Community Housing – innovators lead the way

There is no doubt about the need for more social housing to be constructed in Victoria. Victoria’s new combined waiting list for social housing, the Victorian Housing Register, is but one recent indicator of what many have known for so long – the desperate need for homes for those who cannot currently provide for themselves in the private market.

What is less widely known is that there are innovators in the community housing space who are not waiting for government to construct or fund more social housing. Rather than waiting for funding for traditional projects to simply ‘buy land and build dwellings’, we are seeing more and more entities use alternative levers to try and tackle the housing crisis.

Recent innovations we have seen and/or helped our clients with include:

  • Development rights to construct social housing apartments above a local government council car park. Council got its car park back (minus a few spaces) and a host of new housing was delivered without any land cost.
  • Placing transportable homes on government land reserved for future roads. Not only have these homes been provided with no material land cost, but they can be deployed elsewhere once the time comes to finally build that road extension or freeway.
  • Enlisting local churches to provide, on a rostered basis, overnight shelter for rough sleepers during the winter months. These churches have only been too happy to make use of their buildings for those in need, and the program is now expanding into other areas as more churches see this opportunity to serve.
  • Seeking to enable the placement of investment property into affordable housing by obtaining a tax ruling from the Australian Tax Office that the owner could claim a tax deduction for the difference between the property’s market rent and the rent actually charged.
  • Creating a head lease program which allows a person leaving prison to take a formal sublease of a rental property (leased by private investors to the housing provider) in order to build up a rental history to ultimately enable a direct lease in the private rental market.  
  • Housing young people in a motel while the motel owner goes through the long process of seeking a planning permit for it redevelopment.
  • Repurposing a disused aged care facility in order to house 20 women for 2 years while they seek permanent housing.

We are sure that there are also many other organisations out there whose projects are possibly more impressive and innovative than this short list.

We don’t doubt the need for the construction of a huge number of additional long-term dwellings for social housing. The need is real and current. But while we all work towards the delivery of that outcome, we feel that it is important to start asking different questions to try and tackle the social housing crisis in different ways, both to help as many people in need as possible and to maintain our own hope that we will ultimately get on top of this problem.

Here at Moores, we don’t just love answers – we love really good questions. And it’s our pleasure to be working alongside some of the community housing innovators who are starting to ask really good questions. And they’re getting really good answers.

For more information regarding this article, please do not hesitate to contact us.