This article first appeared in CHIA’s eNews, April 2022

Since 2014, when Melbourne based community housing organisation, Launch Housing founded HomeGround Real Estate agency, there has been a steady increase in the number and geographical range of social enterprise real estate agencies. The HomeGround ‘brand’ itself has expanded with CHC operating an agency in Canberra and Bridge Housing Ltd in Sydney. In NSW, Pacific Link and Evolve Housing established, respectively Key2 Realty in Gosford and, Echo Realty in Sydney. In Queensland, Coast to Bay founded Purpose Real Estate and BHC, set up Elevate Residential. Urban Choices part of Housing Choices Australia manages homes in Melbourne.

So, what are social enterprise real estate agencies? They operate like any others on the market, except that they usually owned and operated by not-for-profit community housing organisations (CHOs). While there are differences between them, most are focused exclusively on managing privately owned investment properties. They draw on CHOs’ property management experience and service ethos, marrying that with a commitment to invest profits back into their communities. So, property owners not only get a quality service but also know they are contributing to local community programs.

Ashleigh Williams, Business Manager of Key2 Realty, provides one example of what this means in practice, “Our profits are directed to three charitable programs operated by Pacific Link Housing for those less fortunate, including a learner driver program, education scholarship program and a sports and wellbeing initiative for kids. ”And, it has proved popular as she noted. “We have received immense support from investment property owners and have grown to manage over 200 properties in less than three years which is a significant achievement.”

Recognition of the value add social enterprise real estate agencies bring is well illustrated by HomeGround Real Estate receiving the 2021 REIV Award for Excellence Community Service.  In one year, HomeGround provided over $550,000 in contributions to its CHO partner’s, (Launch Housing) operating income. As Manager of HomeGround Real Estate, Samantha Gatherum-Goss said, ‘While the bulk of this income was secured through property management fees, HomeGround’s generous, community minded rental providers have also made direct donations to Launch Housing’s fundraising efforts’.

As Queensland’s regional rental market tightens and homelessness soars, the state’s emerging social enterprise real estate sector has a wider role to play. Andrew Elvin, CEO from Coast2Bay Housing Group says, ‘We know more properties are needed in the rental market to meet community needs. We operate Purpose Real Estate from Caboolture to Gympie offering full property and tenancy management services. The key difference is that all our profit goes to building more housing for people doing it tough’.

Social enterprise real estate agencies can often bring together organisations that headlease residential properties and offer property investors and developers long-term leases. These organisations may include disability support services, not-for-profit support agencies and community housing providers. For the ethical property investor, these agencies are also uniquely positioned to offer tax breaks such as the Capital Gains Tax Discount (CGTD) for affordable housing, which can reduce CGT by an extra 10%.

Ian Lynch, CEO at Pacific Link Housing, which operates Key2Realty, emphasised the advantages of using a social enterprise real estate agency for property developers who have affordable rental obligations (for example that generated through the planning system, where a DA obliges the provision of affordable rental housing and usually a CHO to be the managing agent). He said, ‘We are very familiar with this type of housing – its our BAU.  We can offer simplicity along with the expertise – end to end property management, including everything from high-end market rate properties, affordable housing and potentially headleases, that can all sit within the one completed development/build’.

Horizon Housing Realty(HHR) is a not for profit real estate social enterprize operating in Queensland, NSW, SA and WA. HHR follows suit in that profits are distributed to its parent company CHL to deliver more social housing outcomes. It also drives other initiatives that support social and affordable housing. HHR can deliver the ATO’s 60% CGT exemption for affordable housing products and is delivering large scale BTR.Listed below are the websites for of the leading social enterprise real estate agencies operating in property markets around the country: