Big Housing Opportunities

The New Year will bring significant opportunities for builders and developers to partner with community housing organisations to deliver 4,200 social housing properties over the next four years through the Victorian Government’s $5.3 billion Big Housing Build (BHB).

CHIA Vic CEO Lesley Dredge says the BHB provides an exciting opportunity for builders and community housing organisations to work together to provide much needed homes for renters who are priced out of the private housing market.

‘This task is both exciting and huge and can only be achieved if we all pull in the same direction,’ Ms Dredge says.

For many, this will be their first interaction with the community housing industry and CHIA Vic has developed information and fact sheets explaining the sector’s business model and what housing organisations will be seeking in development partners.

‘Key things to note are that our sector consists of heavily regulated not-for-profits who are looking to build and manage housing in well-located areas close to transport and jobs. Because we are looking to the long-term, our focus is on quality construction to reduce future maintenance costs and environmentally efficient design to reduce costs for our low-income renters,’ Ms Dredge says.

‘If social housing is to be part of a larger development, we will be conscious of the impact of amenities on ongoing owners’ corporation fees. Community housing organisations are unable to pay market rates for housing, which is why working in partnership with builders to bring down the cost of the build will be so valuable, providing a win for both parties.’

CHIA Vic will be running education and networking sessions in partnership with key developer peaks including the UDIA, Property Council and Master Builders Victoria early in 2021, but in the meantime, developers and builders can learn more here or sign up for CHIA Vic’s email newsletter.

Call for Federal Government to boost social housing

CHIA Vic supports the Everybody’s Home campaign call for the Federal Government to take the Victorian Government’s lead and increase its investment in social housing to give renters a safe and secure place to call home whilst creating much needed jobs in the post COVID environment.

CHIA Vic launches Family Violence Toolkit

‘Family violence most often takes place in the home, putting community housing organisations in the front line of identifying and supporting at-risk renters,’ according to CHIA Vic CEO Lesley Dredge.

‘Property damage, rent arrears and reports of noise disturbance from neighbours can all be signs something is not right,’ Ms Dredge says.

Ms Dredge was launching CHIA Vic’s ‘Community Housing Family Violence Toolkit’. The practical toolkit will assist community housing organisations to gain a sound understanding of family violence, screen tenants, increase the safety of homes and refer renters to required supports.

CHIA Vic engaged DV Vic to help create the community housing-specific toolkit, which will be an invaluable resource for CHOs in the lead up to April 2020 deadline for the industry to comply with the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) Framework.

The toolkit also outlines CHOs obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act in relation to family violence, including case studies and includes templates, checklists and flowcharts.

It includes advice on how to support staff dealing with vicarious trauma as a result of assisting renters experiencing family violence, or who are experiencing it themselves, along with template policies and procedures.

A four-page Users’ Guide to the Toolkit  has been created assist staff to quickly locate the required information in the 60-page toolkit. The accompanying resources are also available to download separately on from the website.

‘Used in combination with family violence training, CHIA Vic’s toolkit will help the sector foster best practice in relation to family violence and its role as a key part of a multi-agency response to this all too prevalent issue,’ Ms Dredge says.

CHIA Vic, in conjunction with DHHS, will run family violence training for CHO staff early in 2020.

Access the toolkit and resources here.


Community housing leads energy-efficient housing push

The most energy efficient home in your neighbourhood may well be managed by a community housing organisation with the social housing sector leading the push for environmentally-responsible housing, according to the CEO of the Community Housing Industry Association Victoria (CHIA Vic), Lesley Dredge.

Ms Dredge says the sector’s social mission to help low-income renters with energy bills, and its desire to reduce its carbon footprint, has combined to ensure community housing organisations actively seek opportunities to build or retrofit energy-efficient housing.

Ms Dredge was announcing the results of one of these opportunities; a $2.7 million program of energy efficiency and solar upgrades, funded by the Victorian Property Fund (VPF), which has seen more than 1,400 community housing households benefit from the installation of 1,634kW of solar, 26.2kWh of batteries and 116 split system air conditioners, with the emissions savings being the equivalent of taking 385 cars off the road each year.

Renters like Andrew Phillips have been appreciative of the VPF project’s impact. Andrew is the sole community housing resident in a small block of two-bedroom units in Croydon, yet his is the only home sporting solar panels. ‘My owner occupier neighbours are jealous…I noticed a difference in my bills immediately.’

CHIA Vic, in collaboration with BOOMPower, assisted seven community housing organisations to apply for the VPF grant, utilising the BOOM! platform, which helps organisations analyse their energy opportunities and create automated business cases for energy projects. BOOM! assists with competitive procurement all the way through to the measurement and verification of the costs and benefits achieved by the projects.

‘This project has been a great success and provided great learnings for the sector in the leadup to our delivery of $1.38 billion of additional social housing through the Victorian Government’s Big Housing Build project. All of those new homes will be a minimum of 7-star energy efficiency standards,’ Ms Dredge says.

In addition to the Big Housing Build, the Victorian Government has announced a $335 million rebate program to replace old wood, electric or gas fired heaters with new energy-efficient systems, as well as the $112 million announced last week for social housing properties to seal windows and doors, and upgrade heating, cooling and hot water system. The government has also expanded the Solar Homes rebates program.

‘We have no doubt that our members will take advantage of all these opportunities to increase the environmental efficiency of their properties for the benefit of tenants and the environment,’ Ms Dredge says.

‘Community housing organisations provide homes for people on low to moderately low incomes who are disproportionately impacted by rising energy prices. We don’t want our renters to have to choose between keeping the heater on in winter or buying food.’

Community housing stalwart retires

Janet Goodwin will be retiring in December 2020 after 26 years as CEO of South Port Community Housing. Janet has been a stalwart of the community sector for that period and will be greatly missed.

Janet came from a background in local government and arrived at South Port in 1994 at a time of great change. The organisation managed a sizeable rooming house program, a youth housing program that did both tenancy management and support, and an emergency housing program, predecessor of today’s THMs. In recent years, the number of rooming house rooms had nearly doubled, the rooming house staff had gone from two to four, and the emergency housing worker position had gone from half-time to full-time.

It was clear that a part-time co-ordinator, who also ran a number of rooming house rooms, was no longer the best arrangement for the organisation and a review recommended the creation of a full-time manager (now CEO). Janet hit the ground running, quickly establishing a good relationship with housing bureaucrats, local community leaders and staff, and professionalising the organisation.

The coming years saw many challenges. The 1990s saw a great change in the demographics of rooming house residents. The population of single men with problems such as alcoholism was gradually being taken over by people with drug addictions and large numbers with mental illnesses as a result deinstitutionalisation. Along with the ongoing gentrification of South and Port Melbourne, this resulted in waiting times for vacancies going from two days in 1994 to two years for non-locals by 1996. The new demographic represented a huge challenge for the organisation, which now had to deal with residents with multiple issues but with no extra funding. Janet was a tower of strength for the staff who had to deal with numerous traumatic incidents during this time.

The following decades brought many changes to community housing  – the creation of the THM program to replace the previous emergency housing program, the introduction of the Housing Provider Framework (HPF,) which created a rent retention model, the introduction of new regulation requirements via amendments to the Housing Act and the creation of the Housing Registrar, the replacement of the HPF with the General Lease, the creation of the Victorian Housing Register, and new funding opportunities for growth of housing stock.

Janet steered South Port through all of these with great success, bringing the organisation and the staff along with her.

Throughout these times, Janet was a staunch advocate for the small and medium-sized community housing providers, which she believed represented the true spirit of community housing. She advocated for their interests strongly at public forums, including many organised by CHFV/CHIA Vic. She was also a strong advocate for the rights of tenants and the connection of people to their local community. She will leave big shoes to be filled in the community housing sector and the communities of South and Port Melbourne. CHIA Vic congratulates her on a very successful career and wishes her all the best in retirement.


Establishing and Managing SDA Residencies

CHIA Vic is holding a facilitated members’ forum to discuss issues and leading practice in the management of NDIS funded Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA).

Facilitated by MC Two’s Joseph Connellan, the session will be driven by issues raised by members and will be an opportunity for peer learning so come prepared to get involved in the discussion.

Please let us know in advance what you would like to cover by contacting Joseph Connellan or Jason Perdriau.

This free, online member forum will be held on December 7 from 9:30am to noon.

Register here.

Haven applauds groundbreaking $5.3B investment in social housing

Haven: Home, Safe has congratulated the State Government of Victoria on its groundbreaking commitment of $5.3 billion to build more than 12,000 new social housing homes over the next four years.

Haven; Home, Safe CEO Ken Marchingo AM said this investment in both public and community housing for people on low incomes was a game-changer for the state and for the nation giving thousands of people the security and stability of a home as well as creating thousands of jobs.

“We applaud the Premier, Treasurer, and the Minister for Housing Richard Wynne for this fabulous, life-changing housing initiative,” Mr Marchingo said.

“We can’t wait to get cracking on this in partnership with the State Government and Homes Victoria.”

Mr Marchingo said the Home Victoria building program would go a long way in addressing homelessness across the state and the shortage of affordable housing options for many vulnerable Victorians.

“A lot like the Minister, Richard Wynne, I have spent the past 30 years advocating, agitating, and lobbying for more housing, here in our community and across Victoria.

“I think we are all humbled by the scale of this announcement and what it means for so many who have missed out for so long.”

“We’ve also known that you can’t create subsidised housing for people in need without a subsidy and here it is, at last.”

Up to a quarter of the $5.3 billion will be spent in regional Victoria, where there is a high demand for access to social housing in areas such as Geelong, Bendigo, and Ballarat.

Community housing industry has shovels at the ready for billion-dollar home building blitz

The impact of the Victorian government’s unprecedented $5.3 billion investment in social housing can’t be overstated, says the Chair of the Community Housing Industry Association Victoria (CHIA Vic), Roberta Buchanan.

Ms Buchanan says the ripples of positive change from the government’s investment will reach well beyond the households that will directly benefit from the addition of 12,000 new social or affordable homes over the next four years through healthier, more productive communities.

Community housing organisations are not-for-profits who specialise in providing affordable housing to those priced out of the private market and the sector will be allocated 8,200 of the new social housing properties to own and/or manage across metropolitan and regional Victoria, with 10 per cent targeted at Aboriginal Victorians, who experience severe housing disadvantage.

In September, 48,529 households were on the Victorian Housing Register. Carly Lord was one of the lucky people to receive a call. Carly had been separated from her son and was sleeping on a friend’s couch.

“I’ve never lived in one place for longer than four years so I feel so grateful that I don’t have to worry about having to find somewhere I can afford in Melbourne’s rental market, or change my son’s school. To be able to focus on my career and continue with my studies has been fantastic. I feel so grateful. It’s not just a house, it’s a home. Stability is so important,” Carly says.

CHIA Vic CEO Lesley Dredge says the project represented an exceptional turnaround for the sector and the expectations of those who have not dared dream what their future might hold.

“Our members have projects that can be up and running within six months to make a rapid impact on the shortfall in affordable housing, adding to the Victorian Government’s $500 million investment earlier in the year. In partnership with stakeholders we can make a real difference in people’s lives without any further delay.

“Funding for social housing is an investment in hope, jobs and stability for thousands of Victorians. We want Carly’s story to be a rarity. Everyone needs a key to their own front door to unlock the potential in their lives.”

Understanding the big social housing picture

Ever wondered why Australia’s housing problems are so deep and entrenched?

CHIA Vic is running a session that will help you understand the big picture context of social housing, including how our system differs to other countries and how it fits in with the welfare and income support system.

Led by Swinburne Adjunct Professor Terry Burke, this course is about building knowledge rather than day-to-day skills and is suitable for anyone interested in Australia’s current housing problems.

The online session will be held on Tuesday, October 20 from 1 – 3pm. 

Click to register.

Mental Health Awareness during COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an added stress for employees in the community housing sector and this CHIA Vic online training is designed to assist participants to understand the steps they can take to protect their own Mental Health.

To maximise discussion, the workshop numbers will be capped at 15. The session will be held over two days, on Thursday, October 15 and Friday, October 16, from 11am to 3pm.

Participants will receive the 35-page manual via email prior to the first online session, to give you an opportunity to review it before the training begins.

Bookings essential, register here.