The Nonna Project: Plea for social housing for older women

BALLINA Shire Council will be formally asked this week to join a social housing pilot project for single women over 55.

Former Ballina Shire councillor Marilyn Perkins will present the Nonna Project to council’s Commercial Services Committee this week.

Mrs Perkins said the idea was for council to cede one block of land from the planned stage three of the Wollongbar Urban Expansion Area.

The development includes thirty residential lots and one large lot, identified for childcare


The idea, she said, was for one of those lots to include four 30 sqm cottages plus fencing and common areas, such as parking.

Each cottage will feature one bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen/dining area and a living area, plus a small veranda.

“Rent would be at a level that women would be able to pay, and offered as long term rental agreements to them to provide security, stability and privacy,” she explained.


Wollongbar resident and former Ballina Shire councillor, Marilyn Perkins.


The former Ballina Woman of the Year said if the land is made available by council, a not-for-profit will be established to manage the property and offer long-term, viable rental to women.

“Women over 55 are the fastest-growing group of homeless people in Australia,” she said.

“I know a lady from Wollongbar who, at 82, became at risk of homelessness because her rent increased,” she said.

“An employee at the Ballina Hospital said to me ‘you would be amazed the number of older women, living on their own, who have rented for years in Ballina or surrounds (people) that I work with, who are petrified of retiring because they know they can’t afford rent if they stop working.

“They have to move out of the area, leave their families and support networks behind.”

A private donation of $200,000 will get the project rolling, and conversations with further not-for-profit community foundations are advanced to offer further financial assistance, plus pro bono management of the project, design and legal support.

“There will be a legally-binding agreement that reassures council that there will never be anything in this land but social housing for single, older women,” she said.

“I hope council sees the value in this, as a pilot project that could be the first in the region, showing that it is possible for councils to support the most vulnerable in our communities and that could be a starting point for many more across NSW.”

Mrs Perkins will meet the Commercial Services Committee tomorrow Tuesday.

Ballina Shire Council was contacted for comment.

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