Australia’s lack of social housing is usually talked about as a major problem. And it is, particularly in Victoria, which languishes at the bottom of the pile in terms of social housing as a proportion of the total housing market. However, a Smart Company article, which quotes CHIA National’s CEO Wendy Hayhurst, lays out a reasoned argument about why social housing can also be a solution in the context of the Covid-19 generated economic turndown.
Industry super funds are showing increased interest in investing in affordable housing and are expected to support calls from the Community Housing Industry Association for state and federal governments to offer subsidies to make low-cost housing feasible as a long-term investment.
Steve Bevington, the man behind Australia’s largest not-for-profit social and affordable housing provider, Community Housing Limited (CHL), this month celebrates 25 years at its helm.
As founder and managing director of CHL for a quarter of a century, Steve has helped transform the affordable housing sector both in Australia and abroad and is determined to see ‘a world without poverty’; a goal shaped by his very own experience with homelessness during his younger days in England.
‘My experience sleeping on the streets and insecure, short term housing won’t ever leave me. It’s a powerful motivator and is the reason behind why I do what I do every day,’ Steve said.
‘What most people don’t realise is that safe and secure housing is life’s foundation. Housing either sets you up for life or sets you back. You can’t plan for a future when at first you don’t have a safe place to sleep. Slipping through the cracks is quite easy when there’s no safety net there to catch you as you fall.’
After migrating to Australia in the late 80s and picking up a housing role with the Victorian Government, Steve spotted an opportunity to make a difference by launching CHL with the aim of housing more Victorians.
What started as a one-man show, has now turned into a global housing powerhouse with more than 300 staff united in a commitment to house those in need. CHL currently manages 11,000 properties in Australia and has expanded operations internationally to countries including India, Rwanda, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, Chile, Peru and Indonesia.
As well as being CHL’s driving force, Steve has been a leader in affordable housing advocacy nationally for more than two decades as a director of the national Community Housing Industry Association’s (CHIA) board and its predecessor, the Community Housing Federation of Australia. Tasked with solving the industry’s biggest challenges, Steve said that while Australia had made some large strides in the delivery of affordable housing since the 90s, much more needed to be done to ensure a sustainable path is forged for the next 25 years.
‘There are many great opportunities that the housing sector presents, but also many critical challenges that need to be addressed immediately in order to deliver innovative affordable housing solutions to more Australians,’ Steve said.
‘We saw news this week of a 20-year research project from AHURI finding that there’s a shortage of almost half a million rental houses for low income families in Australia. We are one of the world’s wealthiest and prosperous countries, and this is simply isn’t good enough.
‘Families need the support of the federal and state governments to invest in more affordable housing stock and the build-to-rent sector. As a start, an increase to the Commonwealth Rent Assistance is vital for at-risk households so they can secure access to an increasingly unaffordable rental housing market for low income people.
‘My hope is that in 25 years’ time, housing poverty will be history. Easier said than done, but can we ignore this crisis at hand?’
CHIA Vic, in partnership with CHIA and CHIA NSW, is working with the sector to revisit and revitalize the National Community Housing Standards.
The project aims to make the standards into tools community housing organisations can use to improve their performance and demonstrate specific business competences or specialisations not covered by the regulatory regime.
The project kicked off with a survey of community housing organisations to assess interest in revitalising the standards, the results of which are summarised in this recent newsletter.
Email for details.
CHIA is helping the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) deliver lower cost and longer term finance to community housing organisations by coordinating a grant program that funds professional advisory services.
The NHFIC wants to encourage loan applications from registered Community Housing Organisations, including Housing Providers who partner with a Housing Association to take a loan. Grants will be available to fund consultants to help with loan applications, with consultants invited to join a Panel through an Expression of Interest (EOI) process.
CHIA is hosting a NHFIC Professional Advisory Services briefing session on 8 May 8 from 1.30pm to 4pm at CHIA Victoria offices, 1/128 Exhibition St, Melbourne VIC 3000.
This will inform both housing organisations and consultants on the program, and seek input into final program design.
The event will include:
- information from the State Government on how NHFIC funding aligns with growing the community housing sector
- a briefing on NHFIC loan applications
- overview of the Professional Advisory Services grants
- refreshment break, with networking opportunities
- community housing workshop: discussing grant eligibility
- consultant workshop: explaining the Panel membership EOI.
Congratulations to the newly re-named CHIA NSW for an excellent two-day affordable housing conference in Sydney last week. With a host of international speakers and diverse presentations it was a great opportunity to hear what others in the community housing sector are doing.
One of the stand out sessions was the presentation by David Orr, from the National Housing Federation, UK, on how the housing industry in the UK united behind a successful campaign to put solving the housing crisis on the political agenda in 2015.
The importance of communicating the story of community housing and its value to media, politicians, and potential collaborators in the broader housing industry was a theme that carried throughout the conference. This could involve making friends with your local media outlet, inviting local politicians to any openings you have, or building connections with the development industry to create innovative partnerships.
The conference challenged our sector to think about how we can work with what is within our control. My Foundations Youth Housing CEO Rebecca Mullins spoke about their work with Sydney developer TOGA to create a pop-up youth homelessness residence for homeless students while the site was going through the planning process for redevelopment. Haven; Home, Safe CEO Ken Marchingo spoke about the impact their concierge program has in reducing anxiety and improving the experience of people coming into their offices. Hume Community Housing CEO Nicola Lemon spoke about their organisations efforts to improve the recruitment and retention of gen Y staff, which included highlighting the benefits available, the company culture, and the bright future of their organisation, and the creation and adoption of company values.
The Commonwealth Government wants to ‘unlock the potential of the community housing industry’, according to the Assistant Minister to the Federal Treasurer, Michael Sukkar MP.
Minister Sukkar addressed a well-attended lunchtime forum, organised by CHIA Vic and CHIA, in Melbourne this week, along with Productivity Commissioner Stephen King.
Minister Sukkar told community housing organisations, and stakeholders, ‘There is always going to be a place for state governments’ public housing stock, but increasingly we see the future being community housing providers.’
You can read a media release detailing Minister Sukkar’s very positive comments about community housing by clicking here.
CHIA Victoria, and CHIA Vic, is the trading name of the Community Housing Federation of Victoria (CHFV).
1/128 Exhibition Street
03 9654 6077
APPLY FOR HOUSING
Applications for social housing (public and community housing) can be made via the Victorian Housing Register.
Click here for details.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF COUNTRY
CHIA Vic acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.