Housing Matters June 2020

Message from the CEO

Welcome to the June 2020 edition of Housing Matters.

One of the exciting aspects of our sector is our future focus.

CHIA NSW’s latest report on the NSW community housing sector, noted in this edition, shows how this vision – to develop safe, secure and affordable housing for people in greatest need – has had an astonishingly positive impact on our State.

From a relatively small starting point of building 68 homes in 2012, our sector delivered over 3,200 homes by 2020.

That’s over $1.2 billion in new housing through developments in 45 Local Government Areas – all driven by community housing provider investment and financing.

These are incredible achievements and speaks to the sector’s capacity and capability to deliver social and affordable housing in NSW.  For our sector though, these achievements only encourage us to deliver and secure more affordable homes for NSW families.

That’s what it means to be future-focused.

The release of the NSW Housing Strategy discussion paper gives us the chance to articulate our sector’s critical role in providing new homes in areas of high need.

This will be a prime opportunity for us to share directly with government our 20-year vision for community housing in NSW and the important partnerships with Government, financiers and the private sector that will be critical to meeting the demand for social and affordable housing.

Finally, in this issue, National Housing, Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC)’s CEO Nathan Dal Bon shares an update on NHFIC’s new research on the economic value of residential building and the recent bond raising which created $562 million in funding for several Community Housing Providers in NSW and around Australia.

Projects from Argyle Housing, Bridge Housing, BaptistCare NSW, Mission Australia, Pacific Link Housing, and SGCH will create new futures for hundreds of NSW families over the coming years.

We look forward to seeing these projects become a reality, as our sector to continue its future focus on creating new jobs, opportunities, and homes for NSW.

We hope you enjoy this edition.

Mark Degotardi

CEO, CHIA NSW

NSW Housing Strategy – CHIA NSW consultation now underway

The NSW Government has released a discussion paper for its NSW Housing Strategy.

The Strategy aims to set a 20-year, whole-of-government vision for housing in NSW in response to population growth and changing housing needs. This Strategy must include new investment and the development of new policy responses which will help deliver an additional 1 million homes in Greater Sydney, and an additional 295,000 homes across the rest of NSW, by 2041 for both home-owners and renters.

Consultation on the Discussion Paper is now underway, and submissions have been requested by the NSW Government to be received by 24 July 2020. You can view the initial announcement and discussion paper here.

CHIA NSW is now directly consulting with our members to develop a submission on behalf of the  NSW Community Housing Sector.

If you are a CHIA NSW member that would like to discuss CHIA NSW’s formal response to the Strategy, please contact Head of Policy, Caitlin McDowell at [email protected]

CHIA NSW release Community Housing snapshot report

CHIA NSW recently launched Community housing in NSW: the way forward.

A snapshot of the sector’s achievements from 2012 to 2020, the report draws on sector data and shows that community housing providers have invested $1.2 billion in new projects across 45 Local Government Areas, resulting in 3,282 new homes.

The report reveals the ongoing value of community housing in both in providing affordable homes to developing regions (e.g. Sydney, Western Sydney and beyond) and the sector’s exponential growth over the last decade.

You can view the full report by clicking on the report image above. Further commentary on the report is viewable in this media report from Domain.

An update from NHFIC CEO, Nathan Dal Bon

It’s been a busy month for us at NHFIC as we approach the end of the financial year.

On 24 June, we finalised our third bond for $562 million – making it the largest social bond from an Australian issuer. The funds raised from the bond will support ten CHPs across NSW, SA, Tasmania and Victoria, financing 2,736 properties including 775 new dwellings. In total, NHFIC’s third bond is expected to save the participating CHPs more than $80 million in interest payments over the 12-year term of the loans.

The first loan to a Tasmanian CHP formed part of the latest bond, with Housing Choices Tasmania to use the funding for 192 existing and new social and affordable homes. Other CHP loans supported by the bond include Argyle Community Housing (NSW), BaptistCare (NSW & ACT) (NSW), Bridge Housing (NSW), Common Equity Housing Ltd (Victoria), Junction (SA), Mission Australia Housing (NSW), Pacific Link Housing (NSW), SGCH Sustainability (NSW), and Women’s Housing Limited (Victoria). You can read the media release on our website.

We were also pleased to launch our first research report this month from our new research unit. The report, Building Jobs: How residential construction drives the economy, found that residential construction has the second largest economic multiplier of all 114 industries that make up the Australian economy, and that for every $1 million spent on residential construction, nine jobs are supported across the economy.

On the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme front, we are preparing to release another 10,000 places to our participating lenders from 1 July 2020. Given the swift uptake in places this financial year, we expect places for the 2020/21 financial year will once again prove popular with first home buyers.

Regards

Nathan Dal Bon

Summer Foundation training

The community housing sector is vital to ensuring successful implementation of Special Disability Accommodation (SDA) and better disability housing for those who need it.

Community Housing Providers (CHPs) are increasingly key providers of disability housing and are partnering with SDA providers across the country to boost their skills and experience in disability services.

The Summer Foundation has received a grant from the Support for NDIS Providers Program to develop compliance education resources for SDA providers.

The Welcome Home education package will help SDA providers understand their obligations under the NDIS Practice Standards for SDA, with a focus on developing a rights-based approach to the delivery of housing for people with the highest level of support needs.

The Welcome Home project is the only initiative funded by the Support for NDIS Provider Program to have a focus on SDA. The resource will be crucial in supporting the SDA sector including CHPs who are providing, or will provide, disability housing in the future.

Rosie Beaumont, the Summer Foundation’s SDA Quality and Safeguards Project Manager, said that as the SDA market in Australia gains further momentum, it will be vital for providers to understand their obligations under the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework and the strategies they need to adopt to take a rights-based approach to delivering SDA to participants.

The Welcome Home package will be available online in 2021. Interested CHPs working on SDA requirements should contact [email protected].

Older Tenants’ toolkit launch and events

On July 24th , CHIA NSW will be launching the Older Tenants’ toolkit.

This resource will assist providers in best practice care for ageing tenants in a stable, ongoing tenancy. We anticipate it will be of strong interest to community housing providers, Aboriginal community housing, aged care and other sectors.

CHIA NSW will be hosting an online launch of the toolkit on July 24th, 10:00-12:30, in partnership with project funders – the Department of Communities and Justice, Uniting, and the Aboriginal Housing Office.

This launch will be followed by a specialised 2-hour masterclass workshop covering:

–        A comprehensive overview of the toolkit.
–        Critical discussion regarding its implementation.
–        Critical discussion on areas for future development.

If you are interested in attending the launch or the masterclass please contact CHIA NSW’s Events Coordinator, Claire Lawlor at [email protected]

Maintaining tenancies, reducing arrears and minimizing vacancies during the pandemic

Risk management during the coronavirus crisis has heightened for all CHPs, demanding swift and considered action. Hume Community Housing has focussed strongly on mitigating two major risks identified through their business continuity planning—potentially high levels of customer arrears and increasing or prolonged voids.

Andrea Ritchie, Executive Manager of Customer Experience at Hume (pictured), said Hume has applied a fair and reasonable approach to support customers who are directly impacted because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We engage with our customers as early as possible to prevent them incurring debt, and when required, setting up payment plans to ensure that they can maintain their tenancy,” Ms Ritchie said.

“Hume has been progressively conducting wellbeing calls to all of our customers and working with them to address issues before they escalate into bigger problems,” she said.

Implementing consistent messaging via letters, social media, Hume’s website and customer magazine has conveyed that “a safe and secure home has never been more important, and customers should contact us before financial stress takes hold because we are here to help,” Ms Ritchie said.

“For our social housing customers, many of whom are financially in a better position due to the Government’s coronavirus payments, we expect rent and water bill payments to continue to be paid.
“Due to the economic impacts of Covid-19, some customers have lost their jobs, so we have provided them with financial support information and referrals to help them manage their household expenses,” Ms Ritchie said.

Although the 6-month eviction moratorium does not apply to community housing customers, Hume, like other CHPs, elected not to implement rent reviews or CPI increases scheduled for March 2020.

“We also applied a rent amnesty—we have not backdated charges where there is a rent increase and we have worked with the community housing sector to lobby the Australian Government to amend regulation for mandatory rent direct payments to community housing providers should a customer have rent arrears of four weeks or more,” Ms Ritchie said.

“We have actually seen a drop in our arrears levels that can be attributed to our pro-active approach,” she said.

Social distancing requirements resulted in the ceasing of open home inspections, so a strategic approach to managing voids was also needed to ensure the continuity of rental income for Hume.

“Virtual viewings and virtual open homes were implemented, and individual viewings were subject to the restrictions. Video marketing works well in traditional real estate advertising and this approach has worked quite well for Hume, as we have been able to continue to fill our vacant properties,” Ms Ritchie said.

“And like other housing providers, we have seen an increase in the demand for temporary housing for people without a home during the pandemic. We are managing our vacancies and working with our peers and peak bodies in the sector to provide longer-term housing for customers who would otherwise be homeless,” she said.

“As restrictions ease, and a ‘new normal’ ensues, Hume will continue to pro-actively manage our business continuity processes to ensure we remain a viable business while putting our customer at the centre of everything we do.”