The founder and managing director of Community Housing Limited (CHL), Australia’s largest not for profit social and affordable housing provider, has been named as a finalist for Victoria’s 2021 Australian of the Year Awards.
Steve Bevington went from sleeping in graveyards, alleyways, and parks to couch surfing and squatting in abandoned buildings for almost 15 years since his early days in England. Since then, he’s turned his life around and is the man behind CHL, a not-for-profit housing organisation that provides safe and affordable housing solutions to vulnerable Australians from all walks of life, including the elderly, those with disability, domestic violence survivors and people living with mental illness.
On a mission to “see a world without housing poverty”, Steve founded CHL in 1993 at the age of 37. CHL started as a small office on Commercial road in Melbourne and has now transformed into a global housing powerhouse with over 400 staff who manage more than 11,000 properties across every state in Australia, and also provide affordable housing solutions in Timor Leste, Indonesia, India, Chile, Peru, Rwanda and Papua New Guinea.
Steve said the award nomination was a positive step towards society acknowledging that affordable and secure housing is a fundamental right. Safe, affordable, suitable, and quality housing gives people stability to build their life and community. This stability provides opportunity for people to improve outcomes in other areas of their lives.
Australia’s housing shortage is an enormous challenge that needs to be urgently addressed through more sustained funding and policy reform.
“Housing affordability is not a low-income problem, it’s everyone’s problem. There are approximately over 116,000 people estimated to be homeless in Australia, that is enough to fill all the seats at the MCG plus 21,000 more. This demonstrates just a fraction of Australians who need support and does not include those who are at-risk of homelessness and those who are disadvantaged in the private rental market. This issue has unfortunately only grown dire since CHL was established,” Mr Bevington said.
“I am humbled to be given the opportunity to represent CHL and those struggling to find housing security as a Victorian nominee in the running for the 2021 Australian of the Year. I couldn’t have dreamt when I was sleeping rough, that I would have the privilege of being acknowledged alongside three incredible individuals, for an award of this caliber.”
Despite there being a shortage of almost half a million rental houses available for low income families in Australia, Steve continues to be inspired by his team who share his determination in bringing more housing security to more people.
“It just goes to show that, no matter your circumstance, if you put your heart and soul into your calling, you can achieve something great,” Mr Bevington said.
“What we have accomplished at CHL would not have been possible without the team who wake up each day with an entrenched desire to help others in need – it’s what’s kept CHL going for the past 27 years and is what will keep us going for decades to come, and that’s something to be proud of.”
“CHL is committed to delivering affordable housing solutions to support those who are disadvantaged in the private rental market and will continue to advocate for the many vulnerable groups”, said Steve.
The award winners will be announced live online on Tuesday 27 October at 6.30pm on the Australian of the Year’s Facebook page.