Flooding has devastated Tweed, screaming for owners to give up their vacation properties

Holiday home owners in northern New South Wales are urged to offer their properties to flood victims as the region grapples with a worsening housing crisis, compounded by the emergency of the floods.

Thousands of homes in the Northern Rivers and Tweed areas were damaged or uninhabitable by the deadly floodwaters.

The housing supply in the area has been described as “the biggest ongoing humanitarian crisis since that event” by Tweed Shire Mayor Chris Cherry.

“We need your house”

Cr Cherry said landlords looking to help should consider returning short-term vacation properties to the rental market.

“If there was a time when you wanted to help, what we need now is to put your house back on the permanent rental market because people need shelter right now,” said said Cr Cherry.

Homes in northern New South Wales were destroyed in 2017 and again in 2022.(PA: Dave Hunt)

Cr Cherry said he met NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet over the urgent need for long-term rentals.

“I was with the Prime Minister yesterday to say this was our greatest need – temporary housing and permanent affordable housing in our county,” she said.

“Please could he use every lever he has to talk about short term vacation rental.”

Temporary housing is not enough

Northern Rivers was already suffering from rent compression before the flood disaster.

Hundreds of flood victims have already been housed in hotels across the county.

“But it’s very, very short term – it’s three or five days,” said Cr Cherry.

Home items like mattresses and sofas stacked next to a soggy brown street
Thousands of houses in the northern rivers are uninhabitable or damaged.(ABC Gold Coast: Sarah Cumming)

Estate agent Paul McMahon said area homeowners were already offering free short-term rentals.

“Anything we can do to help these people who are suffering would be great.”

But he warns that the abandonment of holiday homes could have a long-term tourism impact on a region flooded and ravaged by COVID.

Do not give up the miracle solution

Mr. McMahon says the billion-dollar vacation industry is the biggest earner in Northern Rivers.

“It plays a very big part in the… jobs, everything for Tweed,” he said.

“If you start playing with it too much, then all of a sudden your restaurants will start to disappear.

“Lots of other jobs for everyone from electricians to cleaners to gardeners… everything will start to disappear.”

Mr McMahon said the new owner-occupiers had taken the stock of rental and vacation homes out of the already tight market.

“Even now, with everything going on, you still need housing for workers coming into the area.”

A flooded suburban street
Hundreds of people have been forced to stay in short-term hotels around the Tweed.(ABC Gold Coast: Cathy Border)

More subdivisions needed

SQM Research real estate analyst Louis Christopher said the call may fall on deaf ears.

He said short-term rentals were in high demand because of COVID.

“I understand there’s an immediate need here and now, but I don’t know how many owners are going to respond to that,” he said.

Mr Christopher said there was a housing supply problem in the Tweed Shire before the floods.

He said council had been reluctant to rezone land for development with many five-acre ‘lifestyle’ blocks in the area that could be subdivided.

“It’s the reality of what it was used for, it’s just a lifestyle.

“So there’s no environmental issue here and there’s no more rural issue here, so just do the subdivision and help everyone get into the market and increase the supply.”

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