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Shifting the needle to grow social housing

7 June 2017

Shifting the needle to grow social housing as fast as Australia

It’s not often New Zealand looks to Australia for advice, but when it comes to social housing, the Aussies can tell us how to get more houses built, faster.

Mike Myers, a key figure in Australia’s social housing sector, is in Wellington to talk to New Zealand’s community housing providers about how to go from providing 20,000 homes to 50,000 as quickly as possible.

He is speaking as part of the Community Housing Aotearoa IMPACT 2017 conference at Te Papa.

Mike Myers is the Founder and Managing Director of the Australian National Affordable Housing Consortium. It has built over 3,500 new affordable rental homes in the last seven years, attracting $1.3 billion in private investment.

“Over the last 10 years Australia’s community housing sector has worked in a volatile environment with periods of policy disengagement by Commonwealth and State Government, a backdrop of reduced Government investment, and growing housing unaffordability,” he says.

There were several options for responding to this environment.

“We could have passively awaited Government leadership or we could start to create the change we wanted to see. We chose the latter.”

These are similar experiences to New Zealand and Mike Myers says community housing providers all around the world can learn lessons from each other. “It’s about finding 21st century solutions to the growing housing crises in increasingly wealthy countries.”

Mike Myers will illustrate how the Australians managed to get housing programmes off the ground and how an alignment with industry and financial institutions assisted in repositioning Government as a facilitator.

“Ultimately the aim is to create a balance between ground-up, policy down and investment-driven approaches,” he says.

The National Affordable Housing Consortium recently established a fully market-based shared-equity home ownership program called BuyAssist Australia. This is a platform to help people transition from renting to buying.

CHA Chief Executive Scott Figenshow says the community housing sector in New Zealand is very interested to hear how the Australians managed to join government and investor support for this initiative. “We’re keen to see how we can grow community housing providers to serve the ‘missing middle’ – those that can rent but can’t buy.”

Mike Myers says what was needed was an approach that created alignment between the community housing sector’s social goals and the goals of the development and finance sectors.

“This was a market-making approach.”

“The ability to innovate needs to go beyond single providers or a single region. The sector needs to develop a shared approach to research and development and create intellectual property that can be applied across the industry.”

He says that the growing self-determination and confidence of Australia’s community housing providers, linked to changes in Governments role, has led to a strong inflow of highly skilled and motivated board members and staff further enhancing business capacity.

By being visionary, he says, you attract visionary people and the right business cases will follow.

And what does he say to New Zealand’s community housing providers who want to grow from providing 20,000 homes to providing 50,000 homes?

“You need to give local councils and communities the tools to plan for affordable housing so they can plan for future demographic changes in their area; tools like inclusionary zoning, approaches to harnessing public and private investment, and a plan for best-use of assets and land,” says Mike Myers.

Go here to see the programme for the conference.

For more information call Angie Cairncross, CHA Communications Co-ordinator, on 04 385 8722 or 027535 7794 to set up interviews.

Sponsors include, Platinum: WCC, MBIE, MSD and Treasury
Gold: Emerge Aotearoa and National Science Challenges
Silver: CRESA , Housing First Auckland and Boffa Miskell
Experience sponsors: Housing NZ, Property Group, Auckland City Council, Accessible Properties, Trusthouse, Ministry for Pacific People's and Chintaro

ends

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