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Bond students help address housing affordability

Nurses, government officers and other key workers may return to mine-rich townships if a unique partnership to improve rural Emerald’s housing affordability is adopted elsewhere.

Students from Bond University’s Mirvac School of Sustainable Development have teamed up with the Queensland Community Housing Coalition and the Central Regional Highlands Council to address affordability in the Queensland township.

Undergraduate and postgraduate Urban and Design Planning students worked in teams to design Strategic Plans for a Council landholding in Emerald, laying the framework for the future development of a 10 hectare site adjacent to the town’s airport and planned light industry precinct

High paying jobs at quarries surrounding Emerald had forced up rents throughout the town, making it difficult to retain workers outside of the mining industry. In 2008, three bedroom houses were renting for $360 a week in Emerald - $10 more than similar housing in Brisbane.

Although Emerald has a population of approximately 15,000, it services a much wider population catchment.

“Like many rural towns where the workforce is dominated by mining, it’s been difficult for Emerald to retain workers for key town roles because  they’re forced out by living expenses,’’ said Dr Danny O’Hare, Associate Professor of Urban Planning at Bond University’s Mirvac School of Sustainable Development and project leader.

“This partnership shows we can help bring housing affordability to resource-rich towns throughout the State and across Australia in a cost-effective and sustainable way,’’ he said.

Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Peter Maguire said the students’ design was endorsed by Council.

“We’re very happy with the innovative concept the students put forward and we’re looking to develop it further as addressing affordable housing in our town has been a concern for some time now,’’ said Cr Maguire.

The students’ design considered an array of housing types in Emerald, breaking away from the town’s conventional detached dwellings on large lots.  It also incorporated sustainable social and community infrastructure including linkages for walking and cycling.

An adjacent 10 hectare parcel owned by the Catholic Archdiocese was also incorporated into the Strategic Plan for consideration of a larger site and improved connectivity.

“This has been a unique was for our students to work on a real-life development scenario. It’s been a win for everyone involved in the project. Hopefully our students’ skills are further utilised by regional councils in this manner,’’ said Dr O’Hare.

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