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.

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.’

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.

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.”

Thinking about Growth: Designing & maintaining social housing

Our next session of Thinking About Growth will feature Common Equity’s Manager of Asset Management, Meg George, and Rhonan O’Brien, Managing Principal of design firm MODE, and will look at ways to think strategically about the ways you design and maintain social housing properties.

The session will be held tomorrow (Thursday, November 12) from 1pm to 2pm via Zoom.

Click here for details and to register for this free event.


Life-changing accommodation opens

Six Brisbane residents with high care needs will have a new, state-of-the-art home thanks to a partnership with Community Housing (Qld) Ltd, Youngcare and the Queensland Department of Public Works and Housing.

The housing development will add to the much-needed stock of specialised disability accommodation (SDA) in a state which has an estimated shortfall of nearly 70 per cent of demand.

The high quality, purpose built, and architecturally designed development will provide a mix of shared and self-contained accommodation for people aged between 18-65 years with high physical-care needs with three townhouses and a share house for three people along with overnight accommodation for a care provider.

Community Housing (Qld) Ltd is the owner and ongoing tenancy and property manager of the new residence with Youngcare overseeing the quality of care of the new residents.

One of the residents will be 34-year-old Lathom, whose parents Margaret and Stephen have been caring for at their family home since he was born with severe Spina Bifida.

‘As Lathom’s primary carer, I’ve been responsible for his round-the-clock care needs while my husband Stephen acts as the sole income earner for our family. As my body has worn out, we knew we had to do something to prevent Lathom from ending up in a facility like aged care, which is no life for a young person,’ Margaret says.

‘Moving into Youngcare and Community Housing’s new residence at Wooloowin will allow Lathom access to more choice and exposure to young people and experiences, in an environment that will nurture the independent life we’ve always wanted for him.’

Why so little social housing?

Ever wondered why Australia has so little social housing? Why the number of social housing properties is in decline despite the increasing and desperate need? Why social housing fails to get political support despite the mountain of policy ideas setting out what needs to be done?

CHIA Vic is holding a workshop presented by Swinburne University Adjunct Professor Terry Burke to answer the question, ‘Why can’t social housing get greater political traction in Australia?’

Tuesday, September 29 from 10am to noon.

Register now.

Councils fail to provide rate exemptions for affordable housing

Melbourne City Council candidates have announced a ‘new’ policy plan of giving rate relief to developments that incorporate a minimum portion of affordable housing.  On its own, that seems like a good idea.  And the proposed rate relief will hopefully motivate the construction of new affordable housing.  But the concept of rate exemptions for affordable housing is not ‘new’.  And existing laws are being ignored.

Many councils are presently declining to give a rating exemption to affordable housing owned by registered housing providers – despite the fact that Victorian legislation appears to grant an exemption.  There is no good reason for this position.

Section 154 of the Local Government Act 1989 deals with rate exemptions.  It grants an exemption to land which is “used exclusively for charitable purposes”.

Clearly the provision of social and affordable housing is a charitable use of land.  Every registered housing provider in Victoria is required to be a registered charity (most are tax-deductible Public Benevolent Institutions).

There is one category of housing that does not get the exemption under the Act – a house or flat on the land which is:

  • used as a residence; and
  • is exclusively occupied by persons including a person who must live there to carry out certain duties of employment.

Most ordinary people will read this as a ‘carve out’ for a dwelling where at least one of the occupants is required to live in the residence in order to carry out employment duties.  Examples might include a house used for drug rehabilitation which includes a ‘lead tenant’ employee; a Specialist Disability Accommodation which includes a live-in carer.  It seems anomalous to exclude these types of arrangements from the charitable exemption.

But the Act does not exclude social and affordable housing from a rate exemption.  In fact, the Act gives a rate exemption to affordable housing.  Many Councils are simply ignoring the Act.  If Councils want to give a boost to affordable housing, they could grant the rate exemption and they could do it today.

Giving effect to existing laws by granting rate exemptions would free up millions of dollars in the housing sector, which could be used to generate more housing.  Housing solves homelessness.

Andrew Boer, Practice Leader and Kate Drummond, Senior Lawyer at Moores 

A problem and a solution

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.

Read it here.

CHL’s $6.1m development delivers 24 new affordable homes

Community Housing Ltd (CHL) has completed 24 new affordable homes in Melbourne’s growing north-eastern suburb of Mernda – an initiative made possible by a three-way partnership between the philanthropic, public and not for profit sector.

The $6.1 million development has been jointly funded by the Philanthropic organisation Peter and Lyndy White (P&LW) Foundation who is the majority contributor with over $4.2million followed by $1.2 million from the Victorian Government’s Social Housing Growth Fund and the remainder by CHL. Designed and built by CHL, the new homes will be rented out to eligible people with local community links, at subsidised rent.

‘The contribution by Peter and Lyndy White Foundation is truly inspiring. It shows the impact the philanthropic sector can make in the community. We are proud of the partnership with the Foundation and the Victorian state government in delivering this project which will provide real opportunities for those who are homeless and on low incomes,’ said Steve Bevington, Managing Director of CHL.

Located in the heart of the Mernda township, the high-quality two storey development comprises of one and two-bedroom apartments and will be offered to those on the social housing waiting list. With medical facilities, schools, public transport, supermarket and retail outlets in close proximity, tenants will have easy access to essential services and local employment hubs.

‘These homes are modern, well located and will provide much needed additional supply of affordable housing at a time where the cost of living is increasingly unaffordable. It will provide a new lease of life to those who have fallen into difficulties due to issues such as unemployment, family breakdown, illness and others that have led to their having ended up being homeless,’ Mr Bevington said.

‘The completion of the development couldn’t have come at a more critical time as waiting lists for public housing and social housing continue to grow. We hope to see more investment into building social housing to ensure everyone has access to safe, secure and affordable housing.

‘This project is a great example of three sectors working together to address the shortage of affordable housing. We commend the P&LW Foundation & the Victorian Government for their leadership and look forward to continuing the partnership in the future,’ Steve added.

Minister for Housing Richard Wynne said, ‘Everyone deserves the safety and security of a roof over their head. This latest tranche of the Social Housing Growth Fund will deliver more than 780 units to make sure people sleeping rough, at risk of homelessness, and those escaping family violence can find a home.