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The past year has seen the Community Housing Council of South Australia (CHCSA) continue to support and represent South Australia’s community housing industry. Over the past 12 months we have all had to manage not only the impacts of COVID-19, but also a significant period of restructure and ongoing change in the housing sector within South Australia.

As has been the case with our colleagues nationally, SA community housing providers have managed their way through the impact of COVID-19, maintaining the viability of their businesses whilst continuing to deliver high level property and tenancy services to their tenants.  The sector has clearly demonstrated not only its flexibility and robustness as a business model, but its ongoing passion and commitment to professional service delivery its tenants.

The restructure of the SA Housing Authority (SAHA) and launch of a 10-year housing and homeless strategy, “Our Housing Future 2020 – 2030”, has resulted in significant change over the past 12 months and heralds further change to the social and affordable sector in the future.

CHCSA has worked in partnership with SAHA over this period and has negotiated a new service level agreement and funding for a further 12 months with agreement to continue supporting our members and SAHA in delivery of key areas of “Our Housing Future 2020 – 2030”:

  • Action 1.4: Develop local/regional housing plans: With a number of CHPs operating across the regions CHCSA will support a well-functioning market in relevant local areas by engaging CHPs to support the development of regional housing plans.
  • Action 2.1 and 2.2: Affordable Housing Initiative to develop new housing & Neighbourhood Renewal Program: CHCSA will work with its members to support policy, finance and built form innovation and lead the development of new partnerships.  
  • Action 2.4: Community Housing Asset and Investment Plans: CHCSA will provide ongoing support to CHOs under the existing transfer programs in the delivery of housing outcomes.
  • Action 2.8: 100 Supported Private Rental Opportunities: CHCSA will take a leadership role in the delivery of this policy and assist in the co-ordination of CHPs participating.
  • Action 3.8: Aboriginal Housing Strategy: CHCSA will support the Aboriginal Advisory Committee as required and provide input into their work to improve housing outcomes, across the continuum, for communities.
  • Action 5.5: Industry Development Framework: CHCSA will lead the development of an industry development framework to strengthen our multi provider social housing sector, as a major agent of change.

CHCSA members are core delivery partners in the homelessness sector and CHCSA will actively work with SAHA and our members in the delivery of Strategy 4 to prevent and reduce homelessness.

In all these actions it will be crucial for CHCSA to lead in the identification of barriers to CHPs being able to effectively harness existing resources and assets and work with all parties to remove these constraints.  In doing so CHCSA will continue to support members to adapt to the many challenges and changes they face and to seize opportunities for the future.

CHCSA will continue to work on developing strong communication, connections and engagement within the CHP sector and between CHPs and the SA Government.  It is particularly important they we work co-operatively and effectively with our colleagues across Government and the NFP sector to support the post COVID-19 recovery.   Delivering a reform agenda is no easy task and South Australian Housing Authority staff continued to offer professional services in this regard.  Many thanks to those staff for their ongoing support and service to the community housing industry.

Nationally, housing affordability continued to dominate public policy discussions and media coverage over the past year and was a key issue in the policy platforms of all major political parties prior to the Federal election.  Social and affordable housing must be recognised as critical infrastructure to meet the housing needs of low- and moderate-income earners who are faced with a significant lack of affordable housing supply.  Community housing providers are ideally positioned to address this challenge and we look forward to future proposals from the Commonwealth Government in this space.

CHCSA continues to contribute to key policy discussions at a state and national level, including the Automatic Rent Deduction Scheme (ARDS) that was proposed by the previous Commonwealth Government.  The South Australian community housing sector’s policy position on the ARDS and the implications for CHPs operating in South Australia were articulated in our submission to the Parliament’s Senate Committee.  Throughout the policy development process, CHCSA actively engaged with our membership, the SAHA and CHIA, the national community housing peak.

CHCSA has also been actively engaged in the review of the National Regulatory System for Community Housing (NRSCH) on behalf of the South Australian community housing sector.

With regard to State based policies and legislation, CHCSA ensured that community housing sector views were given full consideration in amendments to the prescribed minimum housing standards set out in the Housing Improvement Regulations 2017, and in revisions to the community housing Rent and Eligibility policy frameworks administered by the South Australian Housing Authority.  At a systems level, CHCSA has supported the Business Systems Transformation (BST) Connect Program during its consultative phase.  CHCSA continues to lead and provide the sector with input and advice and support the SA Housing Authority on important and transformational leadership discussions.

We wish to express our joint appreciation to CHCSA’s Board members, both past and present.  They have continued to provided leadership, guidance and direction to the role and work of CHCSA.

We look forward to sharing in the success of the sector as we continue to build the role of CHCSA and celebrate the everyday brilliance of our sector’s staff, volunteers, partners and tenants.

CHCSA’s Strategic Priorities

The CHCSA Board following its strategic planning review have determined and endorsed that following the membership consultation sessions and the above direction outcomes that CHCSA will prioritise the following:

CHP Outcomes in Our Housing Future:

1.5          Universal Design Principles / continue to support South Australia’s Virtual Power Plant

  • Introducing universal design principles for most new public housing and encouraging it for affordable housing to improve lifespan and function of dwellings and support ageing in place.
  • Introducing universal design principles for most new public housing and encouraging it for affordable housing to improve lifespan and function of dwellings and support ageing in place.
  • See Leadership Workshop for more details.
  • Mandate sustainable housing design and environmental standards for a minimum of 75% of new public housing. Install solar panels on and install batteries in all new public housing, where appropriate, to continue to support South Australia’s Virtual Power Plant.
  • CHCSA has been supporting CHPs and has been working with the Clean Energy Transition

Department for Energy and Mining – CHCSA has also been working with Tesla on this initiative and coordinating the driving support.

2.4          Community Housing Asset and Investment Plans / building up to 100 new social, affordable & market houses / leverage the benefits of leasing 5000 properties from SAHA:

  • Building up to 1000 new social, affordable and market houses through the Community Housing Asset and Investment Plans.
  • Leverage the benefits of leasing 5000 properties from SA Housing Authority to stimulate the building of new homes by the community housing sector
  • See Leadership Workshop for more details.

3.1          Service hubs and integrates access models:

  • CHCSA to create links to those service providers providing homelessness services
  • See below

3.5          Incorporating lived experience:

  • CHCSA to be able to demonstrate that the blend of the initiatives is creating sustainable Lived Experience Outcomes.
  • See Leadership Workshop for more details.

5.2          Operations of the social housing system / implementing and reforming Single Housing register:

  • Reforming the operations of the social housing system, including implementing and reforming the Single Housing Register, reviewing eligibility and allocations policy, exploring points-based assessment and trialing choice-based letting and clear mutual obligations for successful tenancies.
  • Work in partnership with the community housing sector, customers and stakeholders to improve the performance of the social housing system through clear expectations, consistent policy and assisting people to the housing option that is most suited to their need.
    • CHCSA is a key stakeholder in this project and has in partnership with SAHA and the BST Team driven, advised and been integral in the project being delivered on time. CHCSA has organised various workshops, gathering and feedback loops through this project. 

Further Progress: CHCSA has supported the aims of these outcomes.

  • Strategy 5 – 5.2 Choice Based Letting – CHCSA have partnered with the SA Housing Authority in an exciting new research project to better understand how public and community housing allocations can be improved in South Australia, which will include implementation of a choice based letting trial.

Three types of research partners are being sought: community housing partners to participate in the design and testing of a choice based letting prototype, partners to support vulnerable customers to access the trial, and consultation partners who can help incorporate customers lived experience of allocations into the research. Partners will benefit by early access to research data and findings, learning by doing, and contributing to the public policy evidence base.

The research will be conducted in 4 main stages: Stage 1 will be a literature review of social housing allocations and choice based letting models, and qualitative interviews. Stage 2 will explore the current user experience of housing allocations in SA. Stage 3 will be exploring potential choice based letting solutions, prototyping and testing via a trial. Stage 4 is final analysis and findings report.

The research (the next 6 months and beyond)

  • This research aims to develop an applied understanding of housing allocations in South Australia, what the experience of practitioners and customers is, and what impact a choice based letting model has on the operations of social housing providers.
  • Community housing partners can participate in the design and testing of a choice based letting prototype using new IT infrastructure, and participate in practitioner interviews.
  • Partners supporting vulnerable customers can participate in the design to support and inform accessibility of the model.
  • Consultation partners can help to incorporate customers lived experience of allocations into the research.
    • Financial sustainability system / strategic asset management approach including strategic asset disposal and investment / 10-year plan / functional responsibilities:
  • Improving the sustainability of the social housing system through:
  • Addressing the financial sustainability of the system
  • The introduction of a system-wide strategic asset management approach including strategic asset disposal and investment
  • Developing a 10-year plan to optimize the efficient and effective management of social housing and to support the growth of community housing providers
  • Reviewing the functional responsibilities for housing policy, regulation and management to provide greater transparency and contestability.
    • Industry Development Framework
  • Implementing Industry Development Frameworks that strengthen the multi-provider social housing sector as a key agent of change
  • Build required capabilities and capacity, strengthen the industry for improved efficiency, increase resilience to change, and assist in better meeting future needs.

On Friday 13 November 2020, CHCSA launched its series of Workshops to support the delivery of the Housing Strategy over the lifecycle of the Strategy and additionally to deliver against the objectives within the Service Level Agreement with the SA Housing Authority.

The Strategy pledges to deliver some 33 actions; these actions are delivered through five key strategic pillars, that support the implementation of the 10 Year Housing Future Strategy. The community housing sector and the Community Housing Council has a significant role to play within the strategy commitments.

The actions and implementation plans will also need to respond and support the Aboriginal Housing Strategy, which is currently under development. The Community Housing Council’s approach to leadership will continue to bolster and be supported by long-standing relationships with key stakeholders and our members’ significant expertise and experience, which informs our policy and advocacy.

Against this background, the Community Housing Council of South Australia has developed the Leadership Workshop Series to harness the talents of leaders within sector to shape the future of the community housing sector, to build capacity and again raise the bar. The workshops will foster a spirit of collaboration and knowledge sharing across the sector by recognising that all parts of the sector and external industry experts have a valuable contribution to make to policy and industry development.   From these workshops, it’s envisioned that senior members of the sector will then come together to progress key industry development (5.5 Employment training outcomes & 5.5 Industry Development Framework), capacity building and policy work within these key areas of operation and service delivery.

Financial Sustainability & Stewardship

Strategy 5 Financial Sustainability

The concept of financial sustainability is straightforward. Over time, the supply of social housing has dwindled in Australia. This is partly the result of historic under- investment and ongoing asset sales. It also reflects the reality that capital and ongoing subsidies are thin, and so community housing providers are working on wafer-thin margins.

The workshop will explore the variety of innovative solutions that community housing providers have trialled to improve the quality and expand the supply of social housing in South Australia. This will help us identify what works, and what doesn’t, and move a step closer to have a shared understanding of what needs to happen to improve the financial sustainability of the social housing system, and the community housing sector.

Strategic Development & Asset Management

Strategy 1 – 1.5 Universal Design Principles

Strategy 5 Strategic Asset Management approach including strategic asset disposal and investment

The South Australian Housing Strategy includes a range of deliverables to reduce housing stress for South Australians. It calls for a people first approach, a focus on innovation through collaboration, a culture of inclusivity, a resilient and agile system and one that addresses environmental sustainability.  All within the complex web of social systems and financial constraints.

This workshop aims to unpack the current status quo in Strategic Asset Development and Management. It will identify strengths and weaknesses as well as digging our way out of the impending threats and explore future opportunities.

Governance Environment

Strategy 1 – 1.3 Establishing leadership and governance mechanisms to coordinate housing policy

Strategy 5 – 5.2 Reforming the operations of the social housing system

The first workshop seeks to enquire into how best to improve and streamline the broader governance environment that oversees the community housing sector and its relationships with Governments.

This is expected to consider the various agreements, reporting obligations, approval frameworks and processes that govern the sector and test whether improvements can be made for the betterment of the sector as a whole. The anticipated outcome of this work is pragmatic improvements that are made to the system in a prioritised way, along with improved collaboration with the SA Housing Authority.

The workshop will discuss the role of Boards and/or senior leadership teams in raising the industry (and Government) perception of the sector as an economic driver. The anticipated outcome of this discussion is a joined-up framework for sector member leadership in regard to positive advocacy.

Specialised Housing

Strategy 3 – 3.2 Supported accommodation model

Strategy 3 – 3.4 NDIS & Aged Care

Strategy 3 – 3.5 Incorporating lived experience

Strategy 3 – 3.6 Improving the provisions of grants

Strategy 3 – 3.8 Aboriginal Housing Strategy

The Specialised Housing workshop seeks to establish a collective understanding of the various specialised housing programs operating across the Community Housing sector in South Australia. The workshop will explore the progressive ways in which the sector is responsive to key social issues, as well as the current challenges, and examine opportunities for development and growth.   Unique experiences of niche specialist housing programs will be workshopped, as well as those that are relevant to all providers. The workshop will also concentrate on the Lived Experience and how together the sector builds an inclusive, strong, vibrant and focussed environment through a systemwide and multi-provider system approach.

Strategy 3 – 3.7 Shared Leased Agreements

Bridging the gap between social housing and private rental and home ownership the implementation of moderate income rent reforms from 2021/22 and removing policy disincentives to work to encourage participation and independence:

In line with this, CHCSA supported the SA Housing Authority through a Workshop with the community housing providers, and the commencing an examination of social housing income and asset eligibility limits, along with the implementation options for a new moderate rent policy in consultation with the community housing sector.

The Workshop was convened by the Community Housing Council in partnership with the SA Housing Authority and it workshopped how these measures can best assist with expectations, other housing pathways and bridging the gap between social housing, private rental and home ownership.

CHCSA further supported this initiative in accordance with: Strategy 5 Modernise the social housing system.

CHCSA has been in consultation with SAHA in this subject matter and we agree that a Consultation Workshop is required to determine the most appropriate outcomes in Rent and Eligibility Reforms.

Strategy 2 – 2.8 100 Supported Private Rental Opportunities

CHCSA coordinated and supported both Revenue SA and SA Housing Authority in delivering interest and workshopped understanding regarding the Affordable Community Housing Land Tax Exemption Pilot.

The Affordable Community Housing Land Tax Exemption Pilot provides eligible property owners with ex gratia relief, equivalent to a land tax exemption for property they rent through a participating community housing provider for affordable housing purposes.

The pilot program will run for five years, commencing 1 March 2020 and is limited to 100 South Australian properties.  There are currently 3 community housing providers engaged in this initiative.

Strategy 5 – 5.3 Financial Sustainability

CHCSA is partnering with the SA Housing Authority and supporting the investigation into a sustainable insurance platform and framework for insurance policies.  CHCSA is also working with Aon and supporting the promotion and future determination of a tailored and suitable outcome for CHPs.

The Voice of our Members through Consultation

The Community Housing Council of SA believes that delivering the highest standards of governance are essential for trust in organisations. Supporting well-governed organisations to deliver stronger performance and safeguards in the interests of their stakeholders, including employees and the community.

The success of the community housing section – and the people our members house and support – relies on a strong and sought-after voice that shapes the policy and governance environment for Community/Social/Affordable housing in South Australia – the one-stop-shop for members, government, regulators and the community.   In every facet of organisational development and project and service delivery, the people of South Australia seeking housing assistance and support deserve and need a system that is working at its best, and providers are reaching their potential.

Our approach to leadership will continue to bolster and be supported by long-standing relationships with key stakeholders and our members’ significant expertise and experience, which informs our policy and advocacy positions.

Through our leadership, our members contribute to a modernised and sustainable policy development system, which supports government, and regulators deliver better and sustainably reflective policy and an improved corporate governance environment. We intend to now broaden this involvement to include the input of universities, industry groups, policy specialists and other partners within the development, finance and social service sectors.

As part of our policy development process we: ensure member representation and liaison with relevant regulatory and standard setting bodies, develop and maintain working partnerships with key national and international stakeholder groups, research and analyse current and emerging governance issues and advocate our policy positions with governments and regulators.

CHCSA through consultation with its members have priorities its focus areas for work with Government, through and for members:

This would require collaboration between the CHCSA, CHPs at all Tier Levels and SAHA

  • Establish a social housing sector strategy working group with key stakeholders including CHPs, SAHA and potentially other peaks (e.g. UDIA)
  • Ongoing agenda could be around addressing ways to build the partnership, co-design solutions, and agree future activities to work together
  • Establish an ongoing engagement plan aligned with the partnership principles.

This would require collaboration between the CHCSA, CHPs at all Tier Levels, in consultation with SAHA

  • Engage across the sector and with partner agencies, customers and other departments on developing an outcomes framework for social housing (broadly) aligned to the homelessness outcomes framework
  • Based on findings, co-design a series of key outcomes that should drive the performance of the sector
  • Test and iterate the desired outcomes and consider the processes by which these outcomes will be reported and measured, in a timely and transparent manner.

This would require collaboration between CHCSA and CHPs at all Tier Levels

  • CHCSA could consult with key CHP representatives and lead a series of iterative workshops to establish the future state vision for the sector
  • Actions to adopt and embed the vision would need to be considered
  • Customer engagement or lived experience contributions could be included
  • A communications plan would need to be developed and delivered

This would require collaboration between the CHCSA, CHPs at all Tier Levels and SAHA

  • Undertake a review of the asset and design standards that currently relate to community housing development
  • Develop an understanding of any overlap or gaps, with a view to creating a proposition to government to streamline the approach
  • Engage with SAHA as required around this proposition to ensure concerns / opportunities are understood and responded to.

This would require collaboration between the CHCSA, CHPs at all Tier Levels and SAHA

  • Aligned to the new partnership approach, start to unpack the ways in which government and the sector can work together to achieve the reforms outlined in the Strategy and Strategic Plan
  • A similar approach to the current homelessness sector reform could be considered, to identify novel and/or
  • innovative responses.

This would require extensive engagement between CHCSA as an informed representative of CHPs and Government (SAHA, Department of Treasury and Finance)

  • Agreement from all stakeholders that there is a case to be made to review and revise the current Master Agreement with a focus on effective portfolio management linked to outcomes, and the Fixed Payment arrangement.
  • CHCSA to lead and work with Government on the development of an approach to revising the agreement that achieves objectives for both Government and the sector.

CHCSA is looking forward to 2021 and working with its members and the SA Housing Authority and all other industry stakeholders on all matters housing. CHCSA is confident that the work it has conducted this year has strengthen its stakeholder relationships.