Re-purposing existing infrastructure is just one of the ways to meet the region's 'unprecedented' demand for housing, says Albury MP Justin Clancy.
Federal and state governments, local councils and communities need to come together to find innovative and immediate solutions to the current crisis while working on broader, long-term strategies to address the chronic shortage of affordable housing, he says.
"No one person has the mortgage on good ideas," Mr Clancy says.
"We need those conversations in the community to explore what is available, what's being under-utilised and what can be recycled in terms of existing assets."
Late last year came the rumblings of what was to come.
"We were hearing, for example, there were no housing blocks available in places like Culcairn and Burrumbuttock," he says.
"No one could have predicted that we were going to go through a pandemic and there would be such a significant increase in demand for housing.
"The demand is across all levels of housing but we need to remember that this unprecedented demand is most keenly felt among our most vulnerable."
Mr Clancy reached out to his housing minister and in the past few weeks deputy secretary of housing Michael Wright joined Land and Housing Corporation's Communities Plus program director Peter Brackenreg on a visit to Albury to discuss the pressing issues in the current housing crisis.
Social housing was at the forefront of discussions.
"We explored many themes including the concentration of housing," Mr Clancy began.
"We know social housing is actually more successful when it is 'de-concentrated', where it is spread throughout the community.
"It's called salt and peppering and it leads to more successful outcomes for both tenants and the community."
Mr Clancy highlights the challenges that beset Thurgoona Street's high-density social housing.
"If we can re-purpose some of the existing infrastructure into something like a youth foyer (affordable housing that helps young people transition into educational and employment pathways) ... these are important ideas to work through."
One of the other significant challenges with social housing, according to Mr Clancy, is much of it is at the end of its life cycle.
"What people needed 50 or 60 years ago is different to the picture in front of us today where the demand is for one and two-bedroom housing stock," he explains.
The government has to look at "recycling" some of its own existing assets.
Vacant blocks could be sold and the money invested into newer, more appropriate housing, Mr Clancy states.
Integral to this is a thorough audit of existing stock.
Interestingly, he says a recent audit of social housing stock in Albury showed several properties were vacant.
"Is the current housing under-utilised?" he asks.
"A renewal of existing stock allows us to upgrade our housing but we also have to get the right housing for the demands now and into the future.
"Along with that is investment in other important social projects."
No one could have predicted that we were going to go through a pandemic and there would be such a significant increase in demand for housing across the region ... it is most keenly felt among our most vulnerable.- Justin Clancy
There is no quick fix, Mr Clancy acknowledges.
"It will require solutions across government, councils and community," he says.
"We need insights from Albury Council when planning social housing in relation to transport corridors and the ability to access services for example."
The NSW government has released its new 20-year plan for housing across the state.
The Housing 2041 strategy explains that before the COVID-19 pandemic, "strong population growth and positive economic conditions had driven increased demand for housing and house price growth in NSW ..."
Part of the plan sees the government exploring the option of using empty buildings and vacant land for people needing urgent accommodation while longer-term options are found.
Mr Clancy says we need to address the more immediate crisis in overall housing stock while working on the longer-term vision.
"Last year during COVID-19 the government demonstrated temporary accommodation could be achieved to address homelessness ... we must assist in an immediate sense while we work on the broader plan."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.