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?’