Housing Plus Case Studies

BACKGROUND

There was a significant shortfall in appropriate accommodation for Aboriginal people with a disability residing in and around Dubbo, NSW. Existing group home accommodation presented some challenges, particularly for Aboriginal tenants where different tribal backgrounds and family history can result in conflict. Some potential tenants required significant assistance and supervision to fulfil their desired daily activities and engage with the community.

ACTION

Funded by the Department of Social Services, the Supported Accommodation Innovation Fund (SAIF) provided the capital required to build Platinum Standard accommodation units for six Aboriginal tenants with a significant disability. The units constructed by Housing Plus at 3 Frith Street, Dubbo, far exceed the minimum requirements under AS1428.1. A number of units are fitted with specialist ceiling hoists and all amenities are compliant with circulation space requirements design for access.

COMMUNITY CONSULTATION

During the design stage, Housing Plus undertook extensive consultation with members of the local Aboriginal community, including elders, the local lands council and local working parties, to ensure the development was culturally appropriate and supported connection with community. Regular communication with local residents from the outset of the project enabled individuals to voice their concerns and opinions, leading to greater understanding and support for the project.

OUTCOME

The Aboriginal tenants currently residing in 3 Frith Street, Dubbo, have immediate assistance from on-site carers. The dwellings are suitably fitted out with appropriate modifications for each resident, with established landscaping to provide them with access to lifestyle areas that are functional and aesthetically pleasing. This project was our first exposure to the Liveable Housing Guidelines and Platinum Standard construction.

AWARD WINNING DESIGN

The development won the ‘Multi-Residential’ and ‘Paul Dass Memorial’ awards at the 2014 National Design Awards. Read more
In October 2016, Housing Plus led the first NSW Regional Homelessness and Housing Summit, sponsored by Family and Community Services, Homelessness NSW and Yfoundations. The Summit brought together local SHS providers to discuss issues, innovations and ideas relating to homelessness and housing services in a regional NSW context. During the two-day event, industry experts and local services presented on a range of topics to 260 registered attendees from across Central West and Western NSW.

Key learnings

Peak bodies used the event to discuss rural and regional homelessness strategy with the following key learnings drawn from these discussions:
  • NSW homelessness strategy needs to include a focus on rural and regional homelessness and issues
  • Local issues need to be acknowledged and considered, including lack of resources, limited housing options, distance and limited education and employment opportunities
  • NSW homelessness strategy needs to allow more opportunities for rural and regional towns to pilot and trial different ways of working. Invariably, these occur in either metropolitan Sydney, Newcastle or Illawarra
  • NSW homelessness strategy needs to understand existing gaps and develop strategies to manage these. In particular, accommodation options need to be addressed for young people, single men and Aboriginal families and individuals.
  • NSW homelessness strategy should focus on providing Aboriginal community controlled accommodation and support for young people and Elders
  • NSW homelessness strategy should focus on providing intensive support and accommodation services for people exiting custody
  • NSW homelessness strategy needs to support rural and regional communities to support people at risk of homelessness, or experiencing homelessness, to develop long term aspirations and goals rather than continue to focus on providing a crisis response
  • There needs to be a focus on increased collaboration between NGO funded programs, including SHS services and tenants advice and advocacy services
Housing Plus is working with Family and Community Services, Homelessness NSW and Yfoundations to identify and partner with another regional housing or homelessness provider to deliver the 2017 summit on the mid north coast of NSW. Read more
We have significant experience managing the complexities associated with tenancy and property management transfer in a regional centre. Between 2005 and 2007, we worked in partnership with Housing NSW to transfer tenancy and property management services of over 297 properties in the towns of Mudgee, Gulgong, Rylstone and Kandos in Mid West NSW. This property management transfer included almost all social housing in the area. Since 2007, we have had full management and financial responsibility for the ongoing responsive, cyclical and planned maintenance, and tenancy services of these properties.

Secret of our success

We established a dedicated transition team, reportable to the CEO and Board of Directors, to ensure effective oversight and delivery. The transition team was effectively resourced, and a detailed transition plan with key milestones and reporting arrangements, was implemented. The transition team worked with FACS to develop a phased handover plan as the local Housing NSW office was closed, and leases and former FACS employees were transferred. This plan supported us to move into a new area, establish a local presence and lead the delivery of services. The priority - and measure of overall success - was to ensure service continuity with no drop in service quality.

Tenancy management services

As part of the agreed property management transfer, all Housing NSW tenants were offered the choice to transfer to Housing Plus. Those that transferred were required to sign a new tenancy agreement. There was significant consultation and communication with tenants and local partners during this process including: face to face visits; the establishment of a 1800 information number; media activities; community events; and tenant advocacy. The aim of these activities was to dispel rumours and fears by providing accurate and timely information for affected tenants and partners, thereby ensuring a smooth transfer, no drop in service standards, and maintaining the reputations of both FACS and Housing Plus.

Property management services

As part of the transition, a survey of all properties was conducted to establish any maintenance backlog and to agree future maintenance plans with LAHC. Capital contributions from the Department of Housing and Housing Plus supported delivery of maintenance programs to bring properties up to agreed standards. Renewal proposals were developed for consideration by LAHC to ensure long-term retention of value in the assets and better meet the changing needs of the area.

Maintenance management

As part of the transition, it was agreed that the LAHC maintenance contract would continue with the existing head contractor, Pro Group, for 18 months. The maintenance service contract was re-procured to ensure service continuity. Throughout this process, we fulfilled all obligations for responsive maintenance and property condition under the Residential Tenancies Act, residential tenancy agreements and lease.

Access and demand services

As a result of the management transfer program, we became the primary access point for access and demand services in the Mid West NSW region, assisting people to seek safe, secure and affordable accommodation. A phased withdrawal of services was agreed to ensure service continuity. Services include face to face assessment and advice, and remote application assessment using telephone, MyHousing self-service tools and the Housing Contact Centre to:
  • Manage applications for housing assistance under Housing Pathways (Homes)
  • Manage the NSW Housing Register (Homes)
  • Facilitate access for clients requesting assistance with Rentstart, including: the Rentstart Bond Loan; Advance Rent; Rentstart Move; and Tenancy Assistance
  • Facilitate access to temporary accommodation.

Whole of location networks and services

As the primary social housing provider in Mudgee and surrounds, we support a number of key groups and networks:
  • Mid Western Regional Interagency Group: this group brings together community services, welfare agency employees and other members of the community in a collaborative environment to:
    • Share information pertaining to the delivery of services within Mudgee, Gulgong, Rylstone and Kandos
    • Share resources
    • Identify and promote collective priorities
    • Develop strategies to identify and address priority issues and target groups
    • Support the development of new services.
  • Mudgee Homelessness Brokerage Group: this group coordinates brokerage for the homelessness service. Membership includes Housing Plus, Mid Western Regional Council and other NGOs. Regular meetings with FACS are organised based on individual case requirements.
  • The Mudgee People Against Violence Committee: this group is committed to awareness raising, community education and integrated service responses to domestic and family violence in the Mudgee and Mid Western Regional Council area. The committee provides education about all forms of violence and its effects on women, children, individuals and families to:
    • Promote strategic and collaborative work practices that support an integrated response to domestic and family violence
    • Support better justice responses to domestic and family violence
    • Support education, training and professional development of committee members and service providers
    • Promote and support early intervention and prevention strategies aimed at ending domestic and family violence
    • Facilitate a voice for children in domestic and family violence
    • Identify gaps and monitor emerging trends in the area of domestic and family violence.
Read more
In 2014-15 In 2014-15, Central West NSW was experiencing a critical shortage of affordable housing. Vacancy rates were very low, real estate agents were reporting waiting lists for affordably priced accommodation and rent increases were well above CPI. The surge in mining activity, particularly in Orange and Mudgee, was driving the conversion of unfurnished affordable dwellings into furnished or serviced accommodation for high-income resource workers, leading to a subsequent increase in rent. Local schools were struggling to attract teachers due to the lack of affordable housing. Housing stress was high. In major urban centres, a localised shortage of affordable accommodation is not a huge problem as people have the option to move to other suburbs. However, in Central West NSW, there are no reasonable and accessible alternatives. Residents must choose between long distance commuting with the consequential cost and social dislocation, or leave the area altogether. To respond to the affordable housing crisis, Housing Plus developed 53x Social and Affordable dwellings in Orange, Bathurst and Mudgee, NSW, through debt and equity finance, and subsidies from the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS). The dwellings comprised a mix of 1BR, 2BR and 4BR villas, with a development value of $14.5M. Dwellings were designed to the Platinum level of the Liveable Housing Design Guidelines and 6-star energy rating, which provides living comfort and reduced utility costs for tenants and Housing Plus as the owner. Their design was intentional to ensure suitability and adaptability for a range of housing needs. All sites are centrally located, close to services and facilities, and public transport. Housing Plus contracted leading regional builder, Rawson Homes, to deliver the dwellings on a turnkey contract. Rawson Homes was responsible for negotiating and purchasing the land, design, subdivision, construction planning approvals, civil works and construction. Housing Plus purchased the dwellings on completion for a pre-agreed price and specification, insulating Housing Plus from the risks associated with property development. The homes were delivered in an 18-month staged handover. All 53 dwellings were completed on time and within budget, and all tenancies were filled within six weeks of Practical Completion. Read more
In 2014, Orange was chosen as the regional launch site for the NSW State Government’s ‘It Stops Here: Safer Pathway’ reforms, which aimed to improve the Government’s response to domestic and family violence in NSW. Housing Plus played a leadership role in the launch, implementation and delivery of these reforms, including:
  • Application of a new domestic and family violence Safety Assessment Tool to be used by NSW Police and support coordination services
  • Establishment of a Local Coordination Point to provide an immediate safety response and wraparound support coordination
  • Implementation of the State’s first Safety Action Meeting

Partnering for change

During the implementation stage, we worked collaboratively with NSW Police and Legal Aid to provide a number of information sessions about Safer Pathways: how it would work and what would change. These sessions were designed to bring individuals, agencies and community groups onboard to ensure the reforms were as effective as possible. We also consulted with impacted stakeholders to address any underlying concerns. For example, the reforms meant that information could now be shared at Safety Action Meetings without the consent of the client, causing concern for some segments, particularly Aboriginal groups, who were apprehensive about the presence of child protection authorities at these meetings. To address these concerns, we presented to Aboriginal women’s groups and service providers, sent out newsletters and other resources, undertook media activities, and kept groups and individuals updated on how the Safety Action Meetings were progressing.

Our success

We worked closely with Legal Aid and NSW Police to refine the Safety Action Meeting processes and policies, and became renowned for an incredibly successful reform that others in the State sought to replicate. Housing Plus is now part of the Western Region Governance Group for the Safer Pathways reforms and performs an advisory role to other locations rolling out the reforms. Read more