The importance of the community housing sector

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The community housing sector is a vital part of the NSW housing market and is well placed to partner with government and non-government actors to deliver profit for purpose homes for NSW. To give you an idea of the scale that community housing providers and the NSW government are operating at, presently, around 28,500 social housing properties, including over 1500 crisis and transitional properties, are either leased or funded by government to community housing providers for management, or had their ownership transferred to providers by government. Of these, 98 percent are managed by 32 providers, with the largest 10 providers managing a combined 17,500 properties.

Community housing providers are our great partners in the overheated property market of Sydney. Hence it was a great honour and a privilege to speak to the NSW Federation of Housing Associations Annual General Meeting this morning on behalf of the Minister for Community Services and Social Housing, the Hon. Brad Hazzard MP. Click here to continue reading my speech.

"Good morning. It gives me great pleasure to be here this morning on behalf of Minister Brad Hazzard who unfortunately cannot be here owing to a last minute Cabinet meeting time change.

But first I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land on which we meet today, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and pay my respects to elders past and present. I also acknowledge and pay my respects to other Aboriginal people present today.

I would like to thank Mr John Nicolades, the Chairperson and Ms Wendy Hayhurst, the Chief Executive Officer of the Federation, and the Federation’s members, for the kind invitation to speak today and understanding the changed circumstances for the Minister.

Before I deliver the Minister’s message for your AGM by way of some background allow me to elaborate on who stands before you.

I was elected to the Parliament at the March election following a career in local government and a policy practitioner. 

As a child raised in public housing in western Sydney, I am someone who appreciates and is committed to the ongoing fundamental need for a sustainable social housing and affordable housing sector.

This is especially the case in the hot house of Sydney’s House and rental prices.

After 12 years on the City of Sydney and South Sydney Councils I even more appreciate the role of social and affordable housing.

And the announcement in past 24 hours of the redevelopment of Waterloo staged over two decades with a promise to retain exiting levels of social housing at about 2000 dwellings is a welcome one to me because it will lead to more holistic and inclusive communities.

This will build on the government’s commitment to increase social housing stock. This is in contrast to the previous government’s record of a net loss of 900 public dwellings each year.

But this commitment relies upon partnerships with organisations such as yours.

Earlier this year at the NSW Community Housing Conference, the Minister confirmed the NSW Government’s strong commitment to growing and improving the social housing system, its commitment to a strong community housing sector and reducing the incidence of homelessness in NSW.

The Minister was very clear in his message at the conference that community housing providers are seen by the NSW Government as key partners in the reform of the social housing sector.

Everyone in this room is only too aware that NSW is facing significant challenges in providing access to social housing, now, and into the future.

The NSW Government is interested in opportunities to work with non-government organisations and the private sector to drive innovation that can help increase the supply of housing, including social housing, and deliver better economic and social outcomes.

We are seeking alternative mechanisms to bring additional supply to the sector. These solutions may include specific proposals related to regional and urban communities, new financing models to support the development of social housing or tailored solutions that provide support for individuals outside the social housing system.

The NSW Government is also committed to breaking the cycle of disadvantage, rebuilding the State’s finances and driving economic growth in this State.

We need a social housing system that builds on, and complements these objectives and delivers an increase in the supply of housing and sustainable outcomes for tenants.

The government has previously facilitated an expanded role of Community Housing providers through the transfer of $1.5 billion of property titles to the sector made possible through the former Commonwealth stimulus program. This has allowed providers to access private finance to develop their own sites.

A strong and viable community housing sector is an important feature of the social housing system.

The NSW Government recognises that the capacity of people to access safe, secure, affordable housing is fundamental to breaking and preventing disadvantage.

Community housing plays a significant role in meeting housing need and supporting these outcomes – delivering high quality, affordable housing and support to people experiencing housing stress.

Community housing offers flexible and integrated services that can be tailored to meet the needs of tenants and their local communities.

Community housing in NSW is a growing, dynamic, multifaceted industry, with providers that are involved in multiple business activities.

Presently, approximate 28,500 social housing properties, including over 1500 crisis and transitional properties, are either leased or funded by government to community housing providers for management, or had their ownership transferred to providers by government.

Of these, 98 percent are managed by 32 providers, with the largest 10 providers managing a combined 17,500 properties.

In addition to this, community housing providers also hold portfolios of affordable housing stock.

FACS supports the growth of private finance and social investment in housing assistance and recognises the capacity of community housing providers to contribute to the growth of the housing system in order to support the prevention of homelessness, provide appropriate housing assistance and deliver exit options from social housing. 

Providers are well placed to work with government and private financiers in developing new models of housing assistance by pulling together funding from all tiers of government with private and social equity and debt finance.

It is recognised that providers have a range of business models, and many providers are increasing their product diversity, being social housing, supported housing, partnerships, fee for service and affordable housing. 

The Government is investing in building the community housing industry and providers’ capacity in order to give them the flexibility and capacity to expand their core business by building revenue streams; improving their expertise in finance, development and partnerships; and building connections and relationships with private equity and debt financiers.

From my experience with your sector has been the noticeable commitment to helping people in need.

You are not just property managers. You demonstrate ability to work with services providing support to tenants in order to maintain their tenancies and promote independent living.

These partnership support arrangements extend across many areas including: youth services; women and children escaping domestic violence; people with intellectual and physical disabilities and mental health support.

These are very commendable and essential services that assist local communities.

Innovative programs, such as operating scholarship programs, successful Tenant Panels, promoting community engagement and strengthening local communities, more broadly sets the sector aside from others.

These examples show the added value that community housing providers bring to their communities. They are more than just property and tenancy managers; they are active members in their communities.

Finally, may I offer my congratulations and those of the Minister to the staff who provide their skills in delivering the services to their clients across the sector. The skills of these staff are actively developed through programs managed by the Federation.

The Federation provides a valuable service to its members and the sector more widely, including advice to government on major reforms and policy directions.

Again on behalf of the Minister, I acknowledge your contribution to the housing sector in NSW and thank you again for this opportunity to speak today. "

Speech End.