Australasian Housing Institute

Innovation in Social Housing Professional Practice Seminar

Exploring new ideas and innovative approaches in social housing

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Like other industries and sectors, social housing faces pressures to innovate and do things differently in order to achieve better outcomes and meet the expectations of governments, stakeholders, tenants and staff.

Seminars in this series seek to expose delegates to advances, modernisations, improvements and originalities in the sector and include both speaker presentations and participatory discussions and to cultivate the sharing of ideas.

Topic areas explored may include:

  • business innovation
  • social enterprises
  • non-traditional revenue streams for housing businesses
  • innovative housing practice
  • innovative partnerships with private sector or NGO
  • innovative financing and funding models
  • innovative housing types. 

CHP CPD Points



Melbourne, 24 August 2017

This was the second 'Innovation in Social Housing' offered in Melbourne following the success of the earlier one in July 2016 featuring several excellent presentations from representatives and associates of community housing organisations based in Victoria.  Much appreciated sponsorship on this occasion was provided by Port Phillip Housing Association. Attendees from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and New Zealand ensured there were a variety of perspectives and experiences enriching the conversations occurring throughout the day.   

Michael Lennon, Managing Director of Housing Choices Australia acted as key note first speaker for the second year running. He noted that whilst undersupply of affordable and social housing is a recognised problem in the public policy space at both national and state levels, recent initiatives have been modest and limited in meeting the size of the problem. He outlined figures demonstrating the dimension of the current shortfall and the level of investment required to address a problem which is likely to continue to deteriorate  He pointed out that there is an important 6-8 months window right now to influence governments during which the replacement arrangements for the current National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) are being explored and negotiated. He indicated that the Commonwealth Government is dissatisfied with the actual reduction in social housing unit numbers over the period of the ten years that the current NAHA has been in place, and is looking for much better outcomes from the next agreement. Michael presented a suite of proposed inclusions for a new agreement that the Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) has developed as the highest priorities for action and is advocating with government.   

Jeanette Large, CEO at Women's Property Initiatives (WPI) stressed the importance of demonstrating both social and economic value of investments in social and affordable housing to investors. Her organisation has commissioned two studies on return on investment in recent years which have identified that $1 in investment has returned $11 in value. Jeanette highlighted the ongoing difficulties that single income households in particular single women with children and older women without partners are facing in sourcing affordable housing. Her presentation also touched upon the dilemma of how much social housing should be concentrated in any one property or location which resonated in other presentations at various times during the day.. 

Jack Panton, General Manager Development and Assets at Port Phillip Housing Association commenced by paying tribute to the Victorian Minister Fiona Richardson who had died overnight, noting her contribution to government action on family violence. He presented data to quantify the scale of housing need in Victoria. Jack then re-iterated Michael Lennon's observation of the funding gap with investments in development of social housing due to the low net rental income able to be achieved from the finished product on an ongoing basis and thus owner-landlords actually subsizing the provision of the housing by up to 75% of the true cost.. He identified a range of instruments to bridge the gap, from tax concessions and/or credits, to supportive planning mechanisms (for example inclusionary zoning, and density bonuses), private sale of proportions of the units constructed,  provision of government land at low or no cost,  and subsidies and grants. His presentation concluded with two case studies, one of a development (City Gate Apartments) where a significant re-development is just getting underway, and a second (Ashwood Chadstone Gateway Project) which has delivered significant outcomes to date. He indicated that the future probably involved growth through debt funding rather than grant funding, involving partnerships and institutional investment. He also highlighted the importance of organisational scale, citing the example of three London housing associations recently merging to create a $60 billion company managing 135,000 homes. 

Matthew O'Rourke, Strategic Project Co-ordinator at Melbourne City Mission (MCM), described a unique shared equity model focusing on helping people move on from public and social housing to home ownership.  He suggested that the continuum from homelessness to crisis housing to transitional / short term to longer term social housing to private rental to home ownership currently has significant blockages at each transition point. Matthew indicated that figures provided to MCM suggested that 14.4% of households (over 9,000) living in public housing in Victoria were currently paying full market rent. The MCM model has assisted 28 households into home ownership to date by reducing the actual purchase price by 37%. It is supported by the banking sector and households housed so far had mortgages of around $300,000, average gross household income of $85,890 pa, and average savings at time of application of $63,237 which was more than enough to cover the required deposit of $30,000.  Matthew noted too that there are some similar models overseas in the UK and Canada. 

Peter Danks, Manager Director EFG and Advisor to the Big Issue presented a generational scheme called Homes for Homes, an initiative of the Big Issue but which has a range of powerful and influential partners involved. The scheme involves placing a permissive caveat on property titles to direct 0.1% of a property's sale price to Homes for Homes at the time of sale. It aims to become a significant source of capital for affordable and social housing into the longer term future. At present it is focused on the wholesale housing market (developers and others) rather than 'mums and dads'. Peter indicated that with around 600,000 property transactions per year in Australia the scheme had the potential to generate $1 billion or more per annum in the future depending on the level of ultimate buy-in. 

Heather Holst, Deputy CEO of Launch Housing described a unique partnership in Melbourne's western suburbs between a philanthropist family, a housing provider, a local government and state government (in this case VicRoads) in which vacant land earmarked for future use (road widening) has removable architect-designed stand-alone studios placed on it to house people in particular those who have been homeless. The initiative involves nine parcels of land with 57 units to be placed on these. Heather suggested that Vic Roads had around 22,000 parcels of such vacant land and other state government authorities such as VicTrack also had vacant land some of which might be suitable for similar initiatives. She highlighted the importance of having project concepts and ideas worked up so that when unexpected opportunities arise they can be responded to quickly. 

The final section of the seminar program showcased specific innovative partnerships through brief presentation by four speakers. Michael Perusco CEO of Unison Housing described the agency's 5 year partnership with RMIT University which will develop a course in housing and homelessness, conduct  research in four key areas including a longitudinal survey of its tenants, and expose other students at the University to housing and homelessness. Michael Deschepper, CFO at Wintringham Housing outlined the agency's partnerships with philanthropists, in particular the ANZ Foundation and the Alexander Miller Estate Trust. Chris Glennen CEO Active Community Housing described the partnerships his agency has with specialist disability services and the challenges to the social housing sector that the NDIS brings with as many as 80,000 people with disabilities currently living at home who could seek more independent housing outcomes via their NDIS funding packages. Amanda Donohoe CEO Servants Community Housing presented examples of close partnerships which her agency has formed locally with neighbours, schools, and Rotary Clubs and the benefits this has brought to both her tenants and the local communities. 

After a very stimulating program we all enjoyed refreshments in the lounge bar area of the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel at which the seminar had been conducted.

Event wrap-up prepared by Michael Forbes | Victorian Branch Chair | Australasian Housing Institute


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Sydney, 13 December 2016

Following the successful event in Melbourne in July 2016, the second event was held in Sydney on Tuesday, 13 December 2016. The program for the event included insightful presentations and a showcase session, which will allowed delegates the opportunity to experience and engage with multiple concurrent displays showcasing innovative social housing property development projects.  

Sydney seminar highlighs:

  • Leading innovation in social housing in NSW: implementing new approaches. Paul O’Reilly | Future Directions Executive Director | Family and Community Services
  • Beyond Planning and Construction…Innovations in the transition and support of tenants in Specialised Disability Accommodation. Anne Bryce | CEO | Achieve Australia
  • From housing assets, to housing people: Fixing Australia’s public housing system | Brendan Lyon | CEO | Infrastructure Partnerships Australia

  • Bridge Housing’s Hand Up Project – lifting tenants out of the debt cycle. Reece Plunkett | Executive Policy Officer | Bridge Housing
  • How a community housing provider and property developer can partner to grow the supply of appropriate and affordable housing. Andrea Galloway | CEO | Evolve Housing
  • Roundtable: Innovative Practice


Feedback from Sydney event participants:

  • Excellent range of speakers with varying views. 
  • Great mix of speakers and topics as well as really good participation.
  • I found the group size to be good especially when engaging in the round table discussion. Location was very accessible and food was very nice.
  • Topics covered were representative of issues faced by CHPs and offered thought provoking solutions. 

Melbourne, 5 July 2016

The first event in the Innovation series was held in Melbourne on 5th July 2016.

Seminar speakers included:

  • Keynote speaker: Michael Lennon | Managing Director | Housing Choices Australia
  • Greg Anson | Director | FMSA Architecture
  • John Enticott | General Manager | St Kilda Community Housing Ltd
  • Michael Lennon | Managing Director |Housing Choices Australia
  • Matthew Torney | Acting Chief Executive Officer | Urban Communities
  • Jeanette Large | Chief Executive Officer | Women’ s Property Initiatives
  • Kristie Looney  | Officer in Effective Control | Women’ s Property Initiatives
  • Zoe Vale | General Manager Northern Services | Launch Housing.

Additionally, delegates had an opportunity to experience and engage with multiple displays showcasing innovative social housing property development projects, including: 

  • Ashwood Chadstone Gateway project for Port Phillip Housing Association
  • Summer Foundation·        
  • Haven; Home, Safe
  • Habitat for Humanity, Victoria.

Feedback from Melbourne event participants:

      • I am extremely glad that I attended today’s seminar.  Working for a brand new organisation that’s only one year old, there were many ideas that were fantastic to learn about that I can’t wait to take back with me.
      • I have been extremely impressed by the quality of the presentations delivered today – I had some familiarity with any of the innovations presented, but not the detail and unique aspects of each. 
      • The seminars are always good to provide inspiration and building networks, and learning what other areas are doing.
      • Every session was valuable.  I took something away from every speaker.  Very excited to go back to work and share what I learnt today.

Event Wrap-Up

'Innovation in Social Housing' featured several excellent presentations from representatives and associates of community housing organisations based in Victoria. The seminar was suggested to the national AHI body by the Victorian Branch early in 2016, and possible speakers were subsequently communicated to the national AHI officers creating the seminar program. The end result was a high standard seminar which could be replicated in other states and territories. The sponsorship by HomeGround Real Estate and Haven; Home, Safe was much appreciated. 

Michael Lennon, Managing Director of Housing Choices Australia was a provocative first speaker placing social housing issues within the context of the  challenges faced by the wider housing market, in particular declining home ownership. He presented a range of creative suggestions to address the declining home ownership trend and to enable longer term, more secure tenancies in the private rental market. Michael also suggested that government needed to play a facilitative role in addressing housing affordability and supply even if its capacity to fund this was limited, and proposed some actions which could be taken at the Commonwealth level in particular.

Matthew Torney, Acting CEO at Urban Communities Limited described the experiences of the agency in taking on broader roles in housing including place making and renewal, community building, social enterprises involving tenants, and owners corporation management.  Matthew also presented some learnings from managing a mix of public, social, affordable and private rental housing, including on one site or within one local geographic area.

Jeanette Large, CEO at Women's Property Initiatives (WPI) and Kristie Looney 'Officer in Effective Control' at WPI outlined the creation of a for-profit social enterprise Property Initiatives Real Estate whose profits will be directed back into WPI and more housing for women and children in need. The Real Estate business opened in March 2015 after about two years of planning and development. WPI gained great probono assistance in this work, particularly through the Crunch program offered by Social Traders.

Zoe Vale, General Manager Northern Services at Launch Housing provided an overview of the supportive accommodation model delivered at the Elizabeth Street Common Ground property in conjunction with Yarra Community Housing. The model is based on the original concept established by New York Common Ground. The Victorian development featured a strong partnership between two registered agencies plus a major property developer Grocon. This housing targets people with complex needs due to mental health, drug and alcohol, acquired brain injury, or other significant issues. Zoe's presentation also highlighted the importance of collecting data and evaluating outcomes against original targets. Some instructive statistics were presented to show the beneficial outcomes being achieved.

John Enticott, General Manager St Kilda Community Housing described the evolution of his agency from charity to welfare to advocacy to social enterprise and questioned where to from here. He captured the dilemma faced by many agencies about whether the key focus is growing the organisation's housing portfolio or adding value for the existing tenant base. His agency's priority is the second of these, and John outlined its social enterprise offshoots and other initiatives including the T2M maintenance service, graphic and web design enterprise, solar power rollout, and land trust model introduction. Social Traders had again assisted with its Thrive program, this time supporting the maintenance service's development.    

The final section of the seminar program showcased four innovative property developments with each presenter providing a brief overview and short video, after which seminar participants were able to discuss the developments directly with the presenters at their display tables in a break-out room. Greg Anson from FMSA Architecture showcased the Ashwood Chadstone Gateway Project undertaken with Port Phillip Housing Association, Di Winkler from Summer Foundation talked about housing severely disabled younger people moving from nursing homes, Trudi Ray and Sue Masters from Haven; Home,Safe described the Tucker Estate (Wattlewood) major development in Carrum Downs, and Philip Curtis from Habitat for Humanity discussed that agency's work particularly with a person whose previous home had been destroyed in the bushfires near Marysville in Victoria.

Refreshments available in the break-out room were an enjoyable way to conclude a very stimulating day for all those present.

Event wrap-up prepared by Michael Forbes | Manager Regulation Housing Registrar | Financial Assets and Liabilities Department of Treasury and Finance