CHOs key role in affordable build-to-rent

A report on Build to Rent in Australia has recommended providing discounted land grants to community housing organisations as the best method to ensure primarily market rental developments include an affordable component.

The report, Build-to-rent in Australia: Product feasibility and potential affordable housing contribution, by Landcom found the sector can more feasibly provide build to rent units though mixed-tenure affordable housing projects than by private developer for-profit projects.

Click here to download the report.

NZ dumps housing scheme

The NZ Government has dumped its flagship housing policy, KiwiBuild, which was launched in 2018 by prime minister Jacinda Ardern as it repeatedly failed to meet targets.

New Zealand house prices are among the most unaffordable in the world, with Auckland the seventh most expensive city to buy a home, and all three major cities considered “severely unaffordable” by the latest Demographia international housing affordability survey.

Click here to read more….

Community housing’s Human Rights Obligations

Moore’s Practice Leader, Tessa van Duyn, outlines how community housing organisations must Think and Act Human Rights….

The community housing sector has known for some time now that it holds legal obligations under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Charter) to act compatibly with human rights, and give proper consideration to human rights when making decisions in the provision of housing and tenancy management[1].

In 2017, the Supreme Court of Victoria categorically reminded the Victorian government and public authorities (including the community housing sector) that it has legal obligations under the Charter to act compatibly with, and give proper consideration to, human rights when going about its business and interacting with the community.

The catalyst for this definitive statement of the law in Victoria was a case called Certain Children by their Litigation Guardian Sister Marie Brigid Arthur v Minister for Families and Children & Ors [2017] VSC 251.

Not only does this landmark case serve as a reminder to public authorities that they have legal obligations to act compatibly with human rights, it is also a good lesson in the myriad benefits of embedding human rights into the policies and practices of the community housing sector. Such a proactive and preventative approach goes a long way to achieving the government’s overarching objective of the protection and promotion of human rights in Victoria.

Helpfully, the Court in this case set out a useful roadmap for how public authorities can comply with human rights in practice.

Section 38 of the Charter imposes two separate obligations on public authorities – they must act compatibly with, and give proper consideration to, human rights.

In relation to the first limb of s38(1), ‘the substantive limb’, the Court held that determining whether or not a decision or act limits human rights requires the following:

  1. construed broadly, identify which human rights are relevant to the act or decision
  2. consider whether the making of the decision, or taking of action does not comply with the relevant human rights
  3. where an act or decision does limit human rights, is that limitation reasonable and justifiable in accordance with s7(2) of the Charter?
  4. if it is not a reasonable limitation, then it is incompatible and therefore unlawful under s38(1) of the Charter.

The second ‘procedural limb’ has already been the subject of some judicial interpretation.[2]

The Court in this case helpfully synthesised the approach to what is required by the obligation to give proper consideration:

A decision-maker must:

  1. understand in general terms which rights may be relevant and whether and how those rights will be interfered with by the decision;
  2. have seriously turned his or her mind to the possible impact of the decision on an affected person’s human rights and the implications for that person;
  3. identify the countervailing interests or obligations; and
  4. balance competing private and public interests as part of the justification exercise.

Our best advice is to keep the Charter and human rights front and centre when you are going about your daily business and dealings with the Victorian community. Not only will this protect you from claims of unlawful conduct and decision-making under the Charter, but it will no doubt improve your processes and service delivery. After all, housing vulnerable people is a fundamentally important aspect of a good and just society; it should have human beings and therefore human rights at its core.

For more information or help on how best to put human rights compliance into practice in your housing association, feel free to contact Tessa van Duyn, Practice Leader at Moores.

[1] See the decision in Goode v Common Equity Housing Limited [2016] VCAT 93.

[2] (Castles v Secretary to the Department of Justice (2010) 28 VR 141; De Bruyn v Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health (2016) 48 VR 647; Bare v IBAC (2015) 48 VR 129).


Call for action on rooming houses

The Southern Homelessness Services Network (SHSN) has called on the State Government to fund the development of a standardised accommodation ratings system for private rooming house providers

The call follows the SHSN’s Rooming House Summit which aimed to tackle the issue of privately run, expensive, sub-standard, exploitative rooming houses.

There are approximately 500 registered rooming houses in the Southern region with an unknown number of unregistered rooming houses.
Dr Heather Holst – Victorian Commissioner for Residential Tenancies, and former CHIA Vic board member, was keynote speaker at the summit.

Click here to download the report.

Few social housing tenants are lonely

Older social housing tenants are far less lonely than those in private rental, according to an article published in The Conversation.

The article, by Research Professor, University of Technology Sydney Alan Morris and Research Associate, University of Technology Sydney, Andrea Verasco states many older private renters have little disposal income, because the cost of housing uses up much of their income. They also live with the constant possibility that they may be asked to vacate their accommodation. Their limited budgets mean they often end up living in a poorly located property. These features, individually or in combination, create fertile ground for anxiety and loneliness.

Their dire financial situation was often an obstacle to social activities. One interviewee told of how she had to choose between food or breaking her isolation by using public transport.

‘In sharp contrast, only a small proportion of the social housing tenants interviewed said they were lonely. Almost all were adamant they did not experience loneliness and felt they had strong social ties. Their affordable rent, security of tenure, long-term residence and having neighbours in a similar position meant they could socialise and were not beset by anxiety.’

Read the full article here.


Housing as infrastructure

Is social housing infrastructure?

Current research undertaken by AHURI on considering social housing as infrastructure is validating many of the points the community housing sector has been putting forward for years.

Social housing is not just a ‘nice to have’ or a housing option that should be targeted to the most vulnerable people in society. It has a measurable impact on productivity; it contributes to more equitable communities, and is the foundation upon which people who have been struggling to get by can begin to rebuild their lives.

However, subsidised housing requires a subsidy, and the sticking point for the past several decades is where this subsidy is going to come from. Capital grant programs have come and gone, with minimal growth in social housing supply in Victoria since the nation building stimulus package of 2009-10.

Governments have largely stepped away from building new social housing, with the community housing sector growing to become a significant social landlord in its own right.

Lately, the Victorian government has been exploring new ways to attract private investment, and encourage the planning system to deliver affordable housing where there otherwise might have been none. Though this is moving in the right direction, these efforts are still falling far short of the 3,000 social housing properties that Victoria needs to build every year just to meet the demands of the current wait list for social housing.

So what can we do, and how does reimagining social housing as infrastructure help?

AHURI’s research points to international examples of how social housing systems can achieve a variety of social and economic outcomes beyond just housing low-income households. A thriving social housing system can be used to drive a wide range of policy aims, from improving land use to driving innovation in construction methods.

But, whilst the arguments for treating social housing as a form of infrastructure are reasoned, we need to convince the general public and, through them, politicians and other decision makers that this is an issue that Australia can’t afford to ignore.

CHIA Vic is currently developing a tenant-focused outcomes framework that will enable the sector to identify and measure its social impact. This will enable us to frame the ‘social housing as infrastructure’ business case in a way that demonstrates the value of social housing, and its essential role in assisting tenants to live with dignity and participate in the economy.


Why do tenants stay or leave?

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Privacy law download

Free guide to Privacy Law

Legal firm, and CHIA Vic sponsor, Moores’ has developed a free Privacy Guide for Australian Organisations.

Written by Moores’ privacy law expert Cecelia Irvine-So, the guide provides a great overview of your organisation’s obligations under the Australian Privacy Act, including:

• a summary of Privacy Law
• how to be compliant
• responding to a data breach
• when you are legally obligated to notify of a breach
• state based legislation and schemes
• five-step guide to becoming compliant

Click here for details and to download the eBook, listen to Moore’s latest privacy webinar, read recent articles and subscribe to future updates.


AirBnB impact on Melbourne ‘minimal’

Contradicting accepted wisdom, an SGS Economics and Planning report has found Airbnb has had little impact on Melbourne’s housing market.

The report, which used official Airbnb data, found the number of AirBnB listings in Melbourne in 2017 was equivalent to only 0.5 per cent of all dwellings in Melbourne.

Report co-author Terry Rawnsley, Principal and Partner at SGS Economics and Planning, said the hosting rate of Airbnb listings averaged less than 50 per cent of the time they were available.

In Melbourne, the median number of nights hosted per year has increased from 42 nights to 66 nights per year. Of the listings that have hosted guests, over 35 per cent of listings host guests for up to 30 nights per year. Approximately 27 per cent of listings host guests for more than 180 nights per year.

Mr Rawnsley says, broadly speaking, it is not financially beneficial to host a property on Airbnb instead of renting to a long-term tenant, unless the property is in the City of Melbourne, where the hosting rate averages 70 per cent.

‘In only a small number of cases, it is more profitable to list a property on Airbnb full time rather than on the rental market.’

Download the report

AHURI report backs call for housing as infrastructure

Roads, rail, hospitals, schools are all defined as ‘essential infrastructure’; vital for the function of society. In the lead up to the state election, uncosted infrastructure projects were thrown on the table with gay abandon.

Politicians in hi-vis made dramatic claims about the benefits of multi-billion projects that will be decades in the making. Roads, rail, hospitals…defining something as ‘essential infrastructure’ is like sprinkling it with magic fairy dust – it’s ‘essential’ so they promise it now, and find the money later.

But what can be more essential and beneficial to a society than housing? If you don’t have a safe, appropriate place to call home, how can you hold down a job, go to school, contribute to your community?

Leading planning and economics firm SGS Economics & Planning agrees, with its research finding that reinstating social housing as essential infrastructure is needed ‘for a prosperous and inclusive Australia’. SGS has estimated every $1 outlaid by governments in social housing would generate a $3 social, environmental and economic return.

And AHURI has released a new report backing the call for housing to be considered essential infrastructure, and modelling five alternative pathways to funding social housing.

More than over 60,000 households in our state are in limbo, waiting for social housing. This includes 22,000 with urgent housing needs – women and families escaping family violence, homeless and elderly Victorians.

Whilst an additional 3,000 social housing properties annually for 10 years won’t fix this housing crisis, it is the minimum required to meet the housing needs of Victorians eligible for priority housing.

We know a building program of this scale is achievable, community housing organisations built 2,500 homes with Nation Building funds almost a decade ago – which was the last time Victoria implemented a significant social housing supply program.

As an added benefit, that social housing program created thousands of construction jobs and reduced the costs to our health service, justice system and emergency services that are a side effect of the housing crisis.

It’s time to acknowledge social housing is essential infrastructure and treat it a ‘must’ rather than a ‘nice to have’. And bring on that fairy dust.

Click here to download the AHURI report.