Published: 19 March 2014
Between 30 October and 1 November 2013 Chairperson Shirley Faram, Deputy Secretary Jan Dickson, Director Greg Nolan and General Manager Ian McLaren attended the AHURI National Housing Conference. Greg Nolan has prepared a report on the conference.
A.H.U.R.I. National Housing Conference - Adelaide Convention Centre.
Oct 30th – Nov 1st , 2013 “ A New Way Home “
Welcome: The Conference was welcomed to country, of the sacred Ganaa land, by Katrina Power. Katrina pointed out that less than 2% of indigenous Australians own their own homes, and that they don’t want a ‘new way home’, but need to be housed in the first place.
Opening Panel :
Bruce Bonyhady, AM - Chair, National Disability Insurance Agency.
Prof. Kath Hulse - Swinburne University of Technology.
Bryan Lipmann, AM -Wintringham Housing Limited.
Warren Mundine - Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce.
Piers Williamson - The Housing Finance Corporation, UK.
Piers Williamson said that the 2 main issues for Community and Social housing:
(1) Blending Public and private finance to achieve better objectives, resulting in good social outcomes.
(2) Clarity about the direction of public policy in Housing in Australia.
He stated that Institutional finance ( Pension and Super funds ) and Credit funds in UK are a ‘better risk’ than banks, and that the domestic economic activity that the housing market generates, is a ‘driving agent’ for securing finance.
The point was also made that there were numerous ideas, possible solutions raised to address housing shortages and economic injustice in Australia, but that there has been no real political agenda for adopting a national housing policy or strategy to address the imbalance.
This was in contrast to other Govt. areas of policy, e.g. the National Disability Insurance Scheme ( NDIS ), environmental policy such as the Carbon Emissions reduction policy, and education sector reforms e.g. the Gonski framework.
Prof. Hulse reiterated that because we are all still talking about “who does what” shows up the failure of housing policy over the long term. She declared that 100,000+ people in Australia were still in ‘housing crisis’, and that at least 15% of all Australians have a struggle to achieve acceptable housing!
Bryan Lipmann said that Wintringham was primarily designed to get ageing homeless people into Aged Care, and there were frustrations about the lack of mainstream ( govt. subsidised ) Aged Care facilities.
Bruce Bonyhady backed up this view by explaining that the word ‘Insurance’ reframed the debate around the National Disability Insurance Scheme ( NDIS ), and that there needed to be a similar reframing of the political language re. Aged Care and the elderly ‘homeless’.
He said that while the ‘economic’ debate was always part of dealing with Govt. that the political conversation needed to focus more on social and community outcomes, and re. housing specifically, where the “bricks and mortar” are coming from.
Bruce also said that Housing Associations and Community providers need to work with the National Disability Insurance Agency ( NDIA ), to come up with ‘alternative investment models’ and/or partnerships, for building Community housing projects that include an allocated number of purpose built units for people with disabilities.
Such alternative investment models for affordable Social housing, need to make the ‘risk return’ profile of any given project more attractive, when compared to commercial real estate or housing construction. He stated that from a total projected NDIS funding of $15 bn., there would be a permanent % or allocation of $550m. p.a. for housing, and that this was ‘locked in’ at least for the next 4 years.
International Keynote Speech :
David Cowans, Group C.E.O - “Places For People” (UK).
David began by stating that the UK was the only country in the world where homeless people are legally entitled to a ‘home’, i.e. some form of shelter. He said that this was vital, because in the UK (pop.63m.), there is a need for 220,000 new dwellings per year, just to cover the predicted growth, or requirement for housing the population.
He said that his approach to ‘customers’ i.e. builders, developers, tenants, local govt. officials, and housing bureaucrats, had 3 main aspects to “Place Making”.
(1) Development - Master planning partnerships and joint ventures, along commercial principles, but at the same time “keeping the social ethos alive”. This is done by having a flexible or broad mix of solutions or types of housing projects, in response to a wide range of social and economic factors or needs, e.g. Shared Equity, Elderly owners, Supported housing, Shared ownership, Equity release, ‘Try before you buy’ schemes, and Market Rent or Affordable Rent projects.
(2) Services - All of these types of projects have a strong focus on ‘services’. The aim is to be flexible, with a range of services, e.g. place management, facilities management, property management, individual client support, and even leisure management.
(3) Access - Access to a wide range of clients (tenants), and access for those clients to a range of housing options. The general goal is that a project can become profitable yet still ‘affordable’, by starting out with a social aim, or benefit to tenants. For example, people who cannot foreseeably afford to buy a home in the commercial real estate market, but are secure in their job employment, could be offered a place in a ‘Market Rent’ project that has the social aim of providing long-term security of tenure, which is not normally a benefit available in the commercial housing market.
The rental income from such a scheme would be sufficiently ‘profitable’ to then cross subsidise other low income ‘affordable rent’ housing projects.
Finally, David suggested that there were 2 or 3 excellent ways to ‘stir up’ the political will that is so hard to arouse for ‘non-profit’ housing.
(1) Do things (projects) that the politicians, local or national, will want to be associated with, popular etc.
(2) Do small examples first ...when they see some concrete results, the debate or discussion often turns from ...” Oh, we couldn’t consider that”, to ...” When can we get that.”
(3) Don’t stay in a narrow range or focus ...it makes it harder to convince the political decision-makers, and easier for them to reject your proposals on just one or two grounds.
Basically, there is a ‘contest of ideology’ between ever spiralling profit and cost based approach of the commercial real estate world, or a flexible and sensible mix of alternative ‘profitable’ projects, cross subsidising other ‘not for profit’ affordable social housing.
If the choice is one of ‘good’ or ‘poor’ social outcomes, the ‘not for profit’ alternative is the clear way of the future.