Image: Port Phillip Housing Association – Artist’s impression – St Kilda Apartments redevelopment
We spoke to Port Phillip Housing Association CEO Haleh Homaei about housing affordability and a new initiative that Bank Australia is financing to support vulnerable women and children in Victoria.
Port Phillip Housing Association (PPHA) owns and manages a portfolio of 1146 homes over six local council areas in Victoria. The organisation celebrated its 30th birthday last year, and has grown to become one of the state’s largest housing associations, managing over $323m in housing assets.
PPHA provides accommodation for a range of vulnerable Victorians, a majority of whom receive a Centrelink benefit. PPHA residents pay a percentage of their income in rent (up to 30%), and 70% have been a tenant for 3 or more years. PPHA’s homes are places of stability and safety for residents, and because of PPHA’s unique place based approach, they are also a place where a sense of community can grow and thrive.
For PPHA’s CEO Haleh Homaei, community housing is not just about putting roofs over the heads of vulnerable Victorians. “As a developer and manager of housing, we take a longer term view of building homes, and more importantly, we help build sustainable communities.”
Saving crisis housing in St Kilda
One of PPHA’s most exciting new ventures is a development in St Kilda that will retain essential crisis housing stock, and offer new modern accommodation for vulnerable women and children.
PPHA recently purchased an apartment block that had a long history as a private family-run motel offering 50 crisis accommodation units to Melbourne’s homeless. When the owners put the property up for sale in 2016, there was an outcry of community concern over the potential loss of an important housing resource to commercial property development.
Enter PPHA, which received support from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and the Consumer Affairs Victorian Property Fund to purchase the property with finance from Bank Australia.
“PPHA chose Bank Australia because of the bank’s ongoing work with other housing organisations, support for the community housing sector, and ability to understand and respond to the sector’s unique needs,” said Haleh.
The future looks bright for the new development, with additional funding provided by the Victorian Government for a full redevelopment. The plan will see the site’s 32 unit apartment block demolished and rebuilt, and a refurbishment of the two heritage-listed older buildings, one of which dates from the 1880s. PPHA is working with Launch Housing to ensure that existing residents still have a place to stay while the redevelopment is underway.
PPHA is committed to adding value to the plan, and in an Australian first, the site will be adapted to provide integrated medium-term housing and support to women and families escaping family violence, and pregnant women and new mothers who are at risk of homelessness.
The new complex will have facilities to provide intensive case-managed support and onsite support services for after birth care and support for mothers and babies so they remain safe and healthy until longer term accommodation can be located.
The redevelopment is expected to commence in early 2018, with completion in 2019.
Addressing housing affordability
We spoke to Haleh about the current Australian housing market.
“Investment in quality, community focused housing is essential. Housing affordability is getting to a crisis point and it’s being acknowledged everywhere, in research and the media, and getting worse by the day. We have population growth and changing demographics, and as a community we haven’t been doing enough to address housing requirements – we need a 10 or 20 year plan for housing affordability, not a four year plan.”
To deal with the crisis, PPHA and other community housing organisations are gearing up to deliver more ambitious and impactful housing investment in the future. Haleh calls this “action in scale” – using community housing’s strong track record in successfully developing and managing smaller scale housing to scale up and deliver larger, high impact social housing that can deliver affordable housing pipeline, and also achieve better community outcomes.
Community housing organisations can reinvest profits, and also take a longer term view of property ownership and management. “We do care, we are there in perpetuity, we care about design, we care about the home people will live in and the relationship we will have with the resident”.
To achieve this outcome, when building or redeveloping, PPHA works with architects to ensure quality, and sustainable design is a key feature. This means PPHA’s houses feel like real homes, and cost less to live in, because of lower utility bills.
Community integration is another key feature. “Our houses become part of the wider community - you can walk down a street and you wouldn’t be able to pick them out from the ones next door as being ‘community housing’,” said Haleh.