Member for Bega and NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance has issued a plea to Canberrans to release vacant holiday homes to bushfire evacuees to get people out of caravan parks, hotel rooms and, in some cases, even sheds.
Mr Constance made the case on social media: “We’ve got to get people placed [in accommodation] and one solution to that is freeing up many coastal homes which won’t necessarily have people in them. We’re calling on Canberrans who have homes to make them available.”
One South Coast resident all too familiar with this phase of recovery is Dene Lewthwaite, who lived through the 2003 Canberra bushfires before moving to the Bateman’s Bay area. In 2003, Dene saw first-hand how important it was for people to quickly source long-term accommodation while getting their lives back on track.
“There was a shortage in Canberra and we saw supply and demand drive rental prices up, creating a false market of sorts,” says Dene.
“Increased costs were an added burden for Canberrans suffering from the devastating effects of the fires. The situation at the South Coast could present the same challenges, perhaps even greater challenges given that long-term, affordable rental accommodation was already in short supply before the first fire began to burn.”
According to the NSW Rural Fire Service, more than 2,000 homes have been destroyed so far this fire season and an undetermined number will require major repairs.
Dene, also the director at Harcourts Batemans Bay, says Canberrans who own holiday homes or property at the coast that they don’t use frequently are an essential part of the long-term rebuilding solution.
“A great way to support the South Coast is to increase the number of properties available for 12 to 18 months at current rental rates,” says Dene, who has been in the real estate business for 19 years. “Rebuilding requires time for insurance claims, planning, development approvals and even, potentially, a shortage of designers and builders.”
Canberra’s Alanna Davis says her family has already made their property at Maloney’s Beach available for rent through Harcourts. The family has owned the property for almost 20 years and are very much part of the community.
“We’re renting our house out fully furnished,” says Alanna. “Giving up a few weekends and holidays here and there is nothing if it means helping a family get settled into a routine while they rebuild. It’s not about the money for us. It’s about helping.”
According to Dene, “releasing stock owned by non-residential ratepayers is about helping fellow Aussies”.
“It’s a small price to pay for victims facing so much,” he says, “and it will help the South Coast reopen for business and thrive once more.”
Harcourts Batemans Bay isn’t just appealing to Canberrans to help, they’re throwing their support behind the push by reducing property management fees for properties from the Bay down to Tuross Heads by 20 per cent for those who sign up to help.
“It’s critical to use a professional, registered and fully insured company to protect rental property,” says Property Manager Sandra Nascimento. “That means a company with the experience and qualifications to properly vet applications, find the right match between tenants and accommodation, take bonds and complete all the necessary paperwork.”
Harcourts Batemans Bay is also donating 20 per cent of all letting fees and commissions made on new properties to the NSW Rural Fire Service and Wires Australian Wildlife Rescue Organisation for the next 12 months.