New policy to support tenants with disability and their co-resident carers

On Monday 6 July 2020 Access Housing put into effect the new Co-Resident Carer Rent Policy.

The policy incentivises people to become or remain a co-resident carer for people with disability who are living in social or Community Housing and incentivises social and Community Housing tenants with disability to seek a co-resident carer.

Under current rental policy, Access Housing tenants pay 25%* or 30%* of the household’s assessable income in rent. This includes all the assessable income of a co-resident carer. But under the new Co-Resident Carer Rent Policy, an approved co-resident carer will have their contributable rent capped at the current full rate of the Carer Payment, regardless of their total income that would otherwise be considered assessable under general rent setting policy. This ensures that the household rent remains affordable for the tenant, who is ultimately responsible for ensuring rent is paid.

To be considered a co-resident carer of an Access Housing tenant, carers must live in an Access Housing property and provide on-going care for the tenant they live with. For more information on who is considered a co-resident carer under this policy, click here to read our co-resident carer policy information sheet.

Tenants who think they may be eligible to have the Co-Resident Carer Rent Policy applied to their tenancy should not delay in contacting Access Housing.

If you would like more information, or if you would like to discuss whether the Co-Resident Carer Rent Policy is applicable to your tenancy, please contact your Tenancy Officer or our Rent Review Team on 9534 0400 or email rentreview@accesshousing.org.au.

*Band A households will have their assessable income capped at 25% and Band B households will have their assessable income capped at 30% as per our general rent setting policy.

The power of one – Housing Choices Australia Ltd and Access Housing Australia Ltd merge to become one of Australia’s largest Community Housing Providers

Western Australian-based Access Housing Australia Ltd and Housing Choices Australia Ltd (VIC, TAS, SA and NSW) are excited to announce they have joined forces and merged to become one of Australia’s largest Community Housing Providers.

Following an extensive due diligence period, both companies are pleased to now formally announce the merger, effective as of Wednesday 1 July 2020.

With Access Housing joining the Housing Choices Australia Group of Companies, the merged entity is now responsible for the management of nearly 7,000 social and affordable homes across Australia, with assets valued in excess of $900 million and with annual revenue of nearly $70 million.

Housing Choices Australia Ltd Chairperson Heather McCallum said the merger would enable the Group to provide more housing and opportunities for current and future residents while maintaining and advocating a ‘think national, act local’ vision that respects the local culture, history and tradition of both organisations.

“The Housing Choices federated model has been designed to balance the interests of each participating state by ensuring a local membership board and equal representation of each state on the national Board of Housing Choices,” Ms McCallum said.

“Under the model, each state business is able to realise the benefits from being a part of a national group, such as access to increased scale and expertise, while retaining strong local connections and preserving assets and investment at a state level.

“We think this approach is the best way to continue to deliver excellent outcomes for all stakeholders including, now, the people of Western Australia.”

Access Housing former Chairman David Lantzke has joined the Housing Choices Australia Board of Directors, as has former Access Housing Director Matt Raison.

Mr Lantzke said the new national organisation’s solid financial base and strong presence will help it meet the challenges of an emerging new age for the Community Housing sector.

“As a truly national Community Housing Provider, our scale and capacity will better position us to help inform and shape policy, both at national and state levels, as well as allow us to deliver a far broader and more innovative range of positive housing and community outcomes for some of Australia’s most vulnerable people,” Mr Lantzke said.

“From a WA-based service delivery perspective, the services Access Housing has provided to our tenants and the community will continue as usual, but with the additional support of our eastern states-based colleagues who we will be working with to determine and deliver best-practice affordable housing solutions to those in need.”

Housing Choices Australia Managing Director Michael Lennon (pictured) will lead the expanded organisation, with WA operations to be headed up by Executive General Manager (WA) Neil Starkie. Mr Starkie joined Access Housing in February 2020 in the role of Interim Chief Executive Officer as the companies worked to finalise the merger.

For more information about the exciting merger between Housing Choices Australia and Access Housing, please click here to read our merger FAQs.

Update to our service delivery and business operations

Access Housing is pleased to announce it has moved to the next phase of its return to normal business operations, effective as of Monday 22 June 2020, as Western Australia continues its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

These updates to our service delivery and business operations have carefully considered and balanced a range of safety, sustainability and service provision needs that still exist while COVID-19 continues to impact the communities within which we operate. Paramount to our decision making was, and is, the ongoing health and wellbeing of our staff, tenants and the broader community.

The most significant updates to our service delivery and business operations as of Monday 22 June 2020 are:

– Property inspections will recommence, with 14 day notices and cover letters detailing social distancing and personal hygiene requirements being posted to tenants due an inspection;
– Some allocations to lodges will recommence;
– Tenant Support Planning will recommence;
– Pre-allocation interviews for Independent Living Program applicants will recommence;
– Our property maintenance services will now also include the actioning of non-emergency or urgent repairs inside the home; and
– Tenant engagement activity planning will recommence.

Access Housing is also pleased to be reopening our offices by appointment only. If you plan to attend one of our offices, please phone ahead to arrange a meeting time with a member of our staff.

At this time, the majority of our staff will continue to work remotely / from their homes.

As Access Housing has done throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to closely monitor and heed the advice from Federal and State Government Health Departments to ensure we are supporting the safety and wellbeing of the broader community whilst we continue to deliver the best services possible to our tenants and stakeholders during the evolving COVID-19 situation.

Neil Starkie
Interim Chief Executive Officer
Access Housing Australia Ltd

2020 Tenant Survey coming soon!

Access Housing’s annual Tenant Survey will start being delivered to tenant letterboxes in mid-June.

The annual Tenant Survey is an important part of our feedback process. It gives you, our valued tenants, the chance to tell us what we are doing well and what we could do differently to improve our service delivery. Each year we review your feedback to improve our services.

This year we have again engaged the Community Housing Industry Association of NSW (CHIA NSW) to manage the distribution of the survey and to conduct the data analysis. This means you can be sure your feedback will remain anonymous and confidential and you can feel comfortable answering the survey questions honestly.

Tenants will each receive the survey along with a reply-paid envelope in their letterbox. By completing the survey and returning it to CHIA NSW in the supplied reply-paid envelope before the early bird cut-off date (date will be advised when you receive the survey), you will automatically be entered into the draw to WIN 1 of 2 $200 gift vouchers or 1 of 10 $50 gift vouchers.

The survey will also be available to complete through the Access Housing website. More details on how to complete the survey online will be uploaded to our website in the coming weeks. Details on how to complete the survey online will also be included in the covering letter that will accompany the survey posted to you.

Tenants will receive an SMS reminder before the closing date to encourage them to return the completed survey in order to go in the draw to win a prize.

Prize winners will be notified and announced in the Spring edition of our tenant newsletter, At Home with Access Housing.

If you have any questions, please call 9430 0900 or email info@accesshousing.org.au.

Access Housing in Cahoots with tenants to support them through COVID-19

Access Housing has recently partnered with Cahoots and their Cahoots Connects Essential Shopping and Delivery Service to further support some of our tenants who have been significantly impacted by, or have been identified as being most at risk of, COVID-19.

The Cahoots Connects Essential Shopping and Delivery Service sources and delivers groceries to individuals and families who are experiencing challenges accessing essentials, particularly during COVID-19 when pre-existing health conditions require people to stay at home and self-isolate or serious financial challenges have arisen.

Access Housing has, so far, worked to link 29 households in the Perth metro area with groceries via the Cahoots Connects Essential Shopping and Delivery Service, with the cost of groceries being covered by Access Housing through our COVID-19 Tenant Hardship Fund. (Cahoots Connects advises that it will also be able to make deliveries in Mandurah and Bunbury from Monday 25 May 2020 onwards.)

Tenants who are eligible for support via our COVID-19 Tenant Hardship Fund can receive a credit with Cahoots for one week’s worth of groceries for themselves and their household. Tenants can then create a personalised grocery order suited to their needs and have it delivered to their door safely and in accordance with government guidelines on physical distancing and hygiene.

Since its launch a few weeks ago, more than $5,000 of financial assistance has been granted to eligible Access Housing tenants via our COVID-19 Tenant Hardship Fund. The funds have been used to support tenants by facilitating access to essential goods and services and supporting them to stay connected with friends, family and the broader community.

Our Community Housing staff continue to reach out to tenants to identify their needs and priority areas of assistance. The team has, to date, completed more than 160 tenant hardship assessment surveys with some of our most COVID-19 at-risk tenants. Almost half of the tenants we have surveyed so far reported feeling lonely and isolated during this time and almost a quarter of tenants reported they are unable to afford and access food and essential goods and services. Through this survey process, our Tenant Support and Capacity Building team and Tenancy staff have been able to work together to address some of the diverse needs of our tenants during COVID-19.

Access Housing’s partnership with Cahoots is just one example of the company’s and our committed staff’s determination to assist tenants as best we can during the COVID-19 pandemic. Access Housing has also developed a comprehensive list of up to date services and resources across the Perth metro, Peel and South West regions that are able to assist people during COVID-19. This list is available on our website and is referenced by our Tenancy staff when in discussion with tenants about services in their communities that may also be able to assist them at this time. To date we have signposted and referred 35 tenants to services within their community to assist with emergency relief, gardening, cleaning and social support.

If you are an Access Housing tenant and you think you need assistance, please contact our Tenant Engagement and Capacity Building Officer Alex Kepes by calling 9430 0900 and she will talk with you about your situation and how Access Housing may be able to assist.