents.
That would help clear the long list of locals waiting for a place.
Mr Lewis and Mr Sedgman are due to state Murray Bridge’s case at a Local Government Association housing forum in Adelaide next week, along with representatives of the state government and each of South Australia’s 68 councils.
The mayor hoped that meeting would lead to solid progress.
“It’s our plan to be in front of the people making decisions, as a council, representing our people,” he said.