A minute with Magnus

LINDER MagnusChurches Housing was at Penrith Uniting Church in late May for a forum on social and affordable housing, following up from the Penrith Speaks survey on affordable housing in collaboration with the Sydney Alliance (early on Saturday 17 March this year, 131 volunteers with the Sydney Alliance and Citizen Action Penrith Affordable Housing had 628 face-to-face conversations with Penrith residents and visitors).

The follow-up event on Saturday 26 May, was an important advocacy opportunity organised by the Uniting Social Justice Forum and included the Lord Mayor of Penrith, Senator Doug Cameron, Penny Leong MP the Greens housing spokesperson and Dr Tim Williams. To read the results of the survey click here.

To my surprise and delight, my own daughter, Annika, has featured in The Sydney Morning Herald (click here) as a lead-in to a story about the new Rental Affordability Index developed by SGS Economics and Shelter. Not a day goes by when we are not reading multiple stories in the news about housing affordability, homelessness and the impacts of housing stress. Let’s continue to shout the truth from the rooftops and laneways if you cannot afford a roof over your head, until we see reasonable solutions and policies at all levels of government. The market is already regulated and influenced by many policies – but the system is now so broken that a major re-think and re-set is required.

Finally, I have an invitation for you to collaborate with us. We began to write a list of reasons why housing affordability is such an issue (in plain English) and we see great value in collaborating within our sector to write up a definitive list with a short summary as to why and what the issues are.

For example, cheap interest rates, taxation policy fueling demand, empty apartments being used as ‘banks’ etc etc. This list could become The Dummies Guide to Housing (Non) Affordability. Part 2, of course, will be a similar list but based on possible solutions to the issues we listed in Part 1.

Sounds like fun, hey, so please join us.

Part 1 – REASONS:

  1. Summarise your reason/s into one heading e.g. land banking, globalisation of housing market
  2. Write a maximum of 300 words about each reason
  3. Keep the reason in plain English
  4. Email to yelland@churcheshousing.org.au


  1. Summarise your solutions/s into one heading
  2. Write a maximum of 300 words about each solution
  3. Keep the solution in plain English
  4. Email to yelland@churcheshousing.org.au


Have you given us feedback via our annual survey? If you received a link to our survey and haven’t yet responded, please do so because this provides vital feedback in our reporting. If you haven’t received the link and would like to participate, then please email philippa.yelland@churcheshousing.org.au

Registration Roundtable on Tier 3 regulations

Save the date! Friday 22 June 2018  

9.30 am – 11.30am

Registration Roundtable on Tier 3 regulations

Venue: TBA in Parramatta

Tier 3 Community Housing Providers have an opportunity to provide crucial feedback on the National Regulatory System for Community Housing (NRSCH).

This is an important opportunity to influence changes in the system that may help you and your organisation in your own reporting and registration requirements.

In a nutshell: ‘How can the system change to be more helpful to Tier 3 providers?’

The session will be opened by representatives of the NSW Registrar of Community Housing, who will then leave so we can discuss openly and freely – issues and suggestions will then be put forward to the review process.

If you are a Tier 3 provider, then save this date and nominate a representative to attend.

This meeting will allow the faith-based sector to provide feedback to another meeting organised by the Registrar on Tuesday 24 July at Homelessness NSW, 99 Forbes Street, Woolloomooloo.

snip Save date

Peaks call on Government to release Tune Review on out-of-home care

pic Tune ReviewMore than 15 peak bodies are calling on the NSW Government to make public the Tune Review. Written by former senior public servant David Tune, the independent report warns that the current system for supporting at-risk children and families is ‘ineffective and unsustainable’.

Tune proposes setting up a new NSW Family Investment Commission to control the more-than $2 billion spent on vulnerable children and families.

Here is the peak bodies’ letter dated 22nd May 2018:

Release the Tune Review

Joint Statement from NSW Community Sector Peak Bodies

NSW’s community sector peak bodies call on the Government to immediately make public the full, independent Tune Review into out of home care.
There is nearly $2 billion spent each year on the approximately 20,000 children and young people in out of home care. What information we do have from the Tune Report warns that the system and the way the money is spent within the system is “ineffective and unsustainable”. Peak bodies, service agencies and the general public can learn from the insights and recommendations contained within the report and can use that information to improve outcomes for children and young people in out of home care.
We commend the NSW Parliament’s Upper House for passing the motion calling for the Government to release the full version of the Tune Review. Further to their motion, we call on the Government to adhere to the parliamentary order to immediately release the full version of the Tune Review and work with NSW’s community sector peak bodies to make a better future for the children and young people in out of home care.

Tune Review

Parramatta reconnects through roundtable

Dr Andrew Leigh (Fenner, Labor) and Julie Owens (Parramatta, Lab)

Dr Andrew Leigh (Fenner, Lab) and Julie Owens (Parramatta, Lab)

Australia needs to boost social capital and community engagement, according to Federal Labor politicians Dr Andrew Leigh and Julie Owens.

Churches Housing attended a roundtable, hosted by Leigh and Owens, in May to meet local community organisations and to lobby for affordable housing for all.

Dr Leigh, member for Fenner, and Owens, member for Parramatta, both spoke about worrying trends.

Leigh, who is also Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-For-Profits, said Australians were becoming less likely to join community organisations or play organised sports.

Owens added that rates of volunteering and donations rates had dropped in recent years.

The Reconnected roundtable, held at Parramatta Mission, encouraged Western Sydney charities and not-for-profits to exchange ideas about ensuring that communities have stronger bonds and louder voices.

The Parramatta meeting was the 11th such roundtable – others have been held in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Newcastle, Launceston, Hobart and Darwin. Representatives of more than 1000 Australian charities have attended so far.

Wentworth CH looks for tiny-housing land

Wentworth Community Housing is searching for land blocks in the Hawkesbury, Blue Mountains and Nepean areas for three to five years.Tiny homes pic

Block size needed is from 550 m2 to 1500 m2 for 4 to 10 tiny-homes for three to five years – after this, the village could be relocated.
The block needs to be connected to services and within walking distance to public transport.
Each home will be 20-30 m2, some being self-contained, others sharing facilities such as a laundry.
Other inclusions will be a community room, common green space and kitchen gardens.

Contact Eva Gerencer
02 4777 8063
eva.gerencer@wentworth .org.au

Wentworth Website
Wentworth Facebook

Summit to address density, local infrastructure and liveability

Creating a liveable Sydney for all is the topic of the Cities For Us Summit on Wednesday, 25 July 2018.Summit graphic

Lucy Hughes Turnbull, Greater Sydney Commission’s chief commissioner, will deliver the keynote address at Doltone House, Hyde Park.

Other presenters will speak on implementation (integration, collaboration and governance), funding (who pays, who benefits) and equity (who wins, who loses).

Registrations close Tuesday 17 July and the cost is $290 including lunch.

Enquiries at ssroc@ssroc.nsw.gov.au or phone 02 8396 3800.


Book now for Radical Sydney tours

Walking from Sydney Trades Hall to the Queen Victoria Building, you can visit Radical Sydney’s historical sites: an unlikely tearoom that hosted conspirators for women’s rights, the meeting place for larrikin unionists who saved the city’s heritage from bulldozers – to name just two.Book now for Radical Sydney tours

Hosted by Sydney Alliance community organiser Natalie Martignago, the small-group (up to 10 people) tours finish at The Palace Tea Rooms in the Queen Victoria Building.

The 2-hour tours raise funds to train the Allliance’s organisers and to keep the organisation independent of government funding.

To book, go to bit.ly/RadicalSydneyTours

Case Study – Lighthouse Youth Homelessness Project

LighthouseYIIt has been with some excitement and anticipation that we at Churches Housing put forward this research report into the Yallah Youth Housing Program. It presents as a unique and overwhelmingly effective initiative to provide transitional housing and community for youth who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. In many ways you would think that the Lighthouse initiative at Yallah is wrong; its location is nowhere near many essential services, transport or areas of high employment. Yet this transitional housing program appears to be a lot more than just transitional; it appears to be genuinely transformative. With 67% of participants ending up in secure accommodation and 49% in full-time employment or training upon completion, this program has something special.

The first we heard about the Lighthouse initiative was a few years ago when working with Anglicare. Anglicare Illawarra commenced partnering with Lighthouse to deliver personal training to a group of young women who were in danger of becoming homeless, part of the Yallah program. This personal training program, delivered twice weekly, saw this group transformed. Many were dealing with much anger, frustration and past abuse, while some did not even have a pair of shoes to train in. Over a period of months the personal training saw this group compete in the local Illawarra Aquathon, of which Anglicare is the main charity beneficiary. Complete with new shoes and tri-suits, (thanks to some corporate sponsorship) this group of ladies not only competed, but felt so empowered afterwards that they commenced to recruit some of their friends to participate with them in another event. However, personal training was not the primary goal. The personal trainer shared that she knew she was there primarily as a life coach, looking to build long-term relationship in order to foster self-esteem. Relationship was the key!

The NSW Government’s own “Going Home Staying Home Reform Plan” seeks to reduce repeat homelessness, increase the proportion of clients who can establish and keep long-term accommodation and reduce the need for temporary accommodation. The Lighthouse initiative does all of this, but how? The key that comes through loud and clear through the client interviews is relationships; specifically caring relationships that build community, along with links into a broader caring community outside of the program itself. Some programs may evaluate success based on the number of beds made available, the number of interventions made or the number and types of services delivered. However, the defining measurement must be the outcomes that occur at the end of the program itself. Has genuine transformation begun, have the participants learned to become independent, have they secured long-term accommodation and are they either gainfully employed or in training to be so? Delivering services is simply not enough; services must be delivered in the context of a caring community and relationships that foster a sense of self-worth.

We hope that our state government benefits from the insights given in this report and can support and encourage programs that deliver more than just services. We hope that other church and community groups will be inspired by the findings in this report and can be encouraged to implement new and innovative programs to target youth in their own communities. Finally, we also hope that this report will be of great benefit to Lighthouse itself in evaluating, planning and making any necessary changes to ensure this program continues to be successful into the future.

Download the full report

Moriah House Ballina

Moriah House is a very successful facility of St Francis Xavier College Parish in Ballina. It provides much needed affordable housing for low to moderate income earners who have attained the age of 60.

The building of Moriah House was made possible with the help of NRAS subsidies.

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St Mary’s Village, Smithfield

“Living within St Mary’s Village has transformed my life. We were struggling to  pay our household bills prior to moving in. Not only is this a home for  us, but we also feel strongly connected with the community. I would like to thank the church for the compassion that they have shown us by building these units.” – A resident in St Mary’s Village

What was delivered?

In 2011, the Assyrian Church of the East completed the construction of 50 apartments in Smithfield. The apartments are targeted towards the older members of the community with low to moderate incomes.

The apartments are adjacent to one of their parish churches in Smithfield (Western Sydney). The complex consists of 37 two bedroom, 6 one bedroom and 7 studio apartments.

This project was one of the first projects approved under the federal government’s National Rental Affordability Scheme.

What was the need?

The Assyrian population has increased greatly over the past decade, with much of the growth triggered by the turmoil surrounding Iraq. They have primarily settled in the western suburbs of Sydney, and form a significant portion of the community. In the 2011 census, the Assyrian people accounted for around 9% of Fairfield LGA population, and had increased by over 60% in the last 10 years.

Coinciding with this increase in immigration, housing affordability was also emerging as a significant issue in Sydney. For people that had recently escaped from their homeland, their financial resources were severely limited and they were prone to significant hardship.

How did the church respond?

The church approached their congregations to seek their views on the idea of providing affordable housing for seniors. The response was overwhelming and within weeks, 120 families sought to be placed on the waiting list.

In the early stages, the archbishop approached Derek Yule from Churches Housing, to seek his advice on how they should proceed. Derek’s initial advice was to obtain the land that they required. From this point, the church progressively acquired the land and moved towards commencing the project.

With the land purchased and plans drawn up, the church obtained their development approval under the Senior’s Housing SEPP.

The problem now facing the church was how to make the project viable. Interest rates were high (pre-GFC period) and the numbers were indicating that maybe the project would be delayed. In 2008, Churches Housing approached Archbishop Zaia with news that the federal and state governments were partnering to provide financial assistance through the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS).

With an annual incentive payment of $8,000 per unit, NRAS provided the additional funds required to allow the project to proceed.

With the assistance of Churches Housing, an application for funding was made and the project was one of the first projects approved under the National Rental Affordable Scheme.

The development process

With construction underway, there was an increasing level of excitement within the community.

Despite the construction process preceding well, the onset of the Global Financial Crisis caused additional issues for the church. Finance for the project had initially been sourced through a smaller foreign-based bank. With the restrictions of credit, the bank experienced difficulties in providing the funds when required, which in turn had further impacts on the development timeline.

The solution for the church was to re-finance the project – this time with one of the major Australian banks.

The project was practically complete by late 2010, with the final approvals for occupation granted in early 2011.

The project was officially opened on 27 September by His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia and the Hon Chris Bowen.

DSCN0585a IMG_2896 DSCN0586a

Tenancy and Community

With the completion of the apartments, the next 3 weeks saw a flurry of activity as the tenants began to move into their new homes. The church engaged Ecclesia Housing to manage the tenancies and has formed a successful partnership with them. Ecclesia Housing visits the site each fortnight with their mobile office, allowing the tenants to readily access the services required.

A notable aspect of the project is the sense of community that has been created, which is integrated with the church next door. The parish priest, Father Gewagis Atto comments that the people are always looking out for one another and making sure that they are well.

Archbishop Zaia is pleased with the success of the Senior’s Accommodation project – yet realises that this is just the beginning. His desire is to be able to help families that are struggling.

He recognises that one of the products of the success of the project is to have long-term access to sustainable finance – and is currently exploring ways that this may be achieved.