Housing Matters – November 2018

CEO Report

At the Sydney Policy Lab on Friday 16 November 2018, Joseph Stiglitz spoke wise words on inequality and its negative effect on both individuals and the wider economy. While it wasn’t a specifically housing focused event; there was more on education and employment outcomes, one thing that struck me was the reference to locational disadvantage and how poorer neighbourhoods usually end up with poorer schools and other facilities, reinforcing inequality. An excellent argument for building social and affordable housing mixed in with market housing.

And closer to home the Productivity Commission’s recent research on inequality well summarised in this Conversation article clearly illustrates ‘that in the decades ahead we will need both policies that generate economic growth and policies that ensure its well spread’.

And housing that is secure and affordable is one way to ensure that the benefits of growth are well spread. Another report – this time from AHURI, showed just how far behind we have slipped in providing this vital infrastructure. In NSW we need 212,000 new social housing properties over the next 20 years to meet the current shortfall and meet the needs of people in housing stress as the State’s economy and population grows.

The study by RMIT and UNSW researchers shows that NSW accounts for 30% of social housing need in Australia, with 141,000 new properties needed in Sydney, and 72,000 in regional NSW by 2036 to address the current shortage and meet the future needs of people who are homeless and renters on very low incomes paying more than 30% of their earnings on housing costs.

This means we need growth and while there are understandable concerns about ‘overdevelopment’  we need to have a more in-depth, positive discussion about what this growth should look like and its benefits and challenges. Without growth we face the prospect of more lower income households priced out of suburbs where they have lived for years, more homelessness and ultimately greater disadvantage. Its why CHIA NSW will be working with our colleagues in the not for profit sector, private industry and communities, and government, to ensure we get policies and practice that deliver equitable, sustainable and liveable growth.

‘Housing will be a national priority for Labor’: Bill Shorten sets out Labor’s housing policy at the national CHIA AGM

– Deborah Georgiou reporting.

The Hon Bill Shorten, Leader of the Federal Opposition Labor Party, addressed over 150 members of the community housing industry and industry supporters at the CHIA AGM on the 20 November. To the considerable excitement of everyone in the room  he announced that housing is a ‘national priority for Labor’ and that he wanted secure and affordable housing to be ‘front and centre’ of the debate for the next decade and beyond and that.

Bill Shorten, Leader of the Labor Party, addressing the national CHIA AGM

Mr Shorten confirmed Labor’s commitment to its negative gearing and capital gains discount policies, stating that he wanted to ensure a fairer housing system. He went onto say he considers housing to be essential infrastructure and appeared to recognise that a safe, secure affordable home enables people to get and keep jobs.

Mr Shorten highlighted the housing issues facing many Australians which our members want to help solve – women and children experiencing domestic and family violence, the growing numbers of homeless older women and the significant shortfall in housing needed for Aboriginal people. He also highlighted the issues for people with disability, and for those waiting for social housing as well as families renting unsustainably in the private rental sector or those he described as ‘people living life on that thin, unforgiving margin’.

Bill Shorten, Senator Doug Cameron, Michael Lennon Chair of CHIA, and Kate Colvin, Spokesperson for the Everybody’s Home Campaign

Some of the key messages for the audience were that Labor wants to put community housing and affordable housing on the agenda for the next election and that this needs to start with a national plan. Mr Shorten said that he would be making a major speech about Labor’s housing policy platform later this year and stated that he was committed to dealing with the funding gap to ensure investment in housing for key workers and the working poor.

Mr Shorten ended his address with the statement that nothing is more fundamental that the right of every Australian to have a roof over their head.

Mr Shorten was followed by the Hon Doug Cameron, Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness who talked about the work of Professor Duncan McLennan, which many CHIA NSW members contributed to, in providing evidence about the role that housing plays in delivering economic productivity.

Doug was clear that the community housing sector is the answer in the long term to delivering vibrant communities across the country. He is particularly keen to get Super funds to invest in Australian affordable housing, as they already do overseas. Senator Cameron said he was meeting with the Super Fund CEOs to press this point with them.

Senator Cameron confirmed that a Labor Government would have a housing and homelessness Minister probably reporting to an infrastructure minister or the Treasurer. They will re-establish a National Housing Supply Council and ensure that the Not for Profit sector has a voice.

CHIA NSW acknowledges that the current government has set the ball rolling with the introduction of the National Housing Finance Investment Corporation (the NHFIC). What we need now is a long term investment to address the shortfalls in social (and affordable) housing illustrated in the AHURI report mentioned above. To do this we need all sides of government to commit to a long term funding program.

The AGM also saw Michael Lennon, Chair of CHIA, set out the new CHIA National Pan which has four main goals and we would say a blue print for a government strategy:

  1. enough housing to meet Australia’s needs
  2. housing that is affordable for renters and home-buyers on low to moderate incomes
  3. a national housing market that is efficient
  4. a diverse housing profile that suits people at different stages of life.

The CHIA National Plan Plan can be found here.

The Good Growth Alliance Launches

On a windy Sydney morning CHIA NSW joined the Property Council, Homelessness NSW, the Committee for Sydney, Shelter NSW and the Sydney Business Chamber to launch its 10 Proposals for a better Sydney and a stronger NSW.

With expert (and pro bono) facilitation from Elton Consulting the somewhat diverse band was able to reach consensus on a range of proposals to support ‘good growth’. In this scenario the benefits that come from growth and development are spread to all sectors of the community.

They include building on the Government’s current initiatives, notably the 30 minute city concept, directly engaging communities in the decisions that are made and addressing where infrastructure isn’t keeping pace with demand. Developing an evidence based and funded strategy to deliver sufficient housing of the right type and price points across the State is critical.

The alliance will continue to collaborate on prosecuting these proposals – read the them here

SHMT ‘goes live’ for CHL and SCCH on the south and mid north coasts of NSW

In October and November the first two community housing providers took on the management of public housing tenancies under the Social Housing Management Transfer Program (SHMT). We asked Alex Pontello and Lucy Burgmann, the people in the hot seats, to take some time out of their incredibly hectic schedules to talk to us about how it has gone.

Southern Cross Community Housing

On the 22 October Southern Cross Community Housing received over 960 transferred public housing properties in Shoalhaven and their CEO Alex Pontello, shared with us what it was like to be the first provider to take on management under the SHMT program.

What were your main challenges heading into the transfer?

We really wanted to get the transition and implementation right and spent a lot of time thinking about what the transfer would mean in terms of our service and our community. FACS was keen for us to adopt a standardised implementation plan but we knew that local planning to meet local circumstances was the right way to go. There were also a number of governance groups set up by FACS to support implementation. This stretched our staff resources and the groups didn’t seem to be very joined up, so often we had to make the links within our own service.

We were worried about some of new business areas we were entering into, in particular managing PRA and the PRA budget. Information about walk in traffic for PRA seemed to be different depending on who was spoken to. We are seeing nearly double the amount of people than was suggested by FACS and are now waiting to see how the numbers settle down in the next few weeks to understand what the longer term financial and resource impact might be.

We were worried also about how the tenants were going to react – would they sign up to the new payment arrangements for collecting CRA?  We challenged FACS around allowing us to door knock and meet all of the new tenants face to face before the transfer and this made a huge difference. We had also built some really good relationships with the local public housing community, inviting them to our 2017 Xmas party which was great success. We also offered an incentive payment of $80 which we think helped! We only had three tenants unsigned at ‘go live’.

The maintenance arrangements under the SHMT contract are also tricky and we raised lots of issues in the run up to the transfer. Our approach to working on these issues was to be tenacious, to keep working on them with government and to try to help local LAHC staff to understand the realities of running a housing business.

What parts of the transfer were easier for you?

SCCH is the only generalist community housing provider operating in the Shoalhaven and this means we are already part of the local service system. We know the other organisations in our area and have been working with them for years. There are great opportunities in relation to the service system – we now have a leadership role and can look to change what isn’t working. We want the service system in the Shoalhaven to be really productive and focused on tenant and community outcomes.

How do the staff feel?

Our staff are very happy to have finally got going. Being the first provider to go live has been a bonus as our staff really want to start fixing problems and delivering services – it’s now about what we do, not FACS, and it’s not that hard!

We also know we have to support our staff – this is significant growth for the organisation and it will take time to build tenant trust.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how does the organisation feel?

We are so pleased to be doing this – we are at a 10 on that scale! We know that this transfer will enable us to deliver the services that the community in Nowra deserves, and also we will have some leverage now to work with FACS and LAHC to develop a comprehensive future plan for the social housing portfolio in the Shoalhaven.

Community Housing Ltd.

On the mid north coast, CHL has taken on around 1,400 new tenancies under the transfer program in Port Macquarie, Kempsey and Nambucca Heads. Lucy Burgmann, CHL’s State Manager gave us an insight into what they thought the risks were going to be, what they really were, and how they dealt with them.

What was your biggest fear heading into the transfer?

Our concerns shifted over the course of the build up to transfer – we started being really worried about what tenants thought, and how they felt – we really wanted to make sure we were having the right conversations with tenants but we weren’t able to talk to them until quite late in the implementation. But our fears weren’t realised as when we did start to communicate with tenants it went really well and people had more questions for us than concerns. I think it helped that CHL was already known on the mid north coast.

The other challenge that we needed to tackle was the new areas of work we are taking on – access and demand, which we are calling housing options, and service system co-ordination. The other things like tenancy and asset management are our core business – we know how to do them but the rest is unknown territory for CHL in NSW and we really needed to think about how to get it right and to be prepared for the transition.

How did you respond to those challenges?

We responded to the challenges in a number of key ways – developing an effective staffing structure and having specific roles in that structure for managing TA and PRA. We want to be able to guide people to the right housing option, so they make the right choice for them. We decided to ‘staff this area up’ and to look to get the right people in these roles.

We also decided to resource support co-ordination really well from the outset. We started working with our service partners as early as possible and focused on gathering intelligence from them about what was happening and they thought was needed.

CHL has opened two new offices centrally located in both in Kempsey and Port Macquarie. The office in Kempsey is new for CHL and means we can offer face to face housing options services in the community which hasn’t been done before by FACS. This means a really big shift in the service offering in Kempsey which has been well received by our service partners.

Our last major challenge was being ready for the huge increase in transactional activity – we have increased by 50% in terms of tenancies in the mid north coast so our systems had to be ready and able to operate effectively – we spent a lot of time testing our systems to make sure they were fit for purpose when the transition happened

How do staff feel?

CHL staff are really excited by the transfer. We carried out really careful recruitment and are now a really big employer able to offer quite senior positions in local leadership roles – this means we can attract a good calibre of applicant and exceptional people applied for the positions.

One of the other challenges in the transition was the timing of availability for FACS staff transferring to new roles with CHL. They were not able to join us until literally the day the transfer occurred. To help manage this, all staff, including those transferring from FACS, received PRA training from CHIA NSW, and CHL in house training focused on our business systems, our values and what we mean by ‘quality customer service’, ahead of the transfer.

This approach really helped to build the relationship between old and new staff, and gave them confidence in the run up to go live and I would like to acknowledge the generosity of local FACS staff in supporting the transition.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how does the organisation feel?

We are at ‘11’ – we had two office openings attended by the community, staff and local services and we had a great time. We had smoking ceremony in Kempsey and a local Aboriginal artist helped us record our handprints for an office mural to symbolise ‘belonging’. In Port Macquarie we built a ‘green wall’ and everyone wrote messages on the pots to show that we’re ‘growing together’.

We have learnt from many projects we have done that whatever community we work with you have to do things differently based on the local community and we are just so proud of having this opportunity to play a positive part in the life of the mid north coast.

Planting new shoots in Port Macquarie and a sea of hands in Kempsey


Aboriginal Outcomes workshops – coming to you soon

New Aboriginal Partnerships Specialist Adam Hansen has this update on the Aboriginal Outcomes work and puts out an invitation re-invigorate the Aboriginal Staff network.

What a whirlwind first month or so it has been for me since I came on board as the new Aboriginal Partnerships Specialist at CHIA NSW and I have really enjoyed myself, learning very quickly about the sector and helping support the implementation of the Aboriginal Outcomes Strategy in the Community Housing sector.

I have been out and about and meeting as many CHPs as I can and introducing myself and asking how I can help support CHPs to implement the Aboriginal Outcomes Strategy. The first few things I have been working on are the location of Aboriginal Outcomes and Cultural Competence workshops for CHPs and their staff and consulting about the best way to re-energise the Aboriginal staff network.

Calling for Expressions of Interest to have an Aboriginal Outcomes and Cultural Competency workshop in your area

The CHPs I have spoken to about Cultural Competency training have been really positive and it’s something that CHPs really want support around and it has been really interesting and positive helping CHPs in this space.  I have one workshop likely to go ahead before Christmas.  If you would like to request a workshop in your area before Christmas or early in the New Year, please drop me a line at adamH@communityhousing.org.au .  If you can arrange a workshop with 2 or 3 CHPs in one location that would be a big help and I will be able to prioritise these sessions.

Setting the direction for Aboriginal Outcomes in the sector

On Wednesday, November the 7th a consultation meeting was held at CHIA NSW to help me consult on the Aboriginal Outcomes work plan and I am really appreciative of everyone who contributed to my work plan. FACS, AHO, ACHIA and a selection of CHPs were represented at the consultation meeting.  The work plan had already included the following:

  • Consult with key stakeholders
  • Develop reference group
  • Schedule initial program of regional events
  • Regional Connection Workshops
  • Analyse Aboriginal satisfaction data

And participants made a number of excellent suggestions including

  • Reintroducing an Aboriginal stream at CHIA Exchange,
  • Running Virtual Classroom / webinar sessions of Aboriginal cultural competence
  • Seeking internship for Indigenous Students,
  • Supporting CHPs to recruit and retain Aboriginal staff
  • Connecting CHPs with ACHPs and re-establishing the Aboriginal Staff Network.

CHIA NSW will be working on all of these suggestions across the next year, so please get in touch if you would like more information on any of these topics.

Re-energising the Aboriginal Staff Network

The Aboriginal Staff Network will play an important role in the sector in future.  I would like to hold a catch-up event with Aboriginal staff from across the sector before the end of the year. The idea is to have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff from across the sector to meet up to discuss the Aboriginal Outcomes Strategy and to then a lunch to finish the day off. Again, I am hoping to do this before the end of year and to make it a Christmas event and moving forward to amp this up heading into 2019.

If you or any of your staff would like to be involved in the Aboriginal Staff network, please drop me a line at adamH@communityhousing.org.au to let me know.

Solving homelessness – is part of the solution in our backyards?

This article has been provided by Wentworth Community Housing

In the absence of large pipelines of affordable or social housing we brought a group together through our cross sector Heading Home collaboration to see what ideas we could come up with in the local community to grow more affordable rental housing.

Given our region’s larger block sizes and majority private homeownership, combined with the boom in small home design, we wondered if we could grow a market of small homes which would provide a lower cost entry point into the rental market. Our exploratory question was, if we had good marketing to get to our target group and if we made it easy with an Expo – would there be interest?

The inaugural Garden Flat Expo was held on Saturday 10 November at Springwood and was a great success with a crowd of over 500 people coming through the Expo over the day. With NSW experiencing an increase of 37% in homelessness – the highest increase of any State or Territory in Australia (2016 ABS Census), the Expo aims to increase low-cost permanent rental housing across the Blue Mountains Nepean region.

Designed to be built at low cost in backyards, garden flats of around 20-25m2 provide an income for homeowners and tackle the shortage of low-cost permanent housing in our communities. Every garden flat can help with the affordable housing crisis and at the same time it can provide an income stream for homeowners.

For homeowners interested in building a garden flat, the Expo was designed as a one-stop-shop with council planners, bushfire consultants, banks and mortgage brokers and a number of builders and product suppliers. A unique aspect of the Expo was Wentworth’s offering of a limited number of incentive packages for homeowners who are willing to offer their garden flat to someone facing homelessness.

The event clearly showed there is community appetite for Garden Flats and that some homeowners are willing to be part of the solution to homelessness.  Nearly 80 people provided their contact details to stay in touch and get further information about garden flats. A survey administered on the day captured 79 responses – 81% of people rated the day very highly and 43 people are highly likely to build a garden flat with 44% of them highly likely to rent it to someone who has been homeless. A sample of the feedback from the public:

Very valuable advice for someone who wants to do something but doesn’t know where to start!

Thanks, this was a really fantastic expo with lots of great solutions to housing injustice and insecurity. Really like the staff too!

Really important project bringing community together and communities looking after themselves.

The event was organised by Wentworth Community Housing in partnership with Heading Home and support from Blue Mountains City Council and Penrith City Council.



Working with Perpetrators of DFV – toolkit now available

Our latest resource for community housing providers Working with Perpetrators of Domestic and Family Violence: a toolkit to support community housing providers in NSW is now available.

The toolkit was developed by Sue Cripps and is a companion to the Strengthening Practice in Responding to Domestic and Family Violence Toolkit.

Community housing providers in NSW are often at the front line dealing with the fallout of domestic and family violence. Not only do providers need to keep women experiencing family violence and their children safe, they often also have to manage the housing situation of both the victims and the perpetrators.

Launched by The Honourable Pru Goward, Minister for Social Housing and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at NSW Parliament, this is the first resource of its kind targeted to social and affordable housing landlords in Australia.

The event included a panel discussion with representatives from No To Violence, the NRLs Voice Against Violence program, Kempsey Families Inc as well as Sue Cripps toolkit author. Also present was the NSW Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Jenny Aitchison.

Training is available to support the implementation of the toolkit in your organisation. Contact Catherine Tracey, Head of Learning and Development catherinet@communityhousing.org.au for more information.

We want to hear from you!

Complete the Domestic and Family Violence toolkit implementation survey, which will be used to inform the update of the toolkit.

Complete the Working with Older Tenants survey and register to attend the Working with Older Tenants consultation workshop, which will help us to understand the issues and challenges facing the sector and inform the development of a practice toolkit.

Tackling the impacts of payday lending and consumer lease providers

CHIA NSW is a member of the NSW Financial Inclusion Network (FIN) along with a range of government and non-government agencies. The aim of the Network is to work towards a more financially inclusive future for NSW and to seek a state-wide approach to financial exclusion.

Social housing tenants are one of the major groups that are impacted on by financial exclusion and one of the ways that this manifests itself is through their dependence on informal means of finance through payday lenders, consumer lease providers and unlicensed financial service providers – sometimes known as ‘fringe credit’. As community housing providers are aware, this often means they get into a cycle of debt that can be devastating.

The NSW FIN in partnership with FCAN (the Financial Counselling Association of NSW) recently submitted information to the current enquiry of the Senate Committee on Credit Financial Services. This submission set out a number of key recommendations for the enquiry, in particular that there should be a legislated cap on interest for all forms of credit, and that these types of credit providers should be removed from Centrepay.

CHIA NSW members provided input to this debate highlighting issues such as tenants applying for part 9 and part 10 debt agreements who believe they are consolidating their debts into one. Many don’t understand they have signed up to a form of insolvency and depending on whether they work or not may need to declare this to their employer.  Also when people sign up to these agreements they don’t realise that 50% of their creditors have to agree and even if they don’t agree the tenant still has to pay the fee which is usually around $1,950.

Community housing providers also commented on the impact of pay day lending where if tenants miss one payment their interest rate can increase dramatically. They pointed out that private personal budget services were not as effective as not for profit financial counselling services who don’t charge for their service and are much more effective at getting creditors to reduce, or freeze, their rates.

The NSW FIN submission can be found here and the Senate Enquiry is due to report in February 2019.

Office of Environment and Heritage Appliance Replacement Offer – important updates

You can help households vulnerable to energy bill stress by letting them know about the Office of Environment and Heritage’s (OEH) Appliance Replacement Offer.

This offer has now reached over 28,000 households, providing discounts of 40-50% on new energy efficient fridges and TVs when replacing old inefficient models. These households are now enjoying estimated total bill savings of over $4.47 million.

Order your FREE flyers

You can order free program flyers, posters, and energy saving top tips flyers HERE.

The Marketing Toolkit

This toolkit has been updated with all the latest information you need to share with your community – including case studies and social media tiles. ACCESS IT HERE.

No customer is too remote

Delivery is now guaranteed to anywhere in NSW for a discounted fee of no more than $85. Eligible customers can apply online to have their fridge or television delivered and installed, and their old one removed and recycled.

New appliance videos now available!

Detailed videos demonstrating the features and benefits of each appliance are now available on our website. This makes it easier for households to make the right choice for their family.

Visit www.energysaver.nsw.gov.au/appliance for more information.

A place to call home – Ten steps to making a home for everyone in our land

The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council is the latest organisation to make housing a top priority through publication of the Catholic Bishop’s Social Justice Statement for 2018/19. The Statement argues that ‘it is time for Australia to reassert the value of housing as a basic human right’ and outlines actions that all levels of government, and the Church itself, can take.

The calls for government action are entirely consistent with the community sector’s including:

  • Greater security of tenure
  • Increasing benefits such as Commonwealth Rental Assistance so they are consistent with the cost of living
  • Increasing social and community housing – though we would argue more than cooperation and planning mechanisms is needed to fix this one
  • Addressing the structural issues – such as taxes and concessions that drive up prices.

The Church is also recognising the ways its community can directly contribute to solving housing unaffordability and the Australian Catholic Housing Alliance (ACHA) has the task ‘to find ways of diverting unused or under-used Church property towards affordable housing’. The ACHA will actively support ‘dioceses considering new uses for Church property, and provides information and advice about financing and partnership models’. As the recent AHURI report on housing as infrastructure demonstrates, in many locations the cost of land can make up a significant part of the cost of delivering new housing.

Here there is an important opportunity for parishes and dioceses. As a Church we can support the vision of ACHA by promoting its work within the agencies of various dioceses and by considering how Church land, buildings and other property could be used for low-cost housing projects.  There is a vital role here for finance and property managers.

New Industry Development Strategy Projects in 2018: Improving access to industry data

CHIA NSW is starting work on two new Industry Development Strategy projects which are both focused on improving access to data about the community housing industry.

The first project is to develop a data dashboard for our website.  If you’ve ever tried to find out anything about the community housing industry in NSW, you will know that data is spread across a range of sources. Individual community housing providers include data on their operations on their websites and in annual reports, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Government Productivity Commission publish data about households and tenant satisfaction and the Registrar of Community Housing (NSW) reports data about property assets.

This project will take the data from these disparate sources and create a data dashboard for the industry, presenting data in a compelling and interactive way through the CHIA NSW site.

The second project will develop additional, industry relevant value for money indicators.  Demonstrating value for money and making genuine robust comparisons between different parts of the social housing system has been a longstanding challenge for our industry.

This project will build on AHURI’s cost effectiveness work and the data presented in House Keys.  It will develop an enhanced suite of indicators that are regarded as priorities by the sector and are not currently collected.  Improved value for money indicators will help the industry to measure efficiency and effectiveness consistently, bringing data about tenant satisfaction, outcomes and costs.

Both of these projects are due to be delivered by 30 June 2019.  If you are interested in either of the projects and would like to be involved, or would just like more information please contact Adam West (adamw@communityhousing.org.au) or Tom Kehoe (tomk@communityhousing.org.au).

In the Media

‘Sydney’s not full’: Alliance formed to combat anti-population push -26 November, 2018