News specific to Western Australia.

WA’s Aged Pension Recipients may be ineligible for social housing by next year

MEDIA RELEASE

Recipients of the Age Pension as their primary source of income may be ineligible for social housing by 2020 unless the State Government updates its eligibility rules according to Jennie Vartan, State Manager for the Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) in WA, the industry body for community housing providers in the State.

“Income and asset eligibility limits for social housing have not changed since 2006. That means that 13 years of income inflation has been ignored by the State Government in terms of assessing eligibility for social housing. The Age pension has increased by an average of 4.9% per annum since 2005 whereas the eligibility threshold for a single person has remained static at $430.00 per week. The current basic rate for a single aged pensioner is $421.80 per week, meaning that by next year we could have the farcical situation where people on an Age Pension would be considered ‘over income’ and thus ineligible for social housing” said Ms. Vartan

“Already, the failure of the State Government to index the eligibility thresholds against increases in statutory payments and incomes (which, themselves, reflect increases in the cost of living) mean that people in housing stress who would have been eligible for social housing five or ten years ago are being turned away. In addition, clear workforce disincentives are being created as even modest increases in income can result in social housing tenants becoming ineligible. As such, the social housing waitlist can no longer be said to be an accurate measure of either demand for social housing demand in WA or housing stress among low income households.” said Ms. Vartan

“This is not the first time that CHIA WA has sought Government action on this issue. In fact, in 2016 we made reforming and updating the eligibility thresholds a key policy recommendation in our pre- State election policy platform. The fact that three years have passed and the issue has still not been dealt with is not acceptable.” concluded Ms Vartan.

ENDS- For further information, please contact Jennie Vartan, CHIA WA State Manager on 0409889437

Please find attached to this release a copy of  West Australian Housing Policy Where to from here

Less than 7% of WA State Government’s 35,000 new affordable housing opportunities by 2020 will be social housing

MEDIA RELEASE

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Jennie Vartan, State Manager for the Community Housing Industry Association WA, the peak industry body for community housing providers in WA, today warned that successive State Government’s affordable housing strategies have fallen worryingly short in terms of social housing delivery. Ms. Vartan is today launching a new CHIA WA publication, ‘West Australian Housing Policy: Where to from here?’ which analyses State policy during the last decade and suggests a new approach.

“There has been almost a decade of bipartisan political support for an affordable housing strategy which has put affordable home ownership initiatives like Keystart front and centre while failing to address how to grow and develop the social housing system. This is problematic for several reasons but the most important one is that social housing is the area where community need is greatest with State and Federal Government’s bearing ultimate responsibility for ensuring that there is enough housing stock to prevent households at the margins falling into homelessness.” said Ms. Vartan.

“Since 2011, the social housing system has only increased in size by 2,241 dwellings with much of that increase attributable to the one-off State and Federal social housing stimulus undertaken in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis. In 2020, a decade of affordable housing policy in WA will have produced less than 7% of the headline affordable housing target of 35,000 dwellings. There are certainly funding constraints but the failure of successive State Governments to harness the growth building capacity of the State’s community housing sector – in contrast to the approach in other states – significantly detracts from progress made in other areas” continued Ms. Vartan.

“CHIA WA understands that the State Government is currently developing an affordable housing strategy for the next decade, 2020 to 2030. The publication we are launching today contains recommendations and advice regarding how the State Government ought to refine and improve its approach. Central to that approach must be that any newly constructed public housing properties are transferred to community housing providers who have the wherewithal to leverage those properties and build more for people in need. Housing academics have been relentless in their warnings that social housing stock levels are dangerously low nationwide. In the face of rising demand as the population grows and ages, it is time that the WA State Government develops a singular focus on addressing that problem” said Ms. Vartan.

Quick Facts:
1. Public housing numbers have decreased by 547 dwellings from June 2011 to June 2018.
2. Community housing numbers have increased by 2,788 dwellings from 5,274 in June 2011 to 8,062 in June 2018.
3. Total social housing numbers (sum of public and community) have risen by 2,241 since June 2011.
4. Between 2010 and 2017, 2,020 public housing dwellings were either sold or demolished by the State Government.
5. In 1991, 7.1% of all dwellings in Australia were in the social and affordable housing system compared to 4.4% today.
6. The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) estimate that the WA social housing system will need to grow to 86,500 homes by 2036 to meet total need. To achieve that target the social housing system will have to retain the stock it already has and increase in size by over 2,500 dwellings a year to 2036.

ENDS
For further information, please contact Jennie Vartan, CHIA WA State Manager on 0409 889 437

ATO Long Term Accommodation Market Rent Benchmarks updated 1 July 2019

The ATO has updated its benchmark market value rents with effect from 1 July 2019

 

Both the Transitional and the Detailed benchmarks have changed.

The Transitional benchmarks have decreased substantially.

If you are using the benchmarks, it is important that you review your rent setting policy in light of the changes.

CHIA WA’s Rent Calculator has been updated to include the new benchmarks and can be downloaded from the Resources section of our website.

CHIA WA Members can also download an updated ATO Benchmarks Factsheet from the Resources section of our website.

The Factsheet includes graphs giving an easy comparison between the Transitional and Detailed benchmarks by region.

 

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact

Jennie Vartan 0409 889 437
jennie.vartan@communityhousing.com.au

www.communityhousing.com.au/chia-wa

CHIA WA Press Release – Morrison Govt needs to make social and affordable rental housing its key housing priority

MEDIA RELEASE
Morrison Government needs to make social and affordable rental housing its key housing priority

Jennie Vartan, State Manager for the Community Housing Industry Association WA, the peak industry body for community housing providers in WA, today congratulated Scott Morrison and his parliamentary team on winning Saturday’s general election and urged them to remember the importance of affordable housing rental supply as it prepares to serve another term of Government.

“The Liberal party’s pre-election pledges focussed predominantly on assisting first time buyers into home ownership. While helping people into home ownership is a laudable aim, the most pressing issue is ensuring the nation’s stock of social and affordable rental housing continues to increase. When it comes to housing need no one is doing it tougher than low income renters, for whom home ownership is often unachievable, said Ms. Vartan.

“The previous Government should be applauded for the establishment of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC). NHFIC will play a vital role in the years ahead in providing development finance to community housing providers looking to build new housing for people in need. However, it is only one part of the solution. More needs to be done if we are to address the growing social and affordable housing deficit, continued Ms. Vartan

“The simple truth is that the Federal government investment in social and affordable housing is insufficient and needs to increase. Institutional, policy, and regulatory reform are also an important part of the overall solution as set out in CHIA’s National Housing Plan, said Ms. Vartan.

“CHIA WA members look forward to working with Mr. Morrison and his team on the pressing housing issues affecting all of us and wish them well as they commence the new term of Government” concluded Ms. Vartan.

ENDS
For further information, please contact Jennie Vartan, CHIA WA State Manager on 0409 889 437

The Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) is the peak industry body for the Australian community housing industry, which provides one in five of Australia’s social housing properties, complementing public housing.

Community housing providers manage a $30 billion-plus portfolio of more than 80,000 rental properties, which are home to people who are on low and moderate incomes who find it hard to access affordable or appropriate housing in the private market.

CHIA WA submission to Review of National Regulatory System

CHIA WA considers that regulation is still required and relevant for the community housing sector in Australia and that WA should be fully joined into a single, nationally consistent, legislated regulatory system so that investors, governments, CHPs, and tenants only have to understand and work within the one system.

It is important that the NRSCH review includes consideration of the wider regulatory burden on community housing providers, and the roles played by each component, otherwise there is a risk that important issues – particularly regulatory burden and costs to both providers and government – will not be tackled.

CHIA WA’s vision for the future regulation of the sector is a system that gives assurance to government, lenders, tenants, and the wider community about the good governance and financial strength of the sector, whilst being responsive to changes in the sector and the environment it operates in.

Read the full submission here.

CHIA WA submission to Review of Local Government, WA, re Rates Exemptions

On 29 March 2019, CHIA WA made a submission to the Review of the Local Government Act, WA, regarding the issue of rates exemptions for land in charitable use.

The Local Government Act (the Act) currently provides that all land is rateable unless it is listed as exempt. Land used exclusively for charitable purposes is exempt from rates. All but one of CHIA WA’s members is a registered charity.
The meaning of “land used exclusively for charitable purposes” is not defined in the Act. This lack of clarity has not been to the benefit of either community housing providers or local authorities, as much time and resource is lost in contesting whether exemptions are due or not.

CHIA WA’s key recommendations are set out as follows:

Whatever the outcome of the review, CHIA WA supports the need for clear definitions setting out when rates exemptions/minimum payments are due to community housing providers and CHIA WA would be happy to assist in working out the detail of those definitions.

Such clarity will, hopefully, result in consistency of approach from all local authorities. The current regime is applied differentially across local government, which creates uncertainty for our members. CHIA WA supports a clear and consistent approach to the issue of rates exemptions.

CHIA WA’s position is that the loss of rates exemptions for charitable community housing providers will significantly reduce the amount of money available to our members to provide low cost housing and support services to those in most in need in WA. If rates exemptions are lost, other parts of government will need to step in and fund these services or, as is more likely the in the current fiscal climate, these services will be lost.

For this reason, CHIA WA seeks the retention of the rates exemption for charitable community housing providers.

The full submission can be read here.

CHIA WA Submission re Leasehold Strata Regulations

CHIA WA submission to the Leasehold Strata Titles Regulations Discussion Paper

 

On 14 February 2019, CHIA WA and Shelter WA made a joint submission providing feedback on Landgate’s Discussion Paper for leasehold strata schemes.

The Discussion Paper presents a new and important opportunity for strata development and more importantly the provision of affordable housing options in Western Australia, with potentially wide-reaching opportunities from this new form of strata title.

The submission made 4 key recommendations as follows:

  1. There should be no lower time limit, i.e. 20 years, to leasehold strata schemes and the ability to create short-term leasehold strata schemes should be widened to everyone, not just the Housing Authority or any other government agency.
  2. There is no core need for a formula to be included in the regulations, rather there should be flexibility for both lessor and lessee, when putting the scheme together, to negotiate the by-laws when developing the scheme.
  3. We support the recommendation for the ‘not to be unreasonably withheld clause’, provided it is very clear that it would be reasonable to withhold if the result would be the property would be lost to affordable housing for the duration of the lease.
  4. In terms of disclosure at the time of transacting with a leasehold strata scheme, we strongly recommend information be provided to the buyer to ensure they understand what they are purchasing.

The full submission can be read here.

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.’