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January 2016

Talking Points
From the CEO

Welcome to the first issue of Housing Matters for 2016. The year has started positively with the publication of Future Directions , the NSW Government’s strategy for social housing and the announcement that the Commonwealth Government is establishing a working group to investigate ‘innovative’ ways to improve the availability of affordable housing.  If anyone needed persuading that Government action at all levels is needed the latest Productivity Commission Government Report on Housing and Homelessness Services http://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/report-on-government-services/2016/housing-and-homelessness/rogs-2016-volumeg-housing-and-homelessness.pdf also released this week provides some reasons. Here are just a few facts from the report to reinforce the point.

  • even with CRA circa 41 percent of recipients still spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent
  • Around 2.5 million people over the age of 15 experience homelessness at some point in their lives, with just over a third of these people driven out of their homes and into poverty as a result of family or domestic violence
  • Over 220 people seeking shelter are being turned away from homelessness services each day
  • A  study  of workforce  participation  of  women  living  in  public  housing  in  Australia  found  that  job insecurity  and  low  wages  are  the  main  incentives  for  tenants  to  continue  to  live  in  public housing (Saugeres and Hulse 2010).

Putting a human face to these numbers is important.  As is the role community housing providers already play in helping people. The Daily Telegraph this week told the stories of Peter Baker  and Sharlene Holmes  both holding down jobs but pushed out of their homes by rising rents and having spells on the streets and insecure accommodation. Both now have affordable housing in schemes built by City West Housing. With rents near the centre rocketing it is making life very difficult for people like Peter and Sharlene. As Janelle Goulding the CEO at City West says ‘it’s almost impossible to work in many CBD jobs, especially night shifts unless you live nearby. Many of these jobs don’t pay well it’s a huge problem’.

Let’s hope 2016 will see things start to change.

Wendy Hayhurst, CEO

Future Directions

On 24 January the NSW Government’s Family and Community Services Department (FACS) published its eagerly anticipated strategy to revitalise social housing across the state, ‘Future Directions for Social Housing in NSW’. Its three overarching objectives, to renovate rundown estates and build more social housing, provide alternative affordable housing opportunities, and raise service standards across the board are all strongly supported by the community housing industry. 

The Federation and its members have long argued for the NSW government to explicitly acknowledge the State’s shortage of social and affordable housing , recognise the consequences this has for both for lower income families struggling to pay unaffordable rent and also the health of the NSW economy and in response to produce an evidence-based and costed whole of government strategy.

Future Directions presents a range of positive initiatives which together have the potential to make a real difference if the design is right and the government injects sufficient resources to make them work.  On social housing supply the government is committing to “up to 23,000 new and replacement social housing dwellings” by 2026 through the regeneration of existing public housing estates primarily through its Communities Plus initiative.  This total is composed of 17,000 homes to replace rundown housing and 6,000 additional units. On top of this the Social and Affordable Housing Fund (SAHF) should generate at least another 3,000 additional homes in its first phase.

We think more could be achieved. The commitment to restart the property transfer program is long overdue. The paper proposes that up to 35% of all social housing within 10 years will be under community housing management; regrettably not ownership. This implies an expansion by about 15-20,000 homes over and above current portfolios and a handover of just a fifth of all public housing.  Why not more ambition? The community housing sector has developed the capacity and expertise to take on far more of the public housing estates at a far greater pace. We have done the sums on property transfers and believe that the potential exists to generate additional new homes and improve the services to existing tenants and communities. Many of our members large and not so large have already built new homes or are developing sites leveraging off housing previously transferred to their ownership. So at the Minister’s briefing to the community housing sector on Wednesday we were pleased to hear that government remains open to ideas and is prepared to collaborate with us about how this initiative is implemented.

Future Directions indicates government wants to work with the private sector to identify ‘innovative financing options’ to finance new supply. The Federation was very pleased to have its proposal for support to work up the business case for an industry led financial intermediary accepted late last year. In the UK a similar model – the Housing Finance Corporation  which aggregates the debt requirements of participating organisations has repeatedly raised finance for the not for profit housing sector at extremely competitive rates. We are hoping that both the NSW and Commonwealth Government will see the benefit of supporting the project’s outcomes.

Future Directions does acknowledge the importance of a “whole of government approach”, but is light on the specifics. There is no commitment to planning reform and in particular the introduction of mandatory inclusionary zoning on both government owned land and for other sites where developers have benefited from gains arising from government decisions to rezone land or increase the numbers of homes that can be constructed. Taken together with a commitment to discounted provision of government land these two initiatives could realise a real increase in secure affordable rented housing. This could make a significant difference to whether there are real opportunities to help transition people from social housing as well as providing an alternative to other households paying huge amounts of rent out of their low pay. Again the Minister in his briefing suggested there may be movement on this.

Future Directions as we mentioned at the outset, is about much more than new supply. It contains a suite of initiatives around improving services and support for both individuals and communities. While we have focused in this article on new supply, that is not to diminish the importance of this aspect of the reform. Community housing providers are already spending on average 20 percent of total management on activities around community engagement and tenant support. The sector is subject to an independent regulatory regime that requires they meet minimum standards on tenant satisfaction, asset management and ‘place making’ as well as the usual financial viability and good governance. That said the sector is not complacent and  looks forward to participating in the proposals put forward in the paper to improve services.

So while there is much more to be done it is a good start to 2016. We now have more clarity, ideas on the table and a government that says it wants to collaborate on the design and implementation of Future Directions. We look forward to helping government make a difference.

Warringah Council Affordable Housing Discussion Paper and Action Plan

Warringah Council is currently exhibiting an Affordable Housing Discussion Paper and Action Plan as the prelude to the Warringah Affordable Housing Policy.

The Federation and its members have been involved with Warringah in developing this policy. You can have your say on the Paper by completing the feedback form found here

Comments close Tuesday 16 February 2016. For more information please contact helenk@communityhousing.org.au

Federation Planning Network: Inaugural Meeting

The Federation is pleased to host the first meeting of the Federation’s Planning Network scheduled for next month. Led by Rebecca Richardson (Urbanista), the Network will be launching strategies to move the Community Housing Industry Strategy forward and in effect, progress the community housing sector into the New Year. We look forward to updating you with the progress of this Network in the future.

Planning Submissions to State Government

Although the year has just begun, the Federation has been busy with a number of submissions to state government. We have highlighted to the NSW Department of Planning & Environment the need for the delivery of social and affordable housing along the Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Corridor. In particular, we have advocated that 30% of affordable housing should be incorporated within development projects.

We are also commenting on the Department’s proposal to expand the range of low-rise residential development that can be undertaken as complying development across NSW. We note how the Department’s proposal to provide planning controls for medium density housing (known as the ‘missing middle’) will benefit the supply of affordable housing across NSW. We have put forward a number of technical comments to assist in the development of community housing through the planning system.

The Federation is also providing feedback to the Department’s Regional and City Hunter Plans. We will also be noting the need for social and affordable housing in the area to address the affordable housing shortage that is affecting the region.

Federation makes a submission to the statutory review of the Residential Tenancies Act

It’s been five years since the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 commenced. NSW Fair Trading is undertaking a statutory review of the Act to ensure that it is working as intended. After consultations with community housing providers the Federation has sent our submission. Read here: Statutory Review of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 - Submission from the Federation of Housing Associations

Mike Allen appointed to led the Industry’s NDIS CHP Network

The Federation is pleased to announce the appointment of Mike Allen as the expert facilitator of the Industry’s NDIS CHP Network.   Mike will lead and help shape the agenda of the Network in 2016, undoubtedly the year when many exciting developments will be happening with the NDIS roll-out across NSW.

Mike Allen is the former longstanding Chief Executive of Housing NSW, now part of the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS).  Mike has accrued over 30 years’ experience in social housing management and asset services, homelessness services, and community and Aboriginal housing.  Mike was also for a number of years the Chair of the former Housing and Homelessness Ministers Advisory Committee (HHMAC) and in the 2011, Australia Day Honours, he was awarded the Public Service Medal in recognition of his outstanding and meritorious services to the community and for his strong commitment to the values and principles of social housing.

If you would like to find out more about the NDIS CHP Network please do not hesitate to contact Maja Frölich at the Federation: MajaF@communityhousing.org.au.

Smart and Skilled – enrolments still open!

There is still time to enrol in the Certificate IV in Social Housing under the Smart and Skilled government subsidised training program.  This is a great opportunity to receive this qualification at  a reduced price. The training will begin very soon.

Smart and Skilled is the NSW Government program that provides eligible students with Government funding for higher-level courses which include the Certificate IV in Social Housing.  

For general information about Smart and Skilled subsidised training go to https://smartandskilled.nsw.gov.au/

Who is eligible for government subsidised training?

For new students in 2016, you are eligible for government subsidised training under Smart and Skilled if you are an Australian or New Zealand citizen or are a permanent resident or humanitarian visa holder AND aged 15 years or older and no longer at school.  You must also be resident at one of the eligible postcodes as mentioned above for face to face training or any other area of NSW for online training. Remember it is your home postcode that determines eligibility for the face to face training – not your organisational head office location.

How much will I pay?

What you or your organisation pay will depend on your circumstances, any concessions or exemptions as well as other qualifications you may have completed. It will be between $1970 and $2300. This is for the full 15 Units that make up the Certificate IV in Social Housing. The full cost of the qualification is $6320. So as you can see it is an excellent deal. You will be able to check your eligibility and estimate your individual fee before entering the application process by going to the following link:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students with disabilities and their dependants may be eligible for fee exemptions when they enrol in government subsidised training.

How do I enrol in the Certificate IV in Social Housing through the Smart and Skilled subsidy?

You must enrol through the Centre for Training in Social Housing using our enrolment form. Prior to enrolment we will help you work out your fees and a quote will be forwarded to you. Once this is accepted the enrolment process begins and a training plan is organised for you. As well as this we will provide you with a full information package on our policies and procedures. This information package and the 2016 enrolment form are available at

For further Information or general questions about Smart and Skilled enrolments follow this link https://smartandskilled.nsw.gov.au/for-students/how-to-enrol/what-to-ask-when-you-enquire or contact

To discuss any aspect of this subsidised training in Social Housing contact:
Kevin Saide, Training Manager       
Ph 02 92817144 ext 215

How other governments are responding to housing unaffordability

We thought you may find it interesting to read how the governments in Scotland and Ireland are responding to housing affordability.

In Scotland the housing minister recently announced that ‘a new target will be to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes, which will be backed by over £3 billion of investment. The new target is a 67 per cent increase in affordable housing supply, with 70 per cent of the new target being for social rent’. To enable this subsidies per new unit to will rise from £58,000 to £70,000 for housing associations in urban areas and for council homes it will increase from £46,000 to £57,000. The change comes about following s recommendations from a working group on subsidy which includes members from housing associations and councils.

That said the peak body for housing associations identifies continuing constraints on development. Mary Taylor the CEO was quoted as saying ‘While the increased grant levels are a welcome boost, we are aware that other factors impact on the sector’s ability to deliver increased numbers of affordable housing. The key issues are planning, infrastructure and the availability of affordable land.’

Read the government announcement here http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Housing-subsidies-increased-21ba.aspx

Earlier in the week the Irish government said it will provide another 17,000 units of social housing this year as part of its five-year programme to tackle the housing crisis. This will come about by a mixture of construction, refurbishment of empty local authority dwellings, leasing buildings for rental to council tenants and rental-assistance schemes where local authorities pay supplements directly to private landlords. This comes on top of 13,000 last year and is part of an overall  plan to provide a total of 110,000 units of accommodation including new builds for those on council waiting lists between 2015 and 2020 at a cost of nearly €4bn. Minister Alan Kelly has said local authorities will be constructing 10,000 new social housing units a year by 2020.

This comes against the background of very unaffordable rents  -  a study showing  that 95% of properties available to rent are priced beyond the reach of people depending on State rent supports.

More on Ireland via the link to RTE news http://www.rte.ie/news/2016/0126/763059-social-housing/









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