Funding announcement offers a boost to Aboriginal housing

Aboriginal Housing Victoria (AHV) has welcomed funding announcements from the Victorian Government to upgrade and build more social housing for Aboriginal Victorians.

The government is investing almost $500 million to public and community housing as part of the $2.7 billion Building Works package, which will kickstart Victoria’s economy and create thousands of jobs across the state.

That includes funding for AHV sites in Hampton Park and Dandenong, creating 12 homes, as well as $35 million for upgrades, maintenance and repairs of existing Aboriginal social housing.

“This funding will enable AHV and other Aboriginal controlled organisations in our state to renovate hundreds of properties and build a dozen or so new homes. We expect Aboriginal Victorians to share in the new jobs to be immediately created in the construction sector while also providing more Aboriginal families with a safe place to live,” said AHV Chief Executive Officer Darren Smith.

“Every Victorian deserves a home and no sector of the community is denied this human right more often than First Australians. The commitment the Government announced yesterday to renovate thousands of existing properties (including those providing shelter for our people) is urgently needed, will boost morale and give a welcome charge to a flagging economy.”

Images of the property by Schored Projects supplied by Lucy Greenham.

Call for Submissions: Monitoring Family Violence Reforms

The Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor was established following the 2016 Royal Commission to independently monitor and review the Victorian government and its agencies in delivering Victoria’s family violence reforms.

To inform her fourth report to Parliament next year, the Monitor is calling for submissions from organisations and individual practitioners who work with people who have experienced or perpetrated family violence, and organisations that represent and advocate for victim survivors.

The Monitor is seeking submissions that address the following topics:
1. How the family violence service system, and users’ experiences of it, have changed since the Royal Commission
2. Looking forward: what is still required in the family violence reforms
3. Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

See the submission website for details.

How to make a submission
– Visit engage.vic.gov.au up until 20 July 2020. Review the questions and areas of interest.
– Respond to questions directly into the website or upload a pre-prepared submission.
– Make a submission on behalf of an organisation or as an individual practitioner.

The Monitor welcomes submissions in whatever format and style is possible for you and your organisation at this challenging time.

What happens to your submission?
Submissions will directly inform the Monitor’s final report to Parliament on progress with implementation of the family violence reforms. The Monitor’s report will be released in 2021 as legislated by the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor Act 2016.

For further information, please contact:
Megan Wendt, Senior Project Officer
Office of the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor

HousingFirst secures funding for $100m plus projects

HousingFirst has been successful in securing funding for three projects through various funding arrangements delivered by the Victorian Government and will soon start building a total of 270 new homes for vulnerable Victorians in Box Hill, Parkville and Balaclava.

The combined market value of the three HousingFirst projects is over $100 million.

Click here to read the statement from HousingFirst Chair Frank O’Connor.

solar installation on roof

Calls for a solar powered stimulus

A successful program that has enabled almost 700 low income households to benefit from reduced power bills could be used as the basis of a solar-powered stimulus package that could benefit more vulnerable Victorians and the environment, create employment and support the economy.

The Community Housing Industry Association Victoria (CHIA Vic) and BOOMPower are partners on a project that has seen solar power and other energy efficiency products and solutions installed in social housing properties, including standalone properties and multi-unit apartment buildings.

With funding from the Victorian Government’s New Energy Jobs Fund, CHIA Vic and BOOMPower developed the BOOM! software platform. The platform makes it easy for organisations to produce a clear business case on the impact of installing energy efficiencies, as well as providing a seamless procurement process, and measuring and verifying performance and outcomes on an ongoing basis.

Additional funding from Solar Homes and the Victorian Property Fund saw seven community housing organisations use the platform to plan and implement $3.5 million worth of energy upgrades on social housing properties and counting.

CHIA Vic CEO Lesley Dredge says, ‘People on low incomes are the most vulnerable to high energy prices. It can have a real impact on their day-to-day lives, as they can avoid using heating and cooling even in extreme temperatures, which reduces their quality of life and their health and wellbeing.’

BOOMPower Director Alex Houlston says new funding for solar and energy efficiency from the Victorian Property Fund (VPF), along with the introduction of Solar Homes in 2018 and the availability of the BOOM! platform caused a surge in the level of engagement from the sector for a range of energy solutions.

‘This is evidence a stimulus package would be welcomed; in addition to construction projects, the community housing sector has $14 million in solar and energy efficiency upgrades that are ready to be undertaken in the next six to 18 months,’ Mr Houlston says.

Based on jobs figures provided by product suppliers and retailers for the initial projects, Ms Dredge says, ‘We can confidently say that a $14 million program would also directly support up to 356 jobs.’

CHIA Vic and BOOM! are hopeful Solar Homes will develop a separate funding stream for community housing, in recognition of the fact that, unlike private landlords or homeowners, they are unable to receive any of the financial benefits of their investment in energy efficiencies.

HCA work as a team to assist tenants and staff

Housing Choices Australia’s (HCA) staff may have been working from home since the end of March but the organisation is still working together to assist tenants during the pandemic.

HCA is utilising Microsoft Teams to continue its workflow and connectivity. Some teams are hosting ‘Virtual Friday Night Drinks’ via video conferencing, and the Melbourne office is having a ‘Zoom Trivia Night’ tonight with exciting prizes to be won.

Although ‘walk in’ appointments aren’t going ahead at the moment, residents can still meet with the Housing Team by scheduling an appointment and several staff are coming into the offices on a rotating roster.

Emails and letters have been sent to residents notifying them of changes to the organisation during this time. To keep connected with our residents, we are still publishing the ‘Home Stories’ resident newsletter for all of the states. The newsletters include useful COVID-19 links and resources, puzzles and brainteasers to keep things fun, as well as resident stories of how they are getting creative and managing social isolation.

Housing Officers have also been contacting all residents in their portfolio to touch base with them and to see how they are coping in these difficult times. We have increased engagement with our support partners and the NDIS, and linked residents with varied support agencies (new and old).

This week the ‘Darebin Food Share Program’ kicked off. HCA Victoria’s Community Development Team partnered with The Bridge (Preston Neighbourhood House) to enable us to distribute pre-cooked meals to our residents in Darebin.

The meals are being provided by FareShare, a community organisation that rescues surplus food and turns it into nutritious meals for people doing it tough. Their motto is ‘Rescue, Cook, Feed.’ On Monday 11 May, a group of HCA staff collected, packed and delivered over 200 nutritious, pre-cooked frozen meals to support our residents at over 60 different addresses.

We are also providing food vouchers, offering to cover medical bill costs and making payments of up to $200 for utility bills to help residents impacted by the pandemic.

The organisation has introduced COVID-19 Special Leave, which grants up to 10 days additional leave for staff who are dealing with the impacts of Coronavirus. Our Intranet page is updated with a ‘COVID-19’ panel where staff can find useful resources. There, information on COVID-19 Special Leave can be found, resources for working from home, a link to the Employee Assistance Program which offers free counselling, and a content bank of all the communications sent to staff and residents.

AGMs in the time of COVID-19

Coronavirus social distancing and shutdown requirements have made holding an AGM face-to-face  impossible for most community housing organisations and CHIA Vic has been fielding calls from some members seeking clarity on this issue.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has announced a temporary (six-month) reform to the Corporations Act that will allow companies to hold virtual annual general meetings.Not-for-profit Law has created a flow chart for organisations to determine if they are able to have an online AGM or need to postpone it until the restrictions are eased.

You can download the pdf here.

The ACNC has also recognised that many charities are likely to experience issues with submitting their 2019 Annual Information Statement (and, if required, their annual financial report) by their due date and provided an extension until August 31, 2020.

You can download the ANC’s webinar, ‘Charities, the ACNC and COVID-19,’ for details.

Haven; Home, Safe quick to pivot

Haven: Home, Safe was quick to pivot its service provision when Covid-19 struck.

All employees who can, are now working from home for the foreseeable future. Those involved in, or supporting, critical operations have continued to attend their normal workplace with processes in place to help protect them and Haven’s clients. That includes operating robust protocols for health and hand hygiene, increased cleaning procedures, workplace access restrictions, social distancing, and the introduction of tele-consults.

A Virtual Concierge and tele-consult service has been installed at its Preston, Bendigo and Mildura offices.

‘The Virtual Concierge staff member welcomes clients, directs them to interview rooms, answers queries, provides assistance and schedules appointment,’ says Haven’s Communications and Marketing Director Sue Masters.

Haven’s website has been revamped, as has its intranet, HomeBase, which has a wide resource of state and federal government resources in web links and PDFs. There is tailored content for staff, with items for distribution for clients and tenants.

Staff contacted more than 500 vulnerable clients to keep them informed about Haven’s service delivery during the pandemic, using a telephone template to ensure the calls covered all required subjects in a consistent and informative way. Staff had to assess what information clients needed to ensure they fully understood the seriousness of the actions they need to take.

Haven has also launched a housing sector webinar series, Life in Lockdown, with the third  held on Friday featuring Canadian Jim Steele, the CEO of Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation.

Windsor Essex CHC is the fourth largest social housing provider in Ontario with 4708 homes housing about 12,000 seniors, parents, children, singles, and persons with special needs. Click here to view the webinar or go to Haven’s Facebook page.

UK social housing provider to share COVID experience

Hear how one of the UK’s largest social housing providers is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic at a free webinar hosted by Haven: Home, Safe later today.

Haven; Home, Safe CEO Ken Marchingo AM will facilitate the webinar, featuring Incommunities’ Group Chief Executive Geraldine Howley OBE.

Geraldine leads one of the largest social housing providers in the United Kingdom with over 22,600 homes in Bradford District and West and South Yorkshire.

Since 2003, Geraldine has led an organisation which has invested over £400 million modernising and building new homes and transforming neighbourhoods.

Geraldine is a member of the International Housing Partnership and was made a Doctor of the University of Bradford for her outstanding contribution to housing across the district. She also received a national Women in Housing Landmark Achievement Award for her inspiring leadership.

Register in advance for this webinar.