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January 2017

Contents

  1. CEO Talking Points
  2. House Keys: Operations Round 2 goes live
  3. House Keys: Workforce – data collection to commence
  4. Agreed and aligned outcome indicators for the sector – project underway
  5. AHURI report on property transfers
  6. CTSH update
  7. AHURI conference
  8. New women's housing development in Hobson's Bay, VIC
  9. Homes Out West- new CEO
  10. SGCH Strive Scholarships
  11. "Housing Futures: How does Sydney grow?"- Link Housing conference
  12. Right to Home update
  13. Position vacant
  14. In the News

CEO Talking Points

Well, 2017 has opened with housing unaffordability and potential solutions making the headlines, starting with the Australian Treasurer, Scott Morrison using an interview on Sky News to flag “plans to re-evaluate the existing $1.4 billion rental affordability scheme, by working on radical reforms to mobilise more private investment”. 

The Treasurer has been in London using the opportunity to meet key political and financial figures to learn more about housing unaffordability is being addressed over there. While there has been scepticism about whether London, which rivals Sydney for soaring house prices, can teach us anything, there are some great examples of how the UK equivalent of not for profit community housing providers (Housing Associations) have been supported by Governments across the political spectrum to deliver affordable rental housing. 

Not least are the grants to facilitate new housing construction and access to cheaper land via the planning system. There’s also The Housing Finance Corporation (THFC), which bundles together the debt requirements from Housing Associations and arranges long-term financing from institutional investors at rates comparable to those secured by government.  All these initiatives are replicable here. There are positive signs that an equivalent of the THFC may be set up following the Council on Federal Financial Relations meeting  in December. The Greater Sydney Commission has opened up the discussion about affordable housing and the planning system by proposing 5-10% affordable rental targets  on the additional housing generated when sites are rezoned.

We welcomed Gladys Berejiklian as NSW’s new premier on 23 January and in her first public appearance she put housing affordability in her top three priorities. While repeating the increasing supply solution which many people are coming to accept isn’t working given the record numbers built and continuing price rises, she also said she was open to ideas. They have come flooding including these eleven and we think repeated tranches of the Social and Affordable Housing Fund to support new development is also a great option.

Her new Cabinet announced on Sunday sees the two Ministers Brad Hazzard and Rob Stokes who laid the foundations that should lead to more social and affordable housing leave, to take up new cabinet  positions in health and education. The Federation would like to acknowledge the work they have done and wish them well in their new portfolios. The incoming Planning Minister Anthony Roberts is also the Minister of Housing, an early indication perhaps that housing unaffordability will be a top priority. Taking over at FACS is Pru Goward who retains the Social Housing title and brings her experience of the portfolio during 2011-13.

There are definitely reasons to be positive, although we agree with newly appointed Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, Michael Sukkar (who by the way explained that the PM had emphasised housing affordability issues above all others when offering him the post) when he said action on affordable housing can't wait. Let’s get moving.

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House Keys: Operations Round 2 goes live
The Federation is pleased to announce that House Keys: Operations round two has now gone live.  House Keys: Operations is the community housing industry’s own benchmarking service and it allows participants to compare their results in key areas such as housing and asset management, finance, efficiency and development. 

Round 2 includes some exciting developments, including an increase in the number of participants to 40 CHPs, including three new South Australian providers. CHPs were also able to participate in a cost effectiveness exercise that replicated the methodology set by AHURI as part of their 2015 study 'Assessing management costs and tenant outcomes in social housing: recommended methods and future directions'.  This data has been included in the House Keys platform.  Additional indicators have been introduced alongside sector-wide 10 year growth projections as well as platform improvements so that participants can see how they are ranked within each of their peer groups as well as in comparison with all providers.

Our top priority for future rounds of House Keys is to reduce the lag time between CHPs submitting data to the Registrar of Community Housing (and FACS in NSW) and the information being available via House Keys.  We have already started work with our developers on this and we will have several changes to the process to enable us to achieve this.  In future we will start the process earlier in the financial year and I anticipate that we will be starting the House Keys: Operations Round 3 process in at the end of March 17.

The Federation will be hosting a webinar on how to get the most out of House Keys on 2nd February at 2.00pm.  If you would like to participate or have any questions please contact adamw@communityhousing.org.au

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House Keys: Workforce – data collection to commence
Data collection for House Keys: Workforce will commence shortly.  House Keys: Workforce is the industry’s HR, salary and governance benchmarking platform.  The platform is ready to accept data after a number of enhancements were included following discussion with sector HR experts.  We will be writing to all providers with an invitation to join the benchmarking exercise.  Please contact adamw@communityhousing.org.au if you have any questions.

Agreed and aligned outcome indicators for the sector – project underway
This eagerly awaited project is now underway with support from the NSW FACS Industry Development Strategy.  This project aims to assist the sector and FACS to identify, assess and select appropriate indicators and measures for the community housing sector.   It will build upon and align with the FACS Human Services Outcomes Framework for social housing.  The project will meet these aims through two key objectives. It will:

  • Identify and assess indicators aligned with the FACS Human Services Outcomes Framework
  • Deliver an indicator framework building on the FACS Human Services Outcomes Framework

The first step will be an initial consultation session to be held on Monday 13th February.  We will also be running an Expression of Interest for a small number of sector representatives to join the Project Control Croup for the project.  Any questions please contact adamw@communityhousing.org.au

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For your bedtime reading this month- AHURI report on recent housing transfers in Australia

Put down the mobile. Resist the tweets. Spend some quality time digesting the latest and best housing, social and urban research and get the ideas and evidence you need.  This month as we anticipate the NSW property transfer program we focus on the just released AHURI report on recent housing transfers in Australia

Report cover

It explores experience in case studies from Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland. It finds much that is positive including the longer term contracts which may enable cash flows to be used as security to expand supply. It modelled four different scenarios to assess what additional supply could be generated whilst also carrying out maintenance and management functions. While the results won’t solve the affordable housing shortage, all additions are welcome. A note of caution though as even small increases will be eliminated completely if contracts require community housing providers (CHPs) to fund non-landlord activities too.
The report also highlights the benefits of allowing CHPs the flexibility to manage their portfolios and make decisions about renewal and replacement where demand for housing does not match the type of supply, where the property is in such poor condition it would be cheaper to rebuild and / or the site could sustainably accommodate more homes.

The researchers also found that there had been developments in the accounting treatment of longer-term ‘management outsourcing’ contracts between state governments and CHP successor landlords that might address concerns in some states about how asset transfer might impact on their credit ratings. The Tasmanian Government has completed four transfers and the accounting ‘write-down’ totalled $485 million. The credit ratings agencies’ absence of concern was understood to be because these agencies regarded “public housing portfolio as an encumbered asset due to its dedicated function as low-cost housing and therefore incapable of realising open market book value”.

The report reflects on the political debate around the desirability of property transfer and the concerns about the reduction in government control. While finding that transfers both in Australia and elsewhere have generated positive outcomes for tenants the report authors suggest paying “greater attention to ‘politically’ framing their proposals and to winning public support from tenants, staff and unions, and from the wider community”.

A major problem to fix that has made it difficult to cost and plan for transfers has been and remains “the opaqueness of the public housing finances and the dearth of information on public housing stock condition”. Policy certainty is also a must, particularly where cash flows might be reduced - say if the commonwealth rent assistance (CRA) entitlement was changed and left CHPs vulnerable, particularly where financing is predicated on these revenues.

And in answer to the critical question – what did the people living in these homes think post-transfer - the report’s finding are overwhelmingly positive. Turning to pages 44-45 it is clear that many tenants at the outset had had reservations about transfer. Mixed messages from different quarters about the benefits, poorly timed or unclear communications and limited opportunities to be involved all contributed to this. However once the new landlords took over these reservations disappeared.  What seems to have been particularly appreciated, and which isn’t about an additional revenue stream from CRA, is the approach CHPs took when responding to tenant requests. The report authors quote participants in the focus groups using ‘”words like ‘human’, ‘friendship’ and ‘care’ to describe the tone of their interactions with CHP workers”. Participants also valued the opportunity to get involved in community development type activities that many CHPs prioritise that had for at least one person “totally changed my life”.     

And in conclusion, what do the report authors think their work should lead to? In addition to calling for more national leadership to help states respond to ‘the public housing problem’ they offer  some suggestions on page 67-68:

  • A sound national policy approach led by the Australian Government and negotiated through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), similar to the manner in which disability services reform was achieved.
  • Promoting a continuum of housing options and applying commercial principles to ensuring the long-term viability of service provision. Critically they stress that “in formulating the terms of transfers it is therefore vital that governments avoid simply shifting the public housing problem into a new organisational status”.
  • Revamped social housing regulation
  • Endorsement of preferred management/ownership models—registered CHPs, ALMOs.
  • Strong tenant/consumer engagement from the outset of any transfer process
  • Minimum adequate housing standard.
  • A specialist agency to lead and drive change (independent of state housing authorities).

It will be interesting the Federal and State government responses to the report.

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Centre for Training in Social Housing update
This year looks to be a busy one with the continuation of our Smart and Skilled subsidised training as well as our regular training offerings. The full 2017 Calendar and enrolment forms are available HERE.

We also have plans to deliver more non accredited training this year to meet your specific needs.

The first of these is a Hoarding and Squalor Workshop to be delivered by Sue Cripps on the 24th March.  You can enrol for this HERE

As always please contact our Training Manager, Kevin Saide with any specific requests for training and professional development.

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Homelessness and Housing Solutions- One-day AHURI conference

AHURI will be holding a conference on Friday, 31st March 2017 at Brisbane Convention Centre

The conference will present the latest AHURI evidence on the homelessness system in Australia, examples of housing solutions for formerly homeless people or those at risk of homelessness and a big picture examination of the support services required to create housing stability for low-income Australians.

Find more information HERE

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New women’s housing development for Hobsons Bay

A new community housing project designed by Melbourne-based architects ClarkeHopkinsClarke for Women’s Housing Ltd will deliver more affordable, long-term housing to women in need. Located in Newport in close proximity to the suburb’s public transport, local shopping strip and parklands, the project will see the creation of 20 new one and two bedroom dwellings for women and children, many of whom are escaping family violence.

Women’s Housing Ltd has a reputation for excellent practice as a transitional and long-term housing manager, providing information and referral services to women experiencing family violence. Since 1997, the organisation has been listening to and validating women’s experiences, and acting as their voice in the housing sector.

The project is being funded by a $5.5 million grant from the Victorian Property Fund for Women’s Housing Limited to build the new homes. The site of the project was formerly host to seven units that have been demolished to make way for the multi-residential building. The design by ClarkeHopkinsClarke prioritises the safety of tenants, while ensuring the apartments have the look and feel of a traditional residential home. Through the use of complementary forms and materials, the three-storey building is designed to read as two double-storey townhouses, with the third floor recessed and concealed in a roof-like form.

Projection of house

Design renders
Design renders of the property

“The design responds to the emerging neighbourhood character without replicating the existing streetscape through pitching roof forms and a material palette that reflects the construction materials of neighbouring houses,” says architect Toby Lauchlan, partner at ClarkeHopkinsClarke.

The use of contrasting materials and finishes adds further texture and interest to the building’s facade. Additional features include on-grade car parking, terraces for each residence, and a number of apartments that have been designed to support ageing in place. All tenants in the development will come from the public housing waiting list, with rent set at a maximum 75 per cent of the market price, or 30 per cent of the household’s income. “We’re really proud to be working with such a reputable organisation to deliver this vital project,” Lauchlan says. The Newport project follows the success of ClarkeHopkinsClarke’s first development for Women’s Housing Ltd in Bayswater, which was awarded Winner for Affordable Housing at the 2012 UDIA Victoria Awards for Excellence.

The majority of tenants in the Bayswater building are victims of domestic violence, and prior to the development were living in women’s refuges, cars or couch surfing with family and friends. CEO of Women’s Housing Ltd Judy Line says the recent increased public awareness surrounding violence against women has helped secure more funding for community housing projects. “Just now we’re getting more money in terms of family violence,” Line says. “The government said that they would implement the 227 recommendations for the Royal Commission into Family Violence, and part of that was building more houses for women escaping family violence.”

Currently, an average of one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia, and one in three Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15. Construction of the Newport apartments is now underway, with operation estimated to commence in mid to late 2017.

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New CEO for Homes Out West

Taken from Homes Out West's media release

It is with great pleasure that the Homes Out West Board of Directors announce the appointment of Cliff Jones to the position of Chief Executive Officer. The appointment follows an extensive recruitment process. Cliff has been with Homes Out West since early 2016 in the roles of Manager Housing and Community, and more recently Interim CEO. Cliff brings significant experience in managing and leading organisations and teams in all facets of operations; with over 25 years' experience in the disability sector and not-for-profit organisations in regional NSW and Victoria. He will be based between the Albury and Deniliquin offices.

"I am excited by the prospect of working with the Board as well as a committed and highly skilled group of staff to ensure we continue to provide quality housing and the best possible service to our communities," Cliff said. "I am keen to explore innovative ways to facilitate meaningful engagement with tenants and other support providers."

The Board looks forward to working with Cliff and the Homes Out West team to continue to build on the strengths of the organisation and achieve excellence in all areas of our service delivery to tenants.

Matthew Watts
Board Chair of Homes Out West

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SGCH Strive Scholarships Providing Opportunities for Local Residents

Extract from Media release, 23rd January 2017

Leading community housing provider, SGCH has awarded over $90,000 in scholarships to 129 primary and secondary school students through its annual Strive Scholarships Program.

Of these, 37 scholarships totaling $24,000 were awarded to residents living in the Fairfield local government area.

“This significant investment recognises our commitment to providing more than a place to live – through Strive we provide opportunities to change lives through education,” said CEO of SGCH Group, Scott Langford.

“The ASG Planning for Education Index released last week, shows that the estimated cost of a government education has increased by 25% over the last decade*. With other living costs also continuing to rise, people are struggling to afford this basic right.

“The scholarships assist tenants with educational costs such as school fees, text books, computing equipment and uniforms, and for the first time, we have extended the funding to include extra curricular activities. This will provide financial assistance for young people to participate in sport, music and arts,” he said. Read more HERE

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Housing Futures: How does Sydney grow? - and the expanding role of Community Housing

Link Housing is bringing together decision makers, support providers, essential services and residents. The forum will be a chance to identify what the future housing needs are, assess any potential road blocks and devise effective solutions.

Date: 24th February, 8am- 1:30pm
Venue: Epping Club, 45-57 Rawson St, Epping

You will hear from:
Minister Rob Stokes
Victor Dominello MP
Damien Tudehope MP
Mayor Yvonne Keane- The Hills Shire
Mayor Bill Pickering - Ryde
Plus many more speakers.

Please RSVP HERE to secure your place.

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11,500 people behind the Right to Home campaign

A message from St. Vincent de Paul Society:

Members, volunteers, staff and friends of the St Vincent de Paul Society have gathered the support of 11,586 people who have signed our petition for more affordable housing in New South Wales.

THANK YOU!

There is incredible momentum. The new Premier of NSW has already announced that housing affordability would be one of her Government's top priorities. 

Now we need to make sure the Premier adopts the right measure to deliver more affordable housing. The laws should be changed so that all new residential developments include at least 15% affordable housing.

Our members across the state will be meeting with their local member of the NSW Parliament to tell them we need more affordable housing. If you want to learn how you can take action and be linked up with local St Vincent de Paul Society groups who will be visiting their MPs soon just email us by clicking below.

Want to take action? Get in touch!

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Position Vacant: Administrative Officer

We are now recruiting to the Administrative Officer position which supports our enthusiastic team in delivering advocacy, support and training services. We are looking for an individual who can demonstrate an understanding of the administrative requirements of a small-medium sized organisation and also is keen to learn about the housing business and participate in the organisation of events, production of publications and respond professionally to a wide range of stakeholders.

Find out more HERE

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In the News

Over the last month, the Federation and Wendy Hayhurst have been referenced in the following news articles:

24th Jan, Treasurer Scott Morrison looks to United Kingdom for housing affordability solution

25th Jan, Calls for Transparency in Affordable Housing Funding

28th Jan, Housing affordability: What Scott Morrison might learn – and not learn – from Britain

 

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