OUTSIDE OUR SECTOR, PEOPLE’S UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT WE DO AS A COMMUNITY HOUSING PROVIDER IS RELATIVELY LOW. THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE.
The starkest expression of the housing affordability crisis in Australia is the 120,000+ people who sleep rough every night on the streets of our major cities and towns. The bigger picture - the result of decades of inaction and under-investment in public and social housing – is more alarming and reaches much deeper into our communities.
The affordable housing crisis has hit the most vulnerable in our society the hardest - people living with a disability, women and children fleeing family violence, older people and young people. For many decades, the community housing sector has quietly supported these groups, alongside the public housing sector.
In the last decade the number of people unable to afford decent housing in the private market place has escalated dramatically. Waiting times for public housing are decades long, so not-for-profit community housing providers, like us, have stepped in and stepped up to assist.
Since we commenced operations as the Housing Choices Australia group in 2008, we have developed into a large scale, national, commercially competent and innovative property development and management group. We provide cost-efficient high-quality social and affordable housing options for the growing numbers of low to middle income people unable to find accommodation in the public or private housing markets.
For us to fulfil our vision and mission, our commercial capabilities must match, or better, our not-for-profit, as well as for-profit peers. It is important that we maintain and build further on our existing reputation as a very safe pair of hands, financially strong and viable, well-governed and capable of great partnerships.
To a large extent we are supported by public funds, via capital funding related to delivery of projects in partnership or on behalf of governments - Local, State or Commonwealth. We also receive contributions in the form of debt, proceeds from asset divestments, philanthropic donations and negotiated land from local Councils. Rental income from housing stock transfers is utilised to generate additional contributions to housing supply, specifically in Tasmania and South Australia. We receive rental income our from social and affordable tenancies, either independently or through government rent subsidies and other tenancy supports.
Our not-for-profit structure provides us with tax benefits and some unique opportunities to deliver funding, financing and other advantages that can be incorporated into our project finance modelling, to deliver flexibility and significant cost-efficiencies to development projects. Financial benefits are available to us as a housing association from: acquisitions of 50-70% below certified market valuations, or ‘at cost’; GST refunds via acquisitions using taxable supply Contracts of Sale (COS) in lieu of a margin scheme COS; and potential realisable funds from future sales, once tenure requirements are met.
The approach we take to our many development and other partnerships is commercial, flexible and innovative to determine optimal financial conditions and returns to all partners, all the while ensuring the needs of residents are maximised through collaborative relationships with partners, as well as good and sustainable design and construction.
We constantly seek out opportunities to create co-investment partnerships which unlock opportunities and deliver high quality homes and services for residents, and best practice deliverables to our partners.
We currently have active partnerships with over 200 different groups in four states. These relationships are regularly surveyed and evaluated.
We actively pursue projects in partnership with property developers, fund managers and finance institutions, governments and other groups, including other community housing providers and support service partners.