Pacific Link Housing has developed a detailed set of recommendations to improve the supply of social housing and reduce the current shortfall in the Central Coast and Hunter regions.
The recommendations are contained in a 30-page submission to the NSW Department of Family and Community Services’ Social Housing Discussion Paper.
For NSW and many other governments in Australia and overseas, the cost of managing and maintaining existing public housing constrains governments’ capacity to keep adding new stock.
According to Pacific Link Chairman, David Bacon, this leads to shortfalls and longer waiting lists for housing applicants – which now extend beyond 10 years for all forms of housing in the Central Coast and Hunter.
Governments here and overseas are moving to reduce the crippling cost of managing and maintaining huge housing portfolios by transferring management to experienced not-for-profit community housing providers like Pacific Link Housing.
Pacific Link is one of a number of not-for-profits advocating this approach in New South Wales to reduce the cost burden to government and take full advantage of Commonwealth Rental Assistance (CRA) now available to community housing groups like Pacific Link, but not to public bodies like the State Government.
“The addition of Commonwealth Rental Assistance will add around $70 per fortnight in Commonwealth funding to the community housing sector for every property transferred on long-term leases from the government,” said Pacific Link CEO Keith Gavin, “and this additional funding can be used to fund additional housing supply at no cost to the State Government.”
Pacific Link is one of a number of efficient and successful community housing providers to have emerged in recent years. This follows the introduction of an independent professional board and a professional management team – with a staff of 22 now managing around 1,000 properties with 2,000 tenants.
In the past year alone, Pacific Link has developed award-winning tenant services; refurbished a major housing estate; won new regional contracts; grown its annual financial surplus; and achieved a tenant satisfaction rating of 94% - higher than any other provider in the region.
The Pacific Link submission to the State Government makes 14 recommendations, many based on detailed regional research commissioned by the group to inform decision making for the Central Coast and Hunter regions.
In one major recommendation, Pacific Link is suggesting the State Government should ask for changes to the Commonwealth’s current welfare system, under which housing tenants who choose to work lose a high a proportion of their benefit payments.
A recent welfare-to-work study conducted by the University of Western Sydney for Pacific Link modeled a range of incomes and outcomes for Pacific Link tenants choosing to work. The results show tenants can loose up to 89% of every dollar earned from wages through taxation and lost benefits – a major disincentive to them taking up work.
Pacific Link recommends new approaches be considered to help tenants exit the system, including the possible provision of graduated affordable rental scales; government-backed rental guarantees; and shared ownership schemes that include the sale of social housing to tenants and the re-investment of proceeds into new housing stock.
“Over 30 years the community housing sector has developed as a can-do sector. Organisations like Pacific Link have the proven capacity to partner with government in collaborative programs of real benefit to the sector,” said David Bacon.
“We want to be part of the solution in our region and look forward to an era of closer consultation and collaboration with all levels of government to achieve outcomes that are regionally planned and delivered.” he said.
IMAGE: Pacific Link Housing CEO Keith Gavin (left) with Chairman David Bacon at a new 18-unit housing development on the Central Coast.