No plan to get flood victims out of 'temporary' houses

Jack GramenzAAP
People whose homes were wrecked by floods in Lismore in 2022 are still facing housing uncertainty. (Jason O'BRIEN/AAP PHOTOS)
Camera IconPeople whose homes were wrecked by floods in Lismore in 2022 are still facing housing uncertainty. (Jason O'BRIEN/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

Lismore residents who lost their homes in devastating repeat flooding are still in temporary housing with no long-term plans to get them after almost two years, according to the NSW auditor-general.

People in central-western NSW are also still living in caravans waiting for temporary "pods" to arrive after floods struck in November 2022, a scathing report has found.

Temporary villages were rapidly set up in response to unprecedented inundation in the Northern Rivers in February 2022 and later the central-west.

But there was no plan in place to guide the response, which did not meet the demand, NSW auditor-general Margaret Crawford found in a report released on Thursday.

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An extensive waitlist remains for temporary housing and there were no long-term plans to transition residents out of temporary villages despite a deadline being placed on their removal.

As many as 1440 people were in emergency accommodation in motels, motor homes and camps in April 2022, while more than 720 households were still on the waitlist for temporary housing in November.

The state was not as well prepared as it could have been for the use of temporary housing in the wake of disasters, having failed to heed lessons from the 2019-20 bushfires, the audit found.

Broader housing challenges across the state were increasing the risk people might not find long-term accommodation for a "significant amount of time", it added.

"The NSW government does not have a clear plan around how long the temporary housing villages are intended to remain in place," the report said.

They are subject to a legislated five-year maximum before they need to be demobilised under state housing policies.

Lessons were learned from Lismore by the time of the central-west floods, leading to the rapid establishment of a program to house people in caravans on private properties while people waited for pods or repairs to their homes.

By the end of 2024 there should be a whole-of-government plan for temporary housing in response to emergency events and a strategy to transition people into long-term accommodation, Ms Crawford recommended.

Housing Minister Rose Jackson said the provision of temporary accommodation after the floods was handled by the previous government, but the current administration would support all of the auditor-general's recommendations that were relevant to ongoing work.

"We know we need to do more to bolster support for residents with a priority on getting people into safe, secure and long-term housing," she said.

"The NSW government is working across all agencies to address these critical issues."

Planning was under way for the demobilisation of temporary housing villages in the Northern Rivers, while cross-government work was taking place to transition residents to permanent accommodation, Ms Jackson said.

A parcel of Southern Cross University-owned land has been made available in Lismore for more than 400 new houses, but both land and homes are unlikely to be up for sale until at least 2026.

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