Page 1909 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 14 May 2013

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by COAG, which are being delivered by housing ministers under the national affordable housing agreement. Housing ministers have agreed that up to 75 per cent of housing stock constructed under stage 2 of the $5.64 billion nation building and jobs plan will be transferred to the community housing providers by 30 July 2014, and that jurisdictions and the commonwealth will develop, over time, a large-scale not-for-profit sector in Australia comprising up to 35 per cent of social housing.

The aim of national reforms is to develop a strong and vibrant community housing sector that can increase choice for tenants, drive improved performance through greater competition—including competition for capital funding—among social housing providers, and support growth in social housing stock through leveraging the $80 billion in social housing assets nationally. They also make it easier for providers to move within jurisdictions, another fillip for the sector.

New organisations that have expertise in other forms of social support and other types of supportive housing are expanding into community housing provision. The commonwealth’s national rental affordability scheme has attracted several large welfare and church organisations for whom social housing has not, to date, been a core part of their business. These organisations bring considerable capability and substantial assets, including land holdings, which could accelerate growth across the sector.

There are now a number of “growth providers” in community housing that have been growing steadily over the past four years and have received a significant boost through the national rental affordability scheme and the transfer of stock funded under the social housing initiative of the nation building economic stimulus plan.

However, the objective of creating a diverse and growing community housing sector will need to be carefully balanced against the risks of transferring title for potentially up to $20 billion of public housing assets to community housing providers nationally. Substantially greater tenancy and asset management responsibility will need to be underpinned by a strong regulatory framework operating in each jurisdiction. The ACT is one of the first jurisdictions in Australia to pass legislation for a regulatory framework, preceded only by Victoria and New South Wales.

The ACT, like other jurisdictions, has grown the community housing sector under the nation building economic stimulus plan. Control of 122 newly constructed units on community facilities land has passed to the community housing sector.

Preceding that period of growth, the ACT transferred $40 million in stock to CHC Affordable Housing, as well as extending a $50 million, and later extended to $70 million, line of credit to that organisation for the express purpose of increasing social housing stock in the ACT. New national providers such as the Salvation Army and Argyle Community Housing have entered the ACT market, resulting in enhanced sector capacity. The sector in the ACT currently manages over 1,000 tenancies.

There is considerable work still to be undertaken both within the ACT and nationally to ensure that the quality of community housing is adequate and that it operates as a viable sector, not reliant on government funding alone to deliver additional properties.

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