News specific to Western Australia.

NHFIC Chair, Brendan Crotty’s presentation to WA Community Housing Providers

27 August 2018
CHIA WA State Manager, Jennie Vartan’s, key take-outs from the presentation

The Vision
• That Community Housing Providers (CHPs), enabled by NHFIC finance, can generate growth in social/affordable housing supply

• Increasing co-operation between the private sector and CHPs – a catalyst for developers and CHPs to work together

The Intent

• To assist CHPs to expand their portfolios through loans with longer terms and lower interest rates

• To measurably increase social/affordable housing

• To improve the financial strength of the CHP sector

• The infrastructure funding will bring forward greenfield and brownfield residential land by addressing the issue that banks are not keen to lend on infrastructure

The Next Few Months’ Work

• Building relationships with CHPs
• Aim to lend $150-250m over 12 months
• Work with the States and service industries to lend $100-200m in infrastructure loans
• Developing good relationships with the property and banking sectors
• Nathan Del Bon appointed as interim CEO
• Well resourced, staff being appointed, starting to motor

Community Housing Provider Loans

• Initial focus expected to be refinancing existing debt
• All CHP debt considered for refinancing, it does not have to be debt arising from development
• Lowest loan size they will consider is $5m
• Straight forward loans, CHPs do not have to worry about the bond raising side of things, NHFIC will then repackage the loans for bond issues, in tranches of $100m
• Happy to fund multi-tenure development if it is part of a scheme generating significant affordable/social housing
• Thinks the demand will be for ten-year loans, but taking soundings on demand for 10 and 20-year loans
• Pricing will be 90 basis points above relevant Commonwealth bond yields, so a 10-year loan will be 3.5% as at the date of the presentation (27 August 2018)
• Credit assessment criteria will focus on interest rate cover, with loan to value less of an issue for loans secured by rental housing
• Interest rate cover could be as low as 1.25% but likely to be around 1.5% for the average CHP
• Tier 1s realistically have slight in built advantage but NHFIC will lend to Tier 2/Tier CHPs in principle
• Put in an expression of interest first to test whether you’d qualify and whether worth your time and effort to put in a full bloodied application
• NHFIC will also advise on receipt of Expressions of Interest, in terms of pointers as to what you need to do to qualify

Infrastructure loans

• Cost will be higher, probably just under bank loans but without the fees and charges
• No refinancing product
• Available when banks will not/cannot lend
• Deals done 3 months vs 6 months with banks
• With bank lending there is still refinance risk at the end of the construction phase, whereas NHFIC can refinance at that stage

JAV

Letter to Community Housing Registrar, WA, 17 September 2018

17 September 2018

Ms Lyn Anderson
Community Housing Registrar
Housing
Department of Communities
99 Plain Street
East Perth
WA 6004

Dear Lyn

Over the past few weeks, a number of Community Housing Providers (CHPs) have contacted CHIA WA and Shelter WA regarding the current re-registration process.

In this context, and given that the 30th September deadline is fast approaching for Registered CHPs to transition to the national framework, CHIA WA and Shelter WA consulted with the sector, including contacting all those listed as still registered under the 2007 system, to obtain a sector-wide view of the process.

At the outset, we would like to stress that a number of respondents said that their overall experience of the Regulatory team was positive. They reported friendly, timely, and structured feedback and that the Regulatory team had been fair, with flexibility to extend deadlines. Several reported that the process improved considerably with the later addition of experienced staff to the team. For the significant number that continued to find the process difficult, we have set out below the main themes of the feedback received, along with recommendations to address their concerns.

1. Overall, smaller organisations and those organisations for whom housing is only a small part, or not the main focus, of their business (large and small) experienced the most difficulty with the process.

The framework is not well suited to complex organisations for which housing is only a small part of their business. In some cases, this has been a deterrent to such organisations registering under the new system. This is a loss to the sector as these are often larger, well financed organisations, with good governance, and it would benefit the whole sector if they became bigger players in housing or serviced a niche market.

Similarly, smaller organisations where management of housing, although important, is secondary to their role in support service delivery found that the focus of the assessment tools, particularly the financial ones, was not well suited to their business.

The feedback was that assessment of these types of organisations was overly comprehensive across the non-housing parts of the business, whilst not being tailored to reflect that these are non-housing areas.

When reviewing the regulatory framework, some thought needs to be given as to how to make the regulation appropriate and proportionate for such organisations.

2. Many found the process cumbersome and time consuming, particularly the financial template which takes a full-time, suitably qualified person, two to four weeks to fill out, depending on the closeness of the organisation’s accounts system to the template.

3. Several CHPs felt that the initial briefings and information did not adequately prepare them for the detail of what was to come. A lot of very specific information requirements only became evident after the process got underway. This created a lot of time pressure which could have been avoided if they had realised the time they would need to allocate to prepare in advance of their allocated timeslot.

4. Many of those going through the process at the end of the financial year reported that the timing was not good. They felt the window allocated to them meant they were being required to stick to a timetable whilst managing their year-end, audit, and AGM processes. Smaller organisations in particular find this very difficult to juggle.

5. Many CHPs are still undecided as to whether it is worth the effort. In this regard, some providers requested a debrief from the Housing Authority regarding the consequences of losing registration and/or the advantages of being registered; and a wider conversation about the intended benefits and outcomes from going through the process.

6. We note that the Contracts side of the HA has given a number of CHPs written assurance that they will take no action regarding temporary loss of registration, provided the CHP is actively going through the process and is registered within 6 months. We appreciate this and trust that this approach will be taken for all CHPs in this situation.

7. There is confusion on the part of some CHPs as to whether this is the national scheme.

8. Two providers felt that the distinction between the three tiers was not nuanced enough and that what was required of a Tier 3 provider was not very different from that required of Tier 1 and 2 providers.

9. There is an appreciation of the need for good governance, but some felt the governance requirements did not reflect the small size and/or regional nature of their organisation and the limitations this places on them.

10. There was some concern that regulation duplicates information required to be provided under the current contract/lease agreements.

Whilst we support nationally consistent regulation, which is important to the overall growth of the sector, we remind the Housing Authority of its stated intention, when the NRSCH was first mooted for WA, that there would be less red tape: for example, the Regulator and Contracts would not be asking for similar data in different forms; nor that a financial template would be mandatory but that the same audited accounts provided to ASIC/ACNC would be acceptable.

Based on this feedback we respectfully recommend that:

1. All CHPS who are required to be registered under the terms of their contract(s) with the Housing Authority, are given assurance in writing that the Housing Authority will take no action regarding temporary loss of registration provided they are going through the process and are registered within 6 months.

2. The Housing Authority provides a debrief to the sector re the consequences of losing registration and/or the advantages of being registered.

3. That the pending national review of the financial template reflects the feedback that one size does not fit all and aims to make this requirement less onerous in terms of the format of its delivery.

4. That the timetable provided to individual CHPs for future registration/re-registration, takes into account other statutory reporting obligations CHPs must comply with at certain times of the year.

5. That CHIA WA and Shelter WA are actively included in any forthcoming review of the Regulatory System.

Kind regards

Yours sincerely

 

Jennie Vartan, State Manager, CHIA WA

Michelle Mackenzie, CEO, Shelter WA

Meet your Board Members: Garry Ellender

Meet your Board Members: Garry Ellender

Seeing the impact of homelessness on young people in London in the 1980s had a major impact on CHIA’s WA Region Director and CEO of Access Housing, Garry Ellender.

Garry worked at a youth refuge and, later, with parolees coming out of prison and people on probation orders who had urgent accommodation needs.

‘It gave me a real interest in housing and an appreciation of the emerging Housing Associations sector in the UK,’ Garry says.

Those experiences and his social research background enabled him to gain a research position for an inner city welfare committee back in West Australia that wanted to find solutions to rising homelessness in inner city Perth.

‘It was one of the impacts of the America’s Cup; a lot of the traditional lodging houses had converted to backpackers,’ Garry says.

‘The expectation was that I would recommend the expansion of men’s shelters and the homelessness sector but, instead, I recommended establishing a housing association, based on models in the UK.’

The WA Government backed the call, and provided seed funding to establish the Perth Inner City Housing Association (PICHA) in 1988, with Garry appointed as CEO.

‘We built a housing company based in inner city Northbridge, and took over three large privately-owned boarding houses that were in appalling condition,’ Garry says.

‘We were just trying to prevent them from closing. We were successful in getting  government funding for major upgrade works then began looking at alternatives to boarding houses and did a number of joint ventures to develop inner city apartments.’

Garry left that role in 1993, having built what was, at that time, WA’s largest community housing organisation, with nearly 300 homes under management.

He was then contracted to establish a Tenant Participation Program within the Department of Housing before beginning work for the Department, including as a member of the executive strategy team that created a new Community Housing capacity building and growth plan, including asset and management transfers.

‘There was recognition that the standard public housing system models were under serious financial stress,’ Garry says.

‘Through the strategy we obtained a $420 million capital injection into social housing, of which $220 million was earmarked specifically for CH capital programs…the aftermath of the GFC gave us a further boost to enable substantial sector growth, with the nation building capital allocation to WA of $620 million.’

In 2010, Garry jumped ship and became CEO of Access Housing Australia (AHA). AHA put in an innovative bid in July 2010 to secure nation building asset transfers and won major tranches of 249 title transfers and  negotiated a further 300 title transfers through a state program, as well as 500 management lease transfers.

Since 2010, Access has grown from about 700 dwellings to 2,100, with turnover up from about $7.5m to $35m in the current financial year. Net assets have increased from $6m to 165m.

Looking ahead, Garry says that the community housing sector in WA is facing real challenges.

‘From 2013 onwards, pretty much all the community housing programs have been shut down by the Housing Authority and there has been virtually no growth apart from a small amount in the disability area with one-off funding and the new supply being driven by Access Housing and a couple of other CHPs.’

Unlike the Eastern states, the real estate market in West Australia has crashed over the past couple of years with people who would traditionally have been housed in community housing now able to afford private rental.

‘Whilst this has temporally improved housing affordability, there remain significant demand pressures for social housing, particularly for people with high or complex needs.’

Garry is hopeful that CHIA’s productive relationship with the Labor State Government’s new Housing Minister, Peter Tinley, will encourage a greater focus on a broad and expanding role for the community housing sector.

‘We need a genuine government commitment to co-designing, with the sector, a genuine Community Housing Growth Strategy as a critical component of the State’s Affordable Housing Strategy. This is front and centre of CHIA WA’s political advocacy agenda.’

CHL’s project management skills put to good use

Community Housing Ltd  (CHL) has converted a historically-significant West Australian convent into safe, affordable and supported residential accommodation that will  be used to assist young women in need.

The State Government’s Department of Communities sought CHL’s expertise in providing project and development management services to deliver the facility, which has been funded by a grant from Lotterywest.

CHL Chair Fionn Skiotis says, ‘We have been delivering quality affordable housing for over two decades and it is always an honour to be recognised for our project management and design capabilities.

The St. Emilie’s Convent facility in the Perth suburb of Kalamunda will be run by The Esther Foundation, an award winning health, development and leadership program. It will provide young women with mid-term accommodation and extensive support services.

Esther Foundation Administrator Rodney Lavater says, ‘The St Emilie’s Project provides a much needed resource for young women; young mothers and teenagers aged 13-33 years who would benefit from the safe, structured and supported accommodation program.

‘Our new purpose-built residential premises will change the lives of many young women facing life-controlling struggles and issues, offering them and encouraging them the opportunity to reach their potential.’

The refurbished accommodation now includes a total of 20 bedrooms including 18 doubles. Seven of those are new self -contained units, with en-suite and kitchenette, while the existing west wing has been renovated and modified to provide 10 bedrooms, including six with en-suites. The main building has been rebuilt and now hosts a kitchen with training facilities, gymnasium, a large communal dining and living area, counselling rooms and an administration area.

 

Frog Hollow needs your help

Community Housing Housing Ltd (CHL) is helping promote a fundraising campaign to ensure children in a remote Aboriginal community can continue to access early learning, with space issues threatening the current program.

Wurreranginy, commonly known as Frog Hollow, is an independent community with a strong council of Gija Elders and community members. The community has worked together for over 30 years to establish an independent, Aboriginal-governed school on their home country, so their families and future generations to come could receive a quality education and live in the nurturing and safe community of Frog Hollow.

Both the school and the Early Learning Centre teach with a two-way approach, having both Gija language and English being spoken and taught daily in classrooms, further strengthening the cultural identity of the children and ensuring they are skilled in both worlds.

Frog Hollow is thriving, enrollments at the school have increased 350 per cent over the past three years, with 44 students enrolling in 2018.

The current Early Learning Program has 13 children aged 0-3 and, until this year, has operated out of an empty classroom, however as student numbers at the school grow, the classroom is now required as a learning space for the primary aged children – leaving the preschoolers with nowhere to go.

An Early Learning Centre is vital to engage children from the early years into education, and support their transition to school.

Funds raised for an ELC will not only guarantee educational opportunities for preschool aged children, it will also create employment opportunities for community members involved in the build and construction of the facility and for those employed to work in the ELC, as well as providing a safe place for children to stay while their families are working.

The Early Years Program has been a dream of the Elders of Frog Hollow who see the importance of education for their children. Until recently, the community has been able to make use of community and school resources to ensure the program can exist, however due to a lack of Government funding to build the ELC, Frog Hollow community are seeking innovative ways to fund this project.

To support the cause, students from the school have created an official logo and participated in the making of, and have starred in, a series of videos and photographs which will be housed on the dedicated Facebook page created to raise awareness and keep people up to date with the status of the project.

In total of $240,000.00 is being sought to cover the costs of the required materials, the extensive costs in transporting them to the site, and labour. Donations are tax deductible or alternatively, there is an option to instead choose a small gift relative to the value of donation.

Click here to learn more or to donate

New State Manager for CHIA WA

CHIA WA has appointed Jennie Vartan to their State Manager role.

CHIA WA’s Regional Director Garry Ellender welcomed Jennie to the position. ‘I’m excited by the appointment of Jennie and am confident members will benefit from her energy, commitment and expertise.’

Jennie began her career in the property industry and successfully transitioned to various  leadership roles within the NFP sector. She brings with her more than 20 years experience at an Executive Management level, with 11 years in NFP businesses in Perth, including senior roles at Amana Living and Foundation Housing.

Jennie possesses a thorough understanding of  the current issues facing the Community Housing sector in WA  and is committed to working with members and the WA Regional Committee to develop and expand members services.

Some of her key focus areas will be sector development and training; communication and stakeholder engagement; policy development and advocacy; revenue diversification –  exploring initiatives to secure funding from the State Government to provide sector development and capacity building services for our members.

Jennie will officially commence her duties on Monday, June 11.

Help ‘Furnish the Gap’

A remote West Australian Aboriginal community has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds needed to turn new and refurbished social housing into homes by providing the funds to purchase essential household items, from beds to kettles.

Tjuntjuntjara is located in the Great Victoria Desert, about 690km north-east of Kalgoorlie. Access to the community is difficult due to the surrounding terrain, with food supplies flown in on a fortnightly basis.

The 2011 census reported the community’s population as 162, but Tjuntjuntjara has grown over the last few years and now acts as a service centre for surrounding outstations.

In December 2017, the West Australian Government announced a major capital works and essential services package to upgrade existing social housing and to improve essential services in the community. Work on the properties is nearly complete and, in June, the residents will receive access to 10 new multigenerational houses and 12 upgraded existing houses.

Not-for-profit community housing organisation Community Housing Ltd manages the properties on behalf of the Department of Housing.

Whilst the construction works have been funded by the National Partnership in Remote Housing, the community and residents themselves are completely responsible for furnishing their homes. This presents a big challenge for most community members who are on low incomes. The high cost of freight to the community makes purchasing essential household items unaffordable for low income residents.

The Paupiyala Tjarutja Aboriginal Corporation (PTAC), which manages the Tjuntjuntjara community on behalf of the Spinifex traditional owners, has launched a ‘GoFundMe’ appeal on behalf of the community to solicit donations in cash and kind. CHL is supporting the appeal as part of its broader community engagement program.

‘CHL is committed to community development with dedicated staff who focus on facilitating community development projects which have been generated and are led by community,’ says CHL’s Community Development Project Manager, Rachel Lattimore.

‘CHL’s approach is based on identifying the strengths, knowledge, and capability within communities and developing innovative ideas to create sustainable, resilient, communities. CHL has adopted an Aboriginal Community Strategy, and a Community Development Framework to ensure best practice.’

PTAC can accept gifts or donations on behalf of donors that are tax deductible and directly benefit the community. They are looking for the public’s assistance to raise money or donate physical items such as: storage and transport of items to Tjuntjuntjara, fridges, bedframes, dining furniture, kettles and washing machines.

For details, and to support the campaign, see GoFundMe, or PTAC’s website.

Job: CHIA WA looking for state manager

CHIA WA is seeking to appoint a State Manager, who will report to the CHIA WA Regional Director and receive some administrative and secretariat support from Access Housing Australia Ltd, a member organisation of CHIA WA.

The State Manager will be independently responsible for the following areas:

  • Sector Development & Training
  • Communications and Stakeholder Engagement
  • Policy Development & Advocacy
  • Revenue Consolidation and Diversification

This role is currently budgeted as Part Time (0.5 FTE) for a period of two years subject to funding.

Click here for details

Access a new GM role

Access Housing is recruiting a General Manager role in Western Australia.

Reporting to the Chief Executive, the General Manager is a key member of Access Housing’s Executive Leadership Team.

With responsibility for a large operational budget you will drive strategic and operational improvements in the delivery of tenancy services across Access Housing’s regional and metropolitan rental portfolios.

Click here for details.