Published: 13 September 2013
C.H.F.V Conference 15/8/2013.
Conference theme - ‘New Building Blocks (Growth of Community Housing).
*Important Points for the Sector:
1. The main point made by the Chair of CHFV, John McInerney, in his opening remarks, was that the sector’s primary purpose should be to build a better Housing system. The essence of Community Housing is not just shelter or a roof over your head, but that secure and affordable housing provides the basis of a good society with good life prospects. The alternative, i.e if Community Housing(C.H) is not provided, and the sector is not encouraged to grow, all the negative and undesirable elements of society then tend to flourish.
2. Social Housing Stock Transfers – ‘Piecing the Jigsaw together.’
Ross Hamilton, a partner of Ernst&Young, and the Real Estate Advisory Service group, said that the aim of Federal and State govts’ is to grow the Community Housing sector to 35% of total Social Housing stock in the next 5-6 years, in two ways :- (i) Asset Management Transfers i.e taking on existing tenants, (ii) Freehold (Title) Transfers, with ‘full obligations’ passed on to the C.H Provider.
He sees the sector as having the capacity to achieve this, but puts 2 provisos: (i) Smaller C.H.P’s, e.g Co-ops with less than 30 properties, need to ‘move up the scale’ in a management and financial sense, to be ready to take on management of transferred Public Housing (P.H) tenants.
(ii) Larger more ‘commercially oriented’ CHP’s, e.g CEHL, Port Philip, Haven etc. would be more readily able to take on ‘bulk transfers’, whereas the smaller CHP’s e.g Housing Co-ops, would be better suited to ‘progressive absorption’ i.e measured growth in successive stages over 5-6 years.
3. “Not-For-Profits in Partnership” – The basics for building a stronger future.
David Crosbie, CEO, Community Council of Australia (CCA), said that, on the positive side, the NFP sector has grown by more than 5% over the last 7years, and employs 1 million people in Australia, generates total revenue of approx $100 Billion, and is therefore a significant part of our nation’s productivity.
On the negative side, the sector is 30% Govt.funded, but Govt. revenues are generally falling, while public demand for services is increasing. Also, public donations and philanthropy, according to A.T.O figures, is down by about 10%, since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008, started to affect peoples’ super and long-term savings.
The key issues, with regard to the future of NFP’s, are :-
(i) The way Govt’s and the public invest in the sector, by increasingly looking to leverage investment in social issues, e.g * Social Investment Bonds (N.S.W) , * Social Development Enterprise Investment Funds ( SDEIF’s), etc.
(ii) The sector has to remain committed to ‘core values’ i.e dignity, courage, respect, ‘meaning’, responsibility, and not accept imposed change that is detrimental, e.g a Bedroom Tax, or forced Tenant relocations.
(iii) A better and creative national approach is needed, for the use of Super funds being able to invest a small but ‘dedicated’ proportion of their capital into the NFP sector, particularly into Social and Community Housing. Such a change of thinking would require some legislative changes to the Super Fund laws, (Rules and Regulations).
** Relevant Points for South East Housing Co-op ( SEHC ):
1. The Future Growth of Community Housing.
The Housing Minister, Wendy Lovell, and the Chair of CHFV, John McInerny, agree that the optimum figure for private home ownership in Victoria, is 70% of all housing, but they have a different opinion on what the other 30% should be. The CHFV have a clear vision that most of that 30% should be targeted for Social Housing, and particularly for community managed, affordable rental housing, available to a range of low-income tenants.
The Minister, however, does not believe that the 30% can be all Social Housing. She has said that the Govt’s priority is ‘High Needs’ people, such as homeless youth that are now accommodated in the Youth Foyers projects Glen Waverley Broadmeadows, Ballarat and Shepparton.
We agree that these are worthy examples of good use of Govt. funds, but this is just a small part of the overall ‘need’ for housing. The proper solution to housing shortages can only ever be by investing, in multiple and creative ways, in the purchase and building of more community housing, which is properly targeted and properly managed by proven, experienced C.H providers, such as Rental Housing Co-ops like South East Housing (SEHC).
2. Bedroom Tax / Levy.
There are possibly 70% of SEHC properties, i.e approx 100 houses, that in 5-10 years time, will be occupied by single older tenants who have raised their families, and will have some spare bedrooms. The majority of these people have struggled for years to make ends meet, while living successfully as a part of their local communities.
In 2010-11, several Co-op members were in conflict and unrest with the previous Co-op management, over the now defunct and intrusive ‘backyard’ leases, an issue which necessitated the intervention of the Housing Registrar, and took many months to resolve to members’ satisfaction.These member tenants have declared they do not want to be uprooted, and neither can they afford to pay extra rent in these times of increasingly higher living costs.
As the Chair of CHFV said in his closing remarks, the focus long-term must be about addressing the real need for new housing stock, and the benefits for tenants, not just a short-term fix like a Bedroom Tax, which unfairly penalises an ageing group of settled community housing tenants. As he eloquently said, ..” If the roof is leaking, you have to fix the roof, not move buckets around.”