CHIA Vic’s projects to support the sector: update

CHIA Vic is currently managing a wide range of projects to support the sector to deliver the Big Housing Build and support organisational growth as the sector scales up over the next few years.

Here’s a brief update on some of the projects currently underway which may be of interest now.

NDIS resources

CHIA Vic received funding from DFFH and the NDIA several years ago to develop face-to-face and online resources to support the sector to understand the NDIS and how to provide information and advice to renters who might be eligible for an NDIS package.

The online learning is currently available on our website, and we are planning future live training sessions for later this year.

We have also developed a range of written resources that members can access here. These include suggestions for what kind of information members might want to collect from their tenants, a template letter of support that can assist access requests or planning reviews, and a fact sheet that points readers to a range of additional resources that could assist them to better understand the scheme.

Addressing barriers to social housing

CHIA Vic has been adapting the NSW toolkit on why local residents object to community housing and how CHOs can minimise and respond to resident objections. A Victorian version of the toolkit will be going up on our website in the next few months, along with resources to support CHOs to work with local councils and residents. These include factsheets on affordable housing, template presentations and a number of renter and development case studies.

Social Procurement activities

CHIA Vic received funding to employ a worker to support the sector in delivering on the Government’s social procurement requirements, and we have been working on a range of resources and information sessions in this space. More information can be found here.

Improving accessibility in community housing properties

CHIA Vic is about to kick off two projects which will look at how the sector can improve the accessibility of existing properties as well as build more accessible and adaptable new properties. The projects will work with the sector to identify best practice disability modifications policies and additional sources of funding to assist with property modifications. CHIA Vic is also working with sector experts on building accessible properties, and will be developing a resource to assist members in thinking through how to make cost effective and highly impactful design decisions that will improve the accessibility of new builds and make them easier (and cheaper) to modify down the track.

Securing Affordable Housing Contributions

Flowing out of previous joint work by CHIA Vic and MAV, CHIA Vic has received funding to examine and explain the various ways that local governments can secure and manage affordable housing contributions over time. This project will look at how these mechanisms serve to protect (or not) government assets, and how they work for community housing organisations. This project brings together the MAV as well as a diverse range of stakeholders in the affordable housing space.

Developments on Leased Land

A related project to the Affordable Housing Contributions project, this work is funded through the NHFIC capacity building grants to produce resources which consider and document the legal, contractual and accounting requirements and implications of developing on leased land.

The project is aimed at increasing the amount of land made available by a third party to CHOs for the development of social and affordable housing.

Organisational readiness tool

Also funded by NHFIC is the development of an organisational readiness self-assessment tool and training program to assist CHOs to determine the readiness of their organisations to apply for and receive funding for additional housing stock. The checklist and training will help them to identify improvements that are required before they submit a proposal for funding and will provide information on how they can make those improvements.

Business planning for IT infrastructure

To support CHOs to improve their business planning for IT infrastructure CHIA Vic will be working with CHIA NSW to create a technology strategy template and supporting resources that will provide a stepped-out process for the development of IT strategies. The tools will be designed to support individual CHOs to:

  • Understand the available opportunities for IT improvements including technological options to improve efficiency, reporting, client services and the advantages and disadvantages of each option for their business;
  • Develop information technology and information systems strategies; and
  • Ensure alignment between these strategies and organisational business strategy.

Fact sheet on community consultations for streamlined planning

A fact sheet is under development on the community consultation required under the new streamlined planning approval for social and affordable housing which will be released once the Government guidelines are made available.  CHOs will also be able to have their consultation plans and reports checked by an expert for no cost.

Introduction to property development

A joint UDIA and CHIA Vic training course providing an introduction to property development is being held on 21 July. This half day course will assist CHOs to understand what’s involved in developing property and the ways in which they can partner with private developers to grow their portfolio.

And there will be more to come. If you want to find out more about any of these projects please get in touch

Major Reforms in Minor Detail: Five Strikes System for Rental Arrears

In our regular column, Major Reform in Minor Detail, we take individual issues from the recent tenancy law reforms and discuss what they means for the community housing sector.  One change that has caused a lot of confusion is the new “five strikes” system for Notices to Vacate for rental arrears introduced by s91ZM of the RTA.

As was previously the case, if a renter received a Notice to Vacate for rental arrears and subsequently pays all unpaid rent before the termination date, a possession order will not be issued by VCAT. This was the existing practice of VCAT but the legislation now states that VCAT no longer has the discretion to issue a possession order where the arrears have been repaid.

Where the change comes in, is if a fifth or subsequent Notice to Vacate is given within a 12-month period, the rental provider may apply to VCAT for a possession order at the end of the 14-day notice period, and VCAT may issue a possession order even if the renter pays off their arrears.

So while this change has caused lots of questions and confusion, it is hard to see how it will be of much relevance to the community housing sector.  This is because social landlords use eviction as a measure of last resort so would not seek to evict renters who are willing to address their arrears, even if they have frequently been in arrears in the past.

It also remains to be seen whether this system is of much relevance for private landlords as, to issue a possession order based on a “fifth strike” for a renter who has repaid their arrears, VCAT would need to consider it “reasonable and proportionate” to make such an order with reference to the legislated test outlined in s330A of the RTA. This will include an assessment of whether the breach has been remedied. Therefore, VCAT may find that the “five strikes” criteria for possession outlined in s91ZM are met but dismiss the application anyway as it is unlikely to be reasonable and proportionate to end the tenancy based on arrears where those arrears have been repaid.

We will examine the reasonable and proportionate test in more detail in the next Major Reforms in Minor Detail.  In the meantime, members with any questions on this are welcome to contact us Jason.perdriau@chiavic.com.au

New Homes For Vulnerable Victorians

The first residents are moving into Big Housing Build homes.

The Big Housing Build is just six months old, but already more than 240 homes are ready to become homes, with some residents already moved in.

These homes are part of the more than 1,100 houses that have already been purchased or started construction so far.

This investment includes six fast-start projects – in Ascot Vale, Ashburton, Flemington, Hawthorn, Richmond and West Heidelberg – where planning or pre-construction work to build more than 1,000 homes and create more than 4,000 jobs is well underway.

A further 480 social and affordable homes are planned for sites at Collingwood and South Yarra, with the two projects expected to generate more than 2,000 new jobs.

A further 150 homes are being delivered in Ballarat, and are expected to create 450 jobs – the first regional project under the program.

The $5.3 billion Big Housing Build is the largest single investment in social and affordable housing in Australia’s history and will deliver more than 12,000 new homes across Victoria.

This historic investment will boost Victoria’s social housing supply by 10 per cent, while creating 10,000 jobs per year over the next four years.

The Big Housing Build is investing $1.25 billion in regional areas – ensuring the economic and social benefits of the program are felt in communities across the state.

“Our Big Housing Build is not only providing a roof over the head of vulnerable Victorians who need it – it’s creating thousands of local jobs and supporting our state’s economic recovery,” said Minister for Housing Richard Wynne.

Social Housing Regulation Review: call for submissions

The Victorian Government has commissioned an independent Social Housing Regulation Review, which aims to identify future regulatory arrangements that will best support the long-term interests of social housing residents and their communities.

It also aims to best position social (and affordable) housing for growth and transformation over the coming decades.

How to get involved

The independent Review Panel will be consulting widely throughout 2021, before providing a final report to the Government in early 2022.

The first public consultation paper for the Social Housing Regulation Review | Engage Victoria.

This first paper provides a profile of current and prospective social housing tenants, their housing providers and the regulatory landscape, and in doing so outlines the Panel’s view of the scope of the issues to be tackled by the Review.

The Social Housing Regulation Review is requesting submissions by 9 July 2021.

Input can be made directly to the Review via the Engage Victoria page.

 

Useful resources

Social procurement

Collectively, the decisions that organisations make throughout the procurement process have a significant impact on the economy, the environment and the community. The Victorian Government has created its Social Procurement Framework to outline its strategy to use its considerable buying power to effect social, economic and environmental change in Victorian communities.

For community housing organisations, the Victorian Government’s emphasis on social procurement presents a supported opportunity to lead the way in creating genuine, long-term, inclusive social change.

CHIA Vic is committed to providing support to CHOs not only to meet the requirements of the Big Housing Build, but more importantly, to leverage this opportunity to actively prioritise social objectives such as equality, safety, diversity, inclusion and sustainability. In this way, CHOs can fulfil their core mission of providing housing to vulnerable people while building the effectiveness of the sector and setting a leading example for other sectors.

Throughout 2021, CHIA Vic will be supporting members to understand and adopt social procurement practices.  This work will include:

  • Developing template social procurement principles and policies
  • Hosting sector briefings and training
  • Creating guides and resources
  • Identifying and collating lists of suppliers who are aligned with the Social Procurement Framework

If there is any other support needed or if you have feedback on specific resources that are a priority for your organisation, please contact CHIA Vic on Emma.Barker-Perez@chiavic.com.au.

Resources

CHIA Vic submission to Homes Victoria 10-year strategy for social and affordable housing discussion paper

CHIA Vic, and the community housing sector more broadly, applauds the Victorian State Government for the biggest social and affordable housing program in the state’s history, the Big Housing Build. The recognition of the need to develop a long-term plan that spans electoral and economic cycles is arguably equally, if not more, important.

The 10-year plan articulates a vision for Victoria’s social housing system where ‘all Victorians have access to a safe, affordable and appropriate home.’ CHIA Vic applauds this vision, and we have outlined a range of areas that we recommend be considered in the final strategy.

Read CHIA Vic’s submission.

Major Reforms in Minor Detail: Rooming Houses Defined

Starting this month, we will be looking at a single issue from the recent tenancy law reforms and discussing what it means for the community housing sector.

One change that we have received lots of questions on lately is the small change to section 19 of the RTA, which has important implications for whether or not certain buildings can be managed as rooming houses.

In general, where four or more residents are on separate rental agreements but share bathrooms or kitchens, the property is a rooming house.  This means that it can be managed under the rooming house provisions of the RTA and that a range of obligations for the rooming house operator kick in.

The RTA also provides a way for the government to declare blocks of self-contained units to be rooming houses by publishing a notice in the Government Gazette.  Once this is done, this allows these buildings to be managed under the rooming house provisions also.  Previously, this process only applied to buildings owned or leased by the Director of Housing but changes to s19 of the RTA allow buildings owned or leased by community housing organisations to become rooming houses via the same process.

Self-contained units should only be managed as rooming house rooms if doing so benefits the residents and Homes Vic has met with the sector to discuss the issues and is working with CHIA Vic to set up a process for deciding whether this is the case for any particular building.  The factors that will be considered will be the built form of the building, how the program targets clients and what supports are available to help sustain tenancies. Community housing organisations will soon be contacted about how they can make the case that a building they own or lease, that doesn’t meet the standard definition of a rooming house, should be declared to be a rooming house.

If member organisations need help in deciding whether a building should be managed as a rooming house or not, they can contact me via email on jason.perdriau@chiavic.com.au

Solar Victoria heating and cooling program

Solar Victoria launched its latest rebate program, Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades several weeks ago, and the details can be found on their website.

The program provides a $1,000 rebate when community housing organisations install an approved reverse cycle split system to replace existing gas, fixed electric or wood heaters, and there is additional funding to support capping old gas heaters or upgrading switchboards where this is required.

CHIA Vic is working with Solar Victoria on an information session that will give members more information on the heating and cooling rebate and how it can be paired with the upgrades already done or planned under the stimulus maintenance program. We also hope to have more information on the Homes Vic funding for energy efficiency upgrades soon, which we anticipate will assist members looking to take a strategic approach to installing split systems.

Solar rebates are now available for small businesses as well as our tenants

Members can still access rebates for solar PV with Solar Victoria, and many will also be eligible for the Solar for Business rebate.

Solar for Business is available to businesses employing between 1-19 people that are operating from premises that are non-residential and are individually metered. Businesses can recover up to 50 per cent of the cost of the rooftop solar system, up to a maximum of $3,500. Systems should be no more than 30 kW.

Community housing and Indigenous self-determination

Reconciliation is a journey for all Australians – as individuals, families, communities, organisations and importantly as a nation – and for the community housing sector, understanding and incorporating Indigenous self-determination as a guiding principle is a key step forward.

As the First Australians, Aboriginal Victorians are the traditional owners and custodians of the lands on which all Victorians live. It is a grim irony that the people with the greatest hereditary right to this place as their home, are also the group most likely to be homeless.

Aboriginal communities are culturally rich and diverse with histories and heritages that were shaped over many thousands of years.

The years after white settlement have seen massive dispossession from land, culture, language, community and family. The compounding impact of inter-generational dispossession, loss and disadvantage flows through to the disadvantage that Aboriginal people experience to this day.

Despite this Aboriginal people have survived, maintained their identity and find strength in their culture and community connection. These strengths are the basis for the authentic engagement.

Self-determination is an ongoing process to ensure that Indigenous communities are able to exercise their fundamental right to freely pursue their social, cultural and economic interests. The right to self-determination stems from the unique status of Indigenous peoples as Australia’s first people, as was recognised by law in the historic Mabo judgement.

The loss of the right to live according to a set of common values and beliefs, and to have that right respected by others, is at the heart of the current disadvantage experienced by Indigenous Australians.

Self-determination reasserts autonomy and power to Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal institutions and individual Aboriginal people, and counters the destructive historical experience of colonialism as well as its ongoing legacy.

Community Housing Aboriginal Cultural Safety Framework

The Community Housing Aboriginal Cultural Safety Framework aims to achieve structural and organisational change through deep understanding, awareness and practice of Aboriginal cultural safety.

Aboriginal cultural safety is the creation of an environment that is safe for Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders, where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity and experience.

Lack of cultural safety is a well-documented and critical barrier to Aboriginal people successfully accessing services, including in the housing and homelessness sectors. Embedding cultural safety is crucial for housing organisations who wish to work with Aboriginal people and organisations.

The purpose of the Community Housing Aboriginal Cultural Safety Framework is to strengthen understanding and provide practical tools that will support community housing organisations to improve cultural safety within their organisation and their work.

This tool takes a ‘rights based’ approach, which places Aboriginal Victorians and their communities firmly at the centre of community housing policies and practices.

It includes a self-reflection tool for organisations to understand their levels of cultural safety, progress their learning and agree on actions to implement the framework. The change strategy each organisation adopts will be contextual and relate closely to its vision, objectives, size, location, culture and internal and external environments.

How to take action

CHIA Vic has committed to implementing the Community Housing Aboriginal Cultural Safety Framework within our own organisation. We will begin this process in the coming weeks, and we invite our members to join us to share encouragement and support.

To kick it off, CHIA Vic will be running ‘Getting Started’ sessions in June 2021 with Jenny Samms, Director of the Council to Homeless Persons and former CEO of Aboriginal Housing Victoria, who played a key role in the development of the framework. These sessions will be open to all members and will provide guidance and practical information for CHOs to begin incorporating the framework into their operations.

Stay tuned for further details on these sessions, and please contact our Social Outcomes Coordinator, Emma Barker-Perez (emma.barker-perez@chiavic.com.au), if you are interested in embarking on this supported journey alongside us.