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June 2014

NSW Budget 2014/15

NSW Treasurer, Andrew Constance MP, delivered his first budget on Tuesday.  The buzzword is infrastructure, with over $60 billion to be invested over the coming four years.  Regrettably, there is very little acknowledgement that affordable housing is critical infrastructure, as essential for the economy as investment in road, rail and waste water projects.  From a total infrastructure spend for 2014/15 of around $20 billion, just $83 million has been set aside to support accelerated land release in the south west of Sydney and $73 million to help councils fund related infrastructure in western Sydney.  Housing itself remains off the investment list.  There is also a $100,000 increase in the threshold for the First Home Owners Grant.  

These measures will do little to enhance housing affordability for low to moderate income households, in the context of a chronic undersupply of housing:  the budget papers estimate the undersupply in NSW to have reached 130,000 dwellings.  Indeed, the budget papers anticipate a decrease in the government’s investment in housing from four percent of overall capital expenditure over the past four years to three percent on average over the four years of forward estimates.  These are small numbers, getting even smaller.

The Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) will enjoy a 7 percent increase on this year’s budget, higher than the overall budget increase of 4.6 percent.  However, within the FACS budget, the picture for social housing is less glossy.  We seem to be working very hard to stay in place. 

As in previous years, maintenance and new supply for the social housing portfolio are primarily funded by the Land & Housing Corporation’s (L&HC) program of asset sales.  Next year the asset sale program appears to be around 30 percent larger than this year’s.  This will fund the commencement of 759 new social housing dwellings and the completion of 443 others, as well as $207 million for property upgrades and $284 million for maintenance.  These figures all compare favourably to this year’s budget, which anticipated 276 commencements, 279 completions, $280 million in capital works including upgrades and $158 million on maintenance. 

FACS staff believe that this is likely to generate a net increase in the social housing portfolio of around 50 dwellings – a result of the implementation of the new portfolio strategy, which focuses on selling assets which yield more than the cost of replacement.  The recent decision to sell properties in the Sydney CBD is an illustration of the approach, of which we can expect to see much more over the coming years. 

This small increase in the social housing portfolio is a significantly better result than the decline in dwellings seen over the past several years.  However, it is nothing like the increase required to make a genuine difference to the availability of affordable housing.  Furthermore, from a community housing perspective, it remains unclear the extent to which the asset sales program will affect our portfolios.  L&HC are commencing discussions with individual providers, and have stated that the number of community housing properties in the sales program for 2014/15 is very small, however we have no information about the potential impact in future years as L&HC continues its efforts to make the social housing portfolio sustainable.

The budget includes increased funding for the Community Housing Leasing Program (CHLP).  Following this year’s review, the CHLP budget for 2014/15 will be $70 million, an increase of more than 6 percent on this year’s budget.  Providers were recently advised of their leasehold allocation for the coming year.  FACS staff acknowledge that the fate of around 1,800 incentives awarded under the now-deleted National Rental Affordability Scheme remains uncertain, with negotiations with the Commonwealth Government to continue.

FACS staff confirmed that the additional investment in homelessness announced as part of the recent Going Home Staying Home tender results is intended to be funded through the extension to the National Partnership Against Homelessness.

Talking points

The NSW Community Housing Industry Development Strategy 2013/14 - 2015/16 has just been released.  This is a joint initiative of the Federation and FACS-Housing NSW, which is designed to enhance the industry’s ability to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the emerging environment.  Many Federation members and other industry participants were consulted during the development of the strategy during 2013 and early 2014.  The Strategy and the list of projects funded for this year are both available on the Federation’s website

After a very long wait, the results of the Going Home Staying Home tenders to reform the delivery of homelessness services have been announced.  Many community housing providers will be involved in delivery of the new service packages over the coming three years, either as lead/sole agencies or in partnership with specialist homelessness services.  In addition, Minister Upton announced additional funding to mitigate the effects of the changes to the homelessness sector, including more funding for inner city homelessness services.  This will see the homelessness budget rise to $148 million in 2014/15, an increase of 9.6 percent.  The full list of preferred providers and partners is available on the Going Home Staying Home website.

A recent decision of the Federal Court may signal good news for community housing providers and other charitable organisations with diverse business operations.  The Community Housing Federation of Australia notes that the court’s decision to reject an appeal in the “Hunger Project” case supports a broad interpretation of the requirement for charities to directly relieve poverty.  More information is available on the CHFA website.

This Friday will see the launch of a business case for a shared home ownership scheme to be delivered by our industry.  A number of community housing providers have joined with Shelter NSW, Regional Development Australia, NCOSS and others to develop the business case.  More information will be available on the Federation’s website following the launch.

Community Housing News

Neighbourhood and Estates Knowledge Hub
The Federation has launched the Neighbourhood and Estates Knowledge Hub. The Hub is a practical resource designed for community housing providers working in neighbourhoods and estates.  It promotes the work of the industry through case studies and also shares good practice through four good practice guides and links to useful resources.  The Hub is a developing resource and the Federation will add relevant information as time goes on.

The Federation has included neighbourhoods as well as estates in the Hub since this better reflects the diverse communities our industry works within.

The four good practice guides in the Hub are:

  • People and place management: This guide focuses on housing and asset management in neighbourhoods and estates.
  • Community engagement: This guide focuses on ways that providers can engage with their communities.
  • Community development: This guide focuses on social and economic inclusion.
  • Monitoring and evaluation: This guide focuses on ways that providers can monitor and evaluate interventions they undertake within neighbourhood and estates.

The Federation would like to thank those providers that contributed towards the Hub.

To celebrate the launch of the Hub, the Federation organised a seminar on 14 May, called “Building communities: Community housing providers working in neighbourhoods and estates.”  The seminar covered community renewal, community development, community engagement, partnership working, tenancy management in neighbourhoods and estates and measuring impact.  This well received seminar was fully subscribed and had a range of international, interstate and NSW presenters.  The Federation would like to thank those providers that helped make the seminar a success and also to thank participants for attending.  The presentations from the seminar are available on the Hub.

The Community Development Workers Network
To further assist community housing providers working in neighbourhoods and estates, the Federation also runs the Community Development Workers Network.  This Network is for community housing workers that undertake tenant involvement and/or community engagement/development.  The Network is free of charge to attend for Federation full members.  Meetings take place twice a year at our office in Kippax Street, Surry Hills, Sydney.

The next Network meeting will take place on Thursday 10th July 2014.

For more information about the Neighbourhood and Estates Knowledge Hub or the Community Development Workers Network please phone Terry Jones on 02 9281 7144 ext. 203 or email terryj@communityhousing.org.au

Eight tips for Hiring and Retaining Talent: First Time – Every Time!
By Blooming HR

Attracting, selecting and securing the right person for any position in your organisation are some of the most critically important activities you will do as a manager.  Getting it wrong can be costly not only on your time but also on morale, service levels and increases the risk to your business.

However, due to lack of resources, talent or time, recruitment decisions are often based on gut instinct and when rushed, many of us have fallen into the trap of selecting the ‘best of a bad bunch’, rather than getting it right the first time.  Getting it right up front will literally save you hours and hours managing a wrong hire when they go ‘off track’, make mistakes or jeopardise your company’s reputation.
Below are the fundamental things that you should do before, during and after each hiring decision.  By following these simple rules, you are on your way to finding a productive, competent and dedicated staff member.

Tip 1:  Update and review the position description.  Make sure it reflects the overall purpose of the position, outlines key areas of responsibility and key activities.  It is also worthwhile to include any essential criteria such as driver’s license, education or qualifications.  Tip: Be careful when asking for specific number of years experience.  Make sure it is an ‘inherent requirement of the job’, otherwise you run the risk of being discriminatory.  If in doubt, check with an expert.

Tip 2:  Allow at least a month to hire the right person.  Often the right person will already be employed, so you also need to include time for their notice period.  Also, many of the job boards that our candidates will be looking at send out weekly newsletters.  Sometimes people won’t get around to reading these emailed newsletters straight away.  Sometimes the best candidates come in close to or even after the close date.  Don’t be restricted by a close date if you don’t have to.

Tip 3:  Write your job advertisement.  Remember, it’s an ad.  You are trying to attract talent.  Be mindful to be genuine however.  You want to ensure you can keep that employment promise with any new employee.  Include in your ad details from the PD, but also the organisation’s values, future goals and any benefits the employee will enjoy if they come and work for you.  What employees value goes well beyond financial reward.  For example, on site car parking is a huge benefit to employees.  So is being able to participate on special projects and secondments, flexible working arrangements and any training and development budget.  Think carefully about where you are going to advertise.  There are literally hundreds of job boards beyond Seek.  More and more job boards are being developed specifically for the NFP sector, and even community services.  Put the same thought into the marketing campaign as you would any new venture.  Where do your candidates ‘hang out’?  Where are you going to find these people?  Be creative in your advertising and marketing.  It doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

Tip 4:  Create an interview guide.  Write behaviourally based interview questions that will draw out from your short listed candidates real life work examples where they have demonstrated the skills/experience or behaviour that you need them to demonstrate in your role.  Score them out of 10 for each answer so you have some quantitative data to help make your decision.  Include questions that help you assess the alignment of the individual’s personal values against your organisation’s.  Have at least two people on the interview panel and spend time at the end of each interview discussing and scoring each response.

Tip 5:  Do reference checking – at least two.  Ensure that you receive at least two professional reference checks from the preferred candidates last two managers (where possible).  This should form part of your recruitment process and is also essential to demonstrate these pre employment checks as part of your National Registration.  If required, you may also include in your recruitment policy the need for police and work with children checks for some positions.  You may decide to do police checks for Directors and finance staff and working with children checks for field staff.

Tip 6:  Prepare a professional and compliant Employment Agreement and new starter pack including all the information the new employee needs to provide (don’t forget to include the Fair Work Information Statement which is a legislative requirement) and any information you would like the new hire to review before their commencement for example, Annual Reports and key policies such as Bullying and Harassment, Code of Conduct, Grievance Procedures and WHS which they should sign.  The on boarding process plays a critical part in the employee retention and ongoing job satisfaction

Tip 7:  If your organisation does not have a formal induction process, ensure you create a program of learning that the new employee will complete in their first few weeks.  Ensure part of that process includes spending time with other departments/employees and learning how their roles interrelate.  More importantly, within the first two weeks, meet with your new hire to communicate and refine the goals the employee must achieve during the probationary period.  Meet with your new starter each week in the first month, then at least monthly up to the end of probation.

Tip 8:  Spend time with your new hire!  Set up reminders in your calendar for each review meeting and finally one for at least two weeks before the end of probation.  Review the employee’s performance and behaviours at this review meeting and decide if they will pass probation or not.  Remember; employers are not subject to unfair dismissal laws during an employee’s first six months of employment, so make any of those hard decisions during this time.  And if the employee has passed probation, acknowledge that with a letter.  One thing I have learnt in my 15 years of HR experience is that employees love job security, and a simple congratulatory letter from a senior member of staff or HR confirming their employment goes a long way.

If you have any questions in regards to this article or are interested in implementing any of the highlighted processes outlined in this article, please contact Natalie Carrington, Principal of Blooming HR on ncarrington@bloominghr.com.au or by phone +61 2 9712 5556.  Blooming HR also offers cost effective recruitment services for the community services sector.

Member spotlight - On Track Community Programs Ltd

On Track Community Programs Ltd (On Track) is a multi-disciplinary organisation delivering a diverse range of services including community housing, support and accommodation for people experiencing homelessness or who have mental health illness or disability, and disability employment programs.  On Track has existed since 1984 and is funded by 12 State and Commonwealth Government agencies employing around 280 people.  The organisation operates across mid to far north coast NSW and south to mid coast Queensland.  On Track’s community housing service manages 220 properties within the Tweed, Ballina, Byron, Richmond and Coffs Harbour Shires and is a participant in the NSW Housing Pathways system.  It was also recently announced as a significant consortia leader in the Going Home Staying Home reform.

On Track Community Housing focuses on the delivery of housing to people with significant needs including seniors, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, singles and seniors, people with disabilities including with mental health issues and homeless people seeking housing with support.  Since the vesting of 138 Nation Building assets in late 2013, On Track has commenced a building program with 10 affordable units in Ocean Shores, north of Byron Bay in collaboration with a local innovative design company KoHo.

On Track’s vision is “Connecting people to their communities”.  This philosophy underpins the support and encouragement they provide.  The aim is to improve an individual's quality of life by encouraging community participation, increased social inclusion and promoting independence.  To this end the organisation provides a wraparound service to individuals to access the opportunities and benefits which many of us take for granted:  stable accommodation, access to medical and health care, education and employment, social and recreational activities and, most importantly, a sense of hope and belonging.  This approach is reflected in the Community Housing Service’s focus and commitment to targeting complex needs tenants where three quarters of the organisation’s households identify as having a disability or mental health issue and more than a quarter identify as Aboriginal households.

On Track has undertaken annual compliance audits and achieved certification with the Registrar of Community Housing as a Class 2 Growth Provider since 2010.  In 2013, On Track was accredited by BSI Australia against the International Standards Organisation (ISO) standards QMS:9001 and AS/NZS: 4801 standards for work health and safety.  Since 2006 the organisation has received accreditation by BSI Australia for its disability employment services, for mental health programs against the Quality Improvement Council (QIC) Health & Community Services Standards through Quality Management Services (QMS).  In 2014, On Track’s NSW Disability Services programs obtained Third Party Verification (TPV) against the NSW Disability Service and will shortly undertake certification against the QLD Human Services Quality Framework.

Margaret is a tenant of On Track and also a primary carer for her husband and brother.  Margaret received the 2012 NSW Carer Award for support she provides.








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