A minute with Magnus

So, can I have one minute of your time? I want to talk about the importance of advocacy –speaking up for the poor and vulnerable, especially those who find it difficult to be heard at all, they need our help! In this case the very-low, low- and moderate-income Magnus 2016earners who are in a great deal of stress because their rental housing is unaffordable and too far away from work.

Churches Housing has, over the years, spent a lot of time writing submissions to government, highlighting evidence-based research and participating in forums, advisory boards, panels and so on. This is important work, but the results are incremental and sometimes impossible to measure.

Grass-roots campaigns work

Another form of advocacy, which appears to be more effective, has been to collaborate with others to organise a more grass-roots campaign asking for changes in the area of social and affordable housing.

Partnering with the Sydney Alliance, Churches Housing has been able to lead delegations to visit local state MPs, Ministers and key advisors to the Government, assist in organising large rallies (with attendances of 380 and 600+) and speak with the leaders of key government agencies such as the Greater Sydney Commission, Urban Growth and Landcom.

We have been able to get our message out to real and ordinary people through our network, through social media, radio interviews, media releases, articles and public meetings and increasingly our message is being heard by Government.

As the tide of public opinion swells, our voice of reason and call for more effective targets and measures of affordable rental housing becomes stronger.

We are here for the long haul and we will continue to push together for effective targets for the mandatory inclusion of affordable housing in all larger developments i.e 15% on private land and 30% on government land.

Join us on Saturday 17 March

Below you will see an invitation and online registration to join our listening campaign in Penrith, a marginal government seat, on Saturday 17 March.

Please consider joining us! It doesn’t matter if you live in Penrith, what matters is that we make enough noise to be heard all the way back to Macquarie St.

This issue affects all Sydney but we hope that Penrith on this day can speak for all of us.

See you there!

L’Arche worker receives more than she gives

Julia Beckmann with Andrew

Julia Beckmann with Andrew


Julia Beckmann came to spend time at L’Arche in Sydney, expecting to give help – but she did not know that she would receive far more than she gave to the organisation that is Churches Housing’s newest member.

This 19-year-old student from Duisburg, western Germany, had heard of L’Arche through her leadership of the altar service group at her local Catholic church and she knew that people with disabilities were cared for by live-in and live-out assistants in their own homes.

‘What I wasn’t prepared for was to be so welcomed when I came to the L’Arche community,’ says Julia.

‘I was expecting something different. It has been positively surprising – and so beautiful. I didn’t know that people with disabilities could be so passionate about God, especially one core member Gabriele who prayed and said grace daily.

‘Sharing life in L’Arche has deepened my faith and that was so surprising, especially because I was not expecting this. Faith is such a personal thing.’

Arriving in mid-September 2017, Julia finishes her time in L’Arche in mid-March, and would like to stay for longer before she returns to Germany to take up university studies.

For Julia, her time living at Merrylands has changed her life. ‘At the first Spiritual Soup night, I was so moved that I almost cried. Everyone was singing, praying, remembering and celebrating’.

‘Recently, I had two days away and when I came back to what has become my home, I received the biggest hug from Andrew, who is one of the core members. Joseph always greets me with ‘when did you get home!’ I felt so happy to be at home with everyone again’.

Julia’s return to Germany is bittersweet. ‘Even when I’m studying. I also want to volunteer or do part-time work in the social field as L’Arche will always be part of my life from now on and the memories of my time within the community will always be with me. I also hope to visit the L’

Muslim Care looks to expand housing



Ahmad Mokachar


Rana Kabbout

Ahmad Mokachar and Rana Kabbout, Muslim Care, talk about their plans for the organisation’s future.

As Churches Housing’s latest member, Muslim Care is clear about its direction.

Established in 2012, the aim for Muslim Care is to plant seeds through enhancing, assisting and developing community services. Chairman Ahmad Mokachar said: ‘We aspire to assist the composition of the wider Muslim community within our multicultural diverse society.’

Rana Kabbout, coordinator, adds that Muslim Care began with a day centre and home care assistance and transport. It has now expanded to aged care, youth care, family support, education, disability and housing.

Disabled seniors need urgent help

Both Ahmad and Rana are particularly concerned for the urgent housing needs of disabled seniors and are looking for funding. Ahmad says: ‘Our plan is to begin in a small way – for example, one or two units in a 10- to 12-unit block. We are working to demonstrate the urgent need for this.’

Rana explains that ‘we hope to do this through having preliminary meetings in which we build relationships and discuss policies. From there, we can work on designs that meet people’s needs and will pass Council regulations. We want to work together with Councils on these projects.’

Muslim Care plans, first, to gain experience and begin by managing other people’s properties – whether they are individual homes, units or blocks of units. Or, assume the management of existing NRAS (National Rental Affordability Scheme) properties.

Second, Ahmad and Rana plan to work with developers to build affordable housing

Third, they will build networks and partner with housing providers.

Muslim Care plans to use Chintaro social housing software for managers of tenancies, properties, finances, IT and for reporting requirements because it is tailor-made for social housing providers. Many Churches Housing members use it and it complies with national standards of reporting.

Education established

Over the past decade, says Ahmad, Muslim Care saw the need to establish educational institutes to help with settlement and demand for extended services – which led to developing Al Zahra Mosque, and Al Zahra College.

‘Muslim Care has since effectively secured services for senior citizens, people with a disability, family, the wider community, youth and housing,’ he says.

Rana says that, as an approved residential care provider, the organisation currently runs a program through the Commonwealth Home support program(CHSP) for the frail and aged via social support services.

The organisation also provides home care services such as personal or domestic care in the person’s home.

The organisation was approved as a housing provider in December 2017 and has obtained approval to provide services through the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) promoting inclusion and various services to individuals under 65 with a disability to enhance their well-being and independence.


Affordable Housing: Penrith Speaks!

4 Logo SA words side by side



Act on Affordable & Secure Rental Housing

Hosted by Sydney Alliance & Citizen Action Penrith Affordable Housing (CAPAH)

It is no secret that the people of Penrith have a powerful voice with decision makers in Sydney. Especially a year out from the next NSW election. But did you know that almost one third of people in Penrith are renters? Many more have their kids or grandkids experiencing the crisis.

Sydney’s epic affordable housing crisis is making the news every day and yet the NSW Government has no plan for affordable rental housing and have not acted to make rentals more secure for hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders.

Over 150 citizens will be engaging their neighbours in Penrith on Saturday March 17th. Citizens will be using a survey to start intentional conversations on the issues.

Together we will gather hundreds of voices from Penrith on affordable and rental housing and send a clear message to all parties that action is needed!

Step up!

March 17th St Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church, 326 High St, Penrith.

10:15am for 10:30am-10:50am Briefing

Meeting, briefing & run-through You’ll be given copies of the survey content, method, photo and badge.

11:00am – 12:45pm

You’ll proceed to places across Penrith & engage folks in conversation!

12:45pm – 1:30pm

Return to St Nicholas Myra to gather survey results, BBQ and debrief!


Online: https://register.eventarc.com/40175/affordable-housing-penrith-speaks


Or by contacting your organisation Sydney Alliance rep.

Multi-family housing gains traction

06 James Brennan EY presenter

EY’s James Brennan

Build-to-rent or ‘multi-family housing’ is a relatively new concept in Australia and so it was the topic for Churches Housing’s networking breakfast on Friday 16 February with Ernst & Young’s James Brennan.

Brenna, who is EY’s director, Real Estate Advisory Services, said that the definition of multi-family housing is ‘purpose-built rental accommodation which is institutionally owned and operated, principally to secure a defensive income stream’.

‘Build-to-rent is largely a revenue-driven business, managing expenses closely via a comprehensive asset management platform. Revenue growth through dynamic pricing strategy is critical to long-term success.’

He outlined two scenarios for churches considering this idea – ground lease or sale – and analysed both from two viewpoints: the landowner (church) and the investor/manager.

06 Fr Shenouda Mansour at Networking Breakfast

Fr Shenouda Mansour, Ecumenical Council

OPTION 1 Ground lease

Landowner/church: grants a long-term ground lease, providing annuity income or units allocated for affordable housing; the landowner retains ownership of the land and improvements at the end of the lease period

Investor/manager: there is no upfront land cost, thus reducing Total Development Cost; target Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is 8-12%


Landowner/church: caveat on the title requires ‘x’ number of units to be affordable housing; the land is ‘foregone’ but the affordable units stay in perpetuity

Developer/manager: long-term annuity market income; required to manage affordable units; target Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is 8-10%

For information, contact James Brennan, 0409 190 326, James.Brennan@au.ey.com






Property market is ‘Game of Homes’

07 Game of Homes Photo courtesy Creative CommonsDelivering the second of Shelter NSW’s 4-part housing economics lectures, Professor Peter Phibbs describes the Sydney market as a ‘game of homes’.

Speaking at the second of a four-part series, Phibbs – from the University of Sydney’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning – likened the shifting blame-games of all three levels of government to the TV series based on George RR Martin’s saga.

‘A lot of stakeholders like to say the housing shortage results from a supply bottleneck – they won’t admit it’s tax settings and the setting of interest rates at 40-year lows.’

Phibbs says that inclusionary zoning is a better idea than zoning uplift/bonus schemes ‘as long as developers are given lots of notice’. He also commends the idea of build-to-rent for industry super funds that want to put such investments in their ‘ethical option’ for members with a long-term investment horizon.

In the first of the four lectures, Dr Ben Spies-Butcher, outline five possible solutions. Dr Spies-Butcher, who is Senior Lecturer, Economy and Society, in Macquarie University’s Sociology Department, said these are:

  1. Addressing tax concessions – the Commonwealth spends around $5bn a year directly on housing, and more than $30bn in concessional tax arrangements
  1. Increasing rental supply – social housing stock is cheaper than subsidising private alternatives and pushes private market down
  1. Helping renters – if more people rent for longer, then they need similar protections to those in other tenure forms
  1. Acknowledging political obstacles – large proportion of people own their home, a growing proportion invest, these groups are relatively wealthy and politically organised
  2. Overcoming economic barriers – housing stock has developed over time and its value is large, private housing is important for consumer confidence and jobs



A Minute with Magnus

A minute with Magnus

Happy new year! We hope you managed to have a safe and refreshing holiday before getting stuck into a new year. Here at Churches Housing we are busy for a number of reasons:

  • After more than five years, Donna has moved on. We will miss her greatly and are very thankful for the contribution she has made with the joy and passion that bubbles out of her. We wish her every blessing as she commences at William Clark College next week.
  •  Philippa Yelland has commenced as our Research and Communications Officer. We are very excited to have Philippa with us and she has already hit the ground running. Please read a little more of her profile below and say hello when you get a chance.
  •  SAHF 2 is quickly approaching and we are having a number of conversations with potential bidders. If you are thinking about putting in an EOI then please let me know. We have also been able to link a few of our members together, none of whom would have been able to go it alone. Please read our summary below for some more information.
  •  We are excited to welcome our newest member in Muslim Care, the first entity within the Muslim faith that has registered as a CHP. Churches Housing is walking alongside to assist them in becoming established and hope that other members may also be willing to share knowledge and experience.
  •  Before the Christmas break, Churches Housing lodged a submission to the Greater Sydney Commission’s Draft Greater Sydney Region Plan and revised District Plans. We made a number of recommendations – please read our submission here.
  •  As part of our involvement with the Sydney Alliance, we are participating in an Affordable Rental Listening Day in Penrith on the morning of Saturday 17 March. We hope that this action will add to both the evidence base – through a survey conducted on the day – as well as demonstrating to local and state governments how strongly people feel about the affordable housing issue. Are you interested in joining us? Then please write to me and I will send you a letter of invitation with all the details.
  •  Our Networking Breakfast on Friday 16 February will be a unique opportunity to hear the latest on build-to-rent with a presentation from Ernst & Young’s James Brennan in the Sydney CBD. This won’t be just an ‘information dump’ – it’s a unique opportunity to network and build relationships. See your invitation in the next article or click here

I look forward to working with you in fulfilling our mission of Unleashing church resources for housing through collaboration, partnerships, education and capacity building.

Magnus Linder Executive Officer

SAHF Phase 2

Hurry – Registration of Interest due Tuesday 20 February 2018 for Social and Affordable Housing Fund (SAHF) Phase 2

Photo by Diana Parkhouse, Flickr Creative CommonsThe Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) is seeking Registrations of Interest for the Social and Affodable Housing Fund Phase 2 Expression of Interest.

This is to provide service packages that meet the SAHF objectives which include tailored support packages, asset and tenancy management and access to accommodation.

The aim is to provide 1,200 additional social and affordable dwellings across NSW.

The regions are: Far North Coast, Mid North Coast, New England, Central Coast, Hunter, Cumberland/Prospect, Nepean, Northern Sydney, Inner West, South East Sydney, South West Sydney, Central West, Orana/Far West, Riverina/Murray, Illawarra, Southern Highlands.

Go to https://tenders.nsw.gov.au/?event=public.rft.show&RFTUUID=AAAD5930-C921-124D-FCBCD35F67F0265F

You can then download participation instructions and lodge a response.

SAHF Phase 2 will be procured in a two stage process with an Expression of Interest (EOI) followed by a Request for Proposal (RfP) from applicants who are short-listed in the EOI process. The EOI will be launched in early February 2018. To register for an invitation to submit an EOI visit https://tenders.nsw.gov.au to complete and lodge a Registration of Interest and ensure you receive an EOI when it is released.

Please contact Churches Housing’s Magnus Linder for more information or help.

02 9633 5999 or 0417 487 052. Email Magnus

National Housing Conference 2017

National Housing Conference 2017 inspires some hope

Build-to-rent dominated the conference, according to Magnus Linder, Rob Powell and Rob Burnelek

 Magnus Linder, Executive Officer, Churches Housing, reports

The National Housing Conference is a key gathering of sector participants from government, NGO, developers, housing providers and academics and researchers. The once fledging affordable housing sector is still small but on the verge of quick growth – however only if given strong government support and policy. Here is a 10 bullet-point summary of some of the things that stood out from my own notes:

  • Housing rights are human rights (Trudeau)
  • Australia has so much space with 3-4 people per km2, yet the dream of home ownership appears to be fading fast
  • Canada’s National Housing Strategy aims to achieve transformational change with a total investment of $40 billion over 10 years – yet for every $1 invested it sees $1.50 trickled down.
  • Migration and the failure to decentralise our key cities (Sydney and Melbourne especially) have added to property price woes. Decentralisation ensures benefits of migration will be shared beyond two cities.
  • Australian migration was an average of 80-100,000 a year or 1 million per decade. Up to the 1990s, 2/3 were unskilled. Now migration is 190,000 a year but 70% are skilled – mostly in Sydney/Melbourne. Slowing migration may cool the housing market but may also crash the economy.
  • Middle Australia is worrying about our children – will we ever get them out of our home and into their own?
  • If house prices fall too quickly, then many investors and home owners may be exposed.
  • The National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) is an important part of the national housing puzzle. Everyone working together will lower the price of finance.
  • NHFIC is an affordable-housing bond aggregator. Bonds are guaranteed by the Federal Government. There is an opportunity also to refinance existing loans.
  • Reducing barriers to downsizing is an important measure. Proceeds could be allowed to go straight into super at up to $300,000 per person as long as they have owned the house for 10+ years.

Rob Powell, Project Officer, Churches Housing, reports

When I went to my first housing conference five years ago, the mood was depressed and there was a set-in despondency that nothing would ever change.

More recently, as housing has become a hot topic in the public arena, there have been some glimmers of hope. The National Housing Conference in December confirmed the recent trend of hopefulness in the housing sector. There were more new initiatives and talk of finding solutions in a way that felt do-able – even from government!

The keynote address by Evan Siddall, President & CEO of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (Canada), was one of the highlights. Although Evan could not be there in person, his recorded message was engaging. Viewing the video gives insights into what could happen here if plans for a similar scheme (NHFIC) get the go-ahead.

Other highlights involved discussions on build-to-rent and a presentation from Dr Shann Turnbull on New Garden Cities approach to housing and social wellbeing.

What was somewhat disappointing was that a number of the sessions I attended were shallow and only just skimmed the surface of the issues and did not really approach possible solutions.

One of the things I noticed and had the opportunity to chat about with other attendees was that the sector is still seen in small silos – social, affordable and market rental.

The introduction of build-to-rent will add another much-needed opportunity to increase supply. It will also increase the complexity of the sector with questions such as whether this new supply could be used for affordable and social housing.

As I mentioned at ‘The Future of Social Housing in NSW: Consultation’ with the Hon Pru Goward MP in December, I would like to see more discussion on breaking-down the silos and seeing housing as a continuum from homelessness through social and affordable housing to market rental and ownership, focusing on a new sliding-scale rent subsidy policy and a system that does not require tenants to move each time their financial status changes.

Rob Burnelek, CEO, Axis Housing, reports

My main interest in the National Housing Conference was about the emerging build-to-rent discussions that have been occurring.

The conference had a large focus on build-to-rent, and I was trying to understand what all of the excitement was about. I was trying to work out whether there was something more complicated that I didn’t understand, or whether it was just a new trendy way of doing what the Church sector has been doing for years.

On the positive side:

  • I realised that there was not anything too difficult to build-to-rent – it really just means building a property, and rather than selling it, the owner holds onto to it to rent it out. The main difference is that now large institutions are looking at doing this.
  • It is starting to bring Australia into line with other housing markets where institutions supply a large amount of the rental housing.

On the negative side:

  • Aside from increasing housing supply (which is still desperately needed), it does not have anything directly to do with affordable housing. The organisations doing this are mainly focusing on full-market rentals.
  • There was also a continued cry-out from every speaker saying that the government needed to provide more money to subsidise the housing. Whilst this will help, there was little innovative thought as to how this was possible (and it can be done).