Together the Directors and CEO developed the SouthEast 2017-2020 Strategic Plan to guide the co-operative’s actions over the next three years as it strives to achieve its mission.
Affordable Housing and Strategic Growth
With affordable housing being mentioned almost daily in the media, it seems that politicians at all levels of government have finally acknowledged there is a problem – and the problem is the demand for affordable housing far outweighs supply. This acknowledgement should provide opportunities for organisations such as SouthEast to collaborate with government (and others) to play its part in increasing Victoria’s affordable housing stock. Exciting times lay ahead – however, along with this excitement comes uncertainty for SouthEast. Will the Victorian government be able to deliver on its proposals for increased funding? Will co-ops such as ours be able to access this funding? What role will local governments play? How and when will initiatives flow from the Federal government, and how will we capitalise on these? In this environment of change and uncertainty it is obvious that developing strategies and making plans is challenging.
Maintaining SouthEast’s ‘Strategic Agility’
Co-op members and Directors desire growth in both member numbers and the property portfolio. This is also the central tenet of our mission. One way that this growth could quickly be achieved is by borrowing against the equity we currently have in the fourteen properties owned by SouthEast to purchase more properties, and then paying these funds back over time. Whilst this would most certainly achieve some growth in the short term, it would also prevent the co-op from achieving future growth until the debt incurred had been significantly reduced. In the interim, any number of opportunities to collaborate with government to increase affordable housing stock may have presented themselves, and we would not have been able to leverage these because of a lack of cash. Therefore, Directors have decided not to lock the co-op in to this safe but restrictive growth strategy now. Instead, the Board has opted to maintain the co-op’s “strategic agility”. This means that current housing stock will remain unencumbered and retained surpluses will stay in the bank until we see what eventuates from the various initiatives being discussed at Federal, State, and local government levels. This strategy will see the co-op maintain its capacity to seize opportunities as and when they arise – as it did in 2016 when the Victorian government’s Rapid Housing Assistance Fund (Family Violence) was announced.
This is not a ‘do nothing’ strategy. Rather, it is a strategy that involves being constantly on the lookout for funding or partnership opportunities, and then acting upon these opportunities. The Board and the CEO will, as part of the Board’s Work Plan over the year, regularly review what opportunities exist and what we can do by leveraging equity and accessing cash in the form of retained surpluses. If at any stage it appears that the only viable growth strategy is to borrow against equity then this will go to the top of the list; but at this stage, for all the reasons listed above, it is not the co-op’s first strategic option.
Maintaining Visibility and Credibility
The Board and management of SouthEast acknowledge the importance of maintaining the visibility and credibility of the co-op. Most of this work is undertaken by the CEO, whose role is to liaise with government and the community. By developing networks and working with key stakeholders, SouthEast seeks to further establish its credibility as an ethical, well run co-op that is poised for growth.