Access Housing supports ‘call to action’ on Social Housing

4 Mar 2015

Access Housing Australia Chief Executive Officer Garry Ellender has welcomed the call on the WA State Government to implement and support progressive policies to grow and develop the social housing system in WA.

Whilst commending the Department of Housing (DoH) for its progress under the Opening Doors strategy to facilitate entry into home ownership for people on moderate incomes and for their vision in leveraging high value assets to achieve affordable housing outcomes in partnership with the private sector, Mr Ellender insisted there is currently no comprehensive Government strategy in place to meet the significant and growing demand for social housing in Western Australia.

“Investment in new housing supply by Federal and State Governments is at a trickle given their well-publicised budget problems. Since the Abbott Government abolished the National Rental Affordability Scheme there is also no financial incentive for the private sector to invest,” Mr Ellender said.

The Community Housing Coalition of WA has argued the State Government needs to increase the outsourcing of management of public housing assets to larger not-for-profit housing providers as part of a broader solution. Mr Ellender agreed, stating that Access Housing had benefited from asset and management transfers during the post-GFC era when there was a positive commitment by Federal and State Governments to grow the capacity of the NFP sector.

“Thanks to that initial support Access Housing has been able to borrow money from Commonwealth Bank to deliver 133 new affordable housing dwellings over the past two years, with a further 166 currently under construction or in planning. These projects are tangibly increasing the supply of affordable housing in Western Australia, which is in a critical shortage,” Mr Ellender said.

“When you talk to the low income residents that move into our new homes, it’s uplifting to see their joy in knowing they now have affordable, sustainable accommodation that they can call ‘home’.

“Through our development programs we’ve been able to provide accommodation for a range of people including an 86 year old lady who was forced to couch surf for three years in order to remain in her local town, people who were homeless, others who have moved a dozen times in private rental over three or four years and so on.  This is the sharp end of the housing affordability crisis and the more that we can do to prevent homelessness and increase the options in our communities, the better.

Mr Ellender said the argument for outsourcing management of public housing assets to the NFP housing sector was simple.

“The nearly 2,000 properties that Access Housing currently manages at a net profit, without any direct State Government subsidy, are saving the Department of Housing an estimated $20 million a year in net operational costs and enable Access Housing to have a debt facility of $40 million to assist in financing new housing supply. This is all facilitated at no cost to the tax payer,” he said.

“If the Department of Housing were to outsource a further 3,000 public housing properties to Access Housing over the next three years, our leveraging capacity would increase to $100 million, the net savings to DoH would be around $50 million per annum and, based on Western Australian Treasury Corporation modelling, the company would be able to supply a further 1,125 properties, with an estimated value of $360 million, over 10 years.

“Reducing the financial strain on Government and getting significant new housing supply seems a pretty good reason for outsourcing tenancy and property management from the public sector.  It’s win-win,” Mr Ellender said.

Access Housing Fact File

Access Housing has experienced very significant growth and diversification over the last four years, with increases in:

  • tenancies under management from 750 to 1,950 during this period;
  • revenue from $6.4 million in 2009/10 to $33.74 million in 2013/14;
  • net profit from $0.8 million in 2009/10 to $17.1 million in 2013/14;
  • value of property assets on the balance sheet from $6.15 million in 2009/10 to $131 million in 2013/14.