Multi-storey boarding house plan to boost affordable homes in Wollongong CBD

An artist's impression included in the report. Picture: Dreamscapes Architects P/L, from plans lodged by GAT and Associates Pty Ltd.
An artist's impression included in the report. Picture: Dreamscapes Architects P/L, from plans lodged by GAT and Associates Pty Ltd.

Housing affordability for low income workers in Wollongong has become a “serious and growing problem”, prompting a developer to pitch a plan to build what would become the city’s largest boarding house.

Earmarked for the western edge of Wollongong’s CBD, on Frederick Street, the “new generation” boarding house would provide housing for up to 81 people.

It would have 68-rooms across two separate four and five storey buildings, with 55 single rooms and 12 double suites.

Rent would be set at $200 for a single room and $260 for a double room, making them much cheaper than the median priced Wollongong studio or one-bedroom apartment ($340/week).

This would make the accommodation “affordable to many very low income workers, students and aged pensioners”, documents lodged on behalf of developer Client Hope Wollongong Pty Ltd said.

Before moving in, residents would be asked to observe a long list of house rules, which includes a ban on smoking inside, drinking alcohol outside between 10pm and 10am, disturbing neighbours and having overnight visitors.

Tenants would be required to stay for a minimum of three months, and would be prohibited from using illegal drugs, having pets and burning candles or incense.

The building would have 18 car spaces, 16 bicycle spots and 13 motorcycle spaces, which is compliant with the rules set out in the NSW affordable rental housing policy. These would be allocated on a first come, first served basis, with tenants unable to claim a particular space.

According to a social impact report, the boarding house is designed to address the “serious and growing affordability problems” for low income workers in Wollongong.

“Even a median priced studio and one bedroom apartment would not be affordable to most very low or low income workers, students or pensioners in the suburb of Wollongong,” the report said.

“The need and demand for smaller affordable accommodation in central Wollongong is particularly pressing due to the much higher than average rate of overseas and domestic students and smaller households, the high concentration of employment opportunities in retail, hospitality and various services, and the relatively low rates of pay that accompany much of this work.”

For this reason – as well as the site’s proximity to transport, health service and shops – the assessment concludes “the positive social impacts are likely to significantly outweigh any potential negative impacts”.

The proposed development site.

The proposed development site.

The assessment acknowledged that there was often community concern about anti-social behaviour with boarding house developments, however, it said in-house research had indicated no “substantive issues” for surrounding communities living near developments similar to that being proposed.

It also noted the development would be built “within a relatively high crime environment” and near high-density hotspots for domestic and non-domestic assault, break and enters, house and car theft and malicious damage.

“The intensity of crime is reflective of the high population densities in the area and the proximity to Wollongong CBD and railway station,” the documents said.

“It will be important to ensure secure access to the building and to the basement parking area to protect the safety and property of future boarding house residents in this environment.”

The developers said they believed the high-rise boarding house would be “in line with the future character of the area”.

As well as being near the station, the site is close to West Wollongong TAFE and city medical precinct.

Also nearby, Wollongong council is also currently considering a development application to relocate the Denison Street methadone clinic to a site on Gladstone Avenue.

Plans are open for public comment until April 26.