A local consortium “NewcastleFirst” has been selected to redevelop the Empire Hotel site in Hunter Street West, with the resulting affordable housing properties to be transferred to Compass Housing.
Newcastle-based Compass Housing is the largest provider of social and affordable housing in regional Australia.
CEO Greg Budworth said that the project will provide much needed affordable housing for local working people.
Greg said transferring the title of the affordable housing properties provided another boost with Compass then able to leverage them to invest in more affordable housing for the city’s people.
“We aim to leverage up to 25 per cent of the value of a property as borrowings to develop more affordable housing,” Greg said.
“This is some rare good news as the crisis in affordable housing in Newcastle and the Hunter worsens,” he continued.
“In the Federal Budget the Government axed the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS), which has big implications for our capacity to generate more affordable housing locally.”
Minister for Planning Pru Goward said she was pleased Newcastle City Council had also resolved to contribute $2.9 million from its Building Better Cities Housing Management and Development Committee.
“The partnership between the City of Newcastle and NSW Government is an innovative approach to stimulating urban renewal and leverages private sector investment to transform this long-dilapidated site,” she said.
“This project will enhance the Government’s and the City’s revitalisation program, creating jobs and homes in the city centre.
“It will transform an eyesore into a positive contributor to the street-scape and the city economy.”
HDC General Manager Bob Hawes said the NewcastleFirst consortium was specifically formed to develop the site according to a design by local architects EJE Architecture.
“Under this innovative agreement, the developer will be incorporating a minimum of 25 affordable housing units into a larger residential building,” Bob said.
The building is planned to include more than 100 apartments of various sizes and a component of commercial/retail space.
It would also include a number of accessible independent living units spread over various levels, giving choice for residents with disabilities.