Sydney Alliance to work on community land trusts, landlords’ charter and local councils

Churches Housing – alongside some of our members and many other faith groups, not-for profits, charities, schools and trade unions – has been working collaboratively for change with other members of the Sydney Alliance.

CHi’s Magnus Linder is chairing the Sydney Alliance Housing Team which will work on three different projects.

Exploring Community Land Trusts

Overview of project proposed

This project will work with Dr Louise Crabtree (NTEU and WSU) and Jason Twill (Friend of Sydney Alliance) in demonstrating the value and feasibility of Community Land Trusts to the City of Sydney and other Local Councils via their Metropolitan Land Trust Policy project – more information about their project can be found here.

Community Land Trusts deliver permanent housing affordability through community stewardship of land. CLTs involve community members and residents in decision-making about housing and community facilities. They build relationships between people in a local area, and/or possibly across diverse community organisations.

Sydney Alliance’ involvement would be in community education and capacity building to help establish community membership for a Community Land Trust, with the possibility of this developing into a focused project advocating with targeted Local Councils for land and/or other resources to establish a Community Land Trust with membership drawn largely from Syd Alliance networks.
Worth noting Citizens UK was instrumental in organising and establishing the very successful London Community Land Trust project.
The key practical involvement of Sydney Alliance would be to organise and host a series of small workshops with Sydney Alliance membership about Community Land Trusts: what they deliver, how they are organised, the benefits and challenges.

Outcome sought

Through community education and capacity building, we seek to build a strong starting CLT membership base with both existing and potential required skill sets, possibly in the long run to establish a Sydney Alliance Community Land Trust made up of Sydney Alliance leaders as residents, board, & interested local community members.
Strategic approach of project

Louise and Jason’s project is developing a city-wide policy for local governments across the Greater Sydney area. With support from City of Sydney, they will be starting conversations with other local councils across Greater Sydney area that may have more access to land and/or vacant sites which could resource a Community Land Trust.

Establishing a community of people educated about, interested in and with demonstrated capacity to establish a Community Land Trust, will help demonstrate feasibility of concept and may convince Local Councils to move forward and resource a demonstration CLT in their area.

Long term outcome sought: take the ‘win’ from an initial demonstration Community Land Trust project that is working well and delivering at a small scale … and scale up!

 

Ethical Landlords Charter

Overview of project proposed

Develop an ‘Ethical Landlord Charter’ to which Sydney Alliance members and friends who own an investment rental property can publicly commit via an online pledge (registration).

Building on the commitment of the Sydney Alliance to work towards reform of ‘no-grounds’ eviction, development of an ethical landlord charter would involve members in reflection and discussion of what it means to be an ‘ethical landlord’ for individual private landlords, and could include relational activities between landlords and tenants.

The project would initially include individual targeted discussions or consultations with Sydney Alliance members (both tenants and landlords) to draft a Charter. During the housing section of the Postcode 2020 Table Talks, Hosts and Story Recorders would also be listening for stories about good landlords/good tenant relationships, as well as identification of people who own a rental investment property.

This initial work would lead to a soft launch of the Charter at a forum or event later in this year (possibly this could be at Discernment-Action Convention if appropriate). At the event we would be seeking to collect online pledges by ‘ethical landlords’ to act in accordance with the Charter, possibly also highlight some (pre-arranged) pledges from high profile landlords.

Social media campaign (and possible some smaller scale ‘events’) to collect pledges for Charter. Full Sydney Alliance launch event when target number of ethical LL pledges collected.

Outcome sought

Housing, including security of tenure for people who rent their home, is already a core area for the Sydney Alliance and many members of the Alliance already formally support the Make Renting Fair campaign to improve renter security by reforming no-grounds evictions.

An Ethical Landlord charter gives a platform to socially responsible landlords to make clear they support better renting laws, including reform re ‘no grounds’. Getting broad support and engagement around the idea of the ‘ethical landlord’ would add tremendous value to neutralise arguments saying reform of no-grounds evictions would unfairly affect all landlords. It organises a new and dynamic constituency in the debate. Individual tenants would also benefit from landlords who actually took the pledge.

Strategic approach

The strategic approach is to build more and stronger relationships between ‘landlords’ and ‘renters’ to show them both as community members who need to treat each other fairly. The tactic is to collect case stories from landlords who act ethically, and encourage Sydney Alliance members who are landlords to sign up to the charter.

Sydney Alliance wide connections and expertise in conducting relational engagement and
community consultation would be central in securing ‘ethical landlord’ stories and creating the charter with both input from landlords and renters. In particular, engagement from diverse faith and cultural communities would be extremely valuable.

The final Charter and pledges collected can be used in Sydney Alliance and others campaigning to outline that a reform of renting laws would not penalise or overly impact the ‘good’ landlords who ‘do the right thing’ but rather provide better protections for vulnerable renters who may otherwise be taken advantage off by ‘non-ethical’ landlords.

Has a strong capacity to attract positive media for the work of the Sydney Alliance.

Is the outcome sought achievable/winnable?

Structural changes in the housing market mean there are more renters, who rent for longer,
including families. Homeowners with children often know their children are likely to be renters,and could be sympathetic to the strategy. While the legislative change window (review of key tenancy law) has passed, building support for reform including through ‘unlikely allies’ such as landlords and ‘build to rent’ private developers could help in securing bipartisan support for reform.

 

Formation of a team in Parramatta Council Area

Summary

Using the Postcode2020 table talks as a way of building momentum, run a series of local-ward based assemblies that bring together members of Alliance partners in Parramatta Council before local council elections on Saturday 12 September.

Rationale

Impact: Parramatta Council has huge development plans and recently passed a (relatively) strong policy on inclusionary zoning. However, seeing such a plan realised, money directed to the policy and a council that focuses on social justice outcomes on housing will likely require strong community support. Parramatta Council is modelling itself as the second CBD, so a win in the council area could have a big flow-on effect for years to come. Issues may not just be related to the housing area of the Alliance agenda. Previous local assemblies and follow up have already moved this council on affordable housing in the lead up to the NSW election.

Partner organisations with a presence in Parramatta Council: Community Migrant Resource Centre, United Workers Union Parramatta Office, Settlement Services International, Churches Housing, Catholic Diocese of Parramatta – Parramatta Cathedral, Parramatta Mission, Vinnies NSW, Northmead Uniting, Epping Uniting, Carlingford Baptist, Riverside Baptist, Churches Housing, Centre for Ministry, Sacred Heart Catholic Parish Westmead, ParraCAN and Uniting Burnside, NTEU at Parramatta, Westmead and Rydalmere campuses.

Leadership development: There are postcodes identified across the council (almost all of them) for table talks, meaning there is the potential to build momentum from listening straight into action. This would present an opportunity for local discernment of a set of asks or platform partly devised locally from stories and pressures.

Politics: The five wards have about 19,000-21,000 voters each with 4,000 to 5,000 being a quota. Comparably small margins create a lot of potential democratic energy. The ward boundaries are still being tested. There is a healthy spread of candidates across the political spectrum. The previous council had a lot of drama and distraction.

Resources: To be successful, a group of leaders from partner organisations would need to work together with a common vision and a tight timeline and at least one leader step forward to drive the strategy. Three interns come from Parramatta Council area in three different wards. Magnus Linder (Churches Housing) & Janice Stokes (Vinnies NSW) are keen to contribute some work time for this work.

 

Housing Team commitment

To support a local organising team with expertise on housing issues. To support the Parramatta group in their discernment on housing issues in Parramatta Council – particularly navigating policy nuances.

If you, or your organisation, are interested in engaging in any of these three projects then please speak with Magnus Linder at Churches Housing on 0417 487 052 or Magnus.Linder@churcheshousing.org.au

Minute with Magnus

The fires and the sad devastation they have brought are on the forefront of many of our minds – and so they should be!
I previously worked coordinating disaster welfare and before that spent 17 years with Fire and Rescue.
Many of us love to think about how we can contribute to the relief effort and do all sorts of good stuff, some of which may actually be helpful.
Just as it is not appropriate nor helpful and not appreciated to send a donation of your 30-year-old pots and pans or second-hand clothing (send the $$ instead), there are also many other things that either help, hinder or just become a waste of time and money.
Here are my top tips for effective relief and recovery:

  1. Know that extensive plans, organisations and volunteers were already in place before these fires. Check out https://www.emergency.nsw.gov.au/Documents/publications/Emergency-Management-Arrangements-For-NSW.pdf#page=5&zoom=100,92,465 and https://www.emergency.nsw.gov.au/Documents/publications/National-Strategy-for-Disaster-Resilience-Community-Engagement-Framework.pdf.
    Yes, there is an Emergency arm of the NSW government that coordinates this – including disaster welfare. Some NFPs and community orgs are already embedded in this plan (Red Cross, Salvos, ADRA, Anglicare) and already out there alongside DCJ officers. Others have mobilised already and are very happy to work with volunteers.
  2. It’s very important for the communities themselves to feel listened to and empowered towards their own recovery. Yes, they need assistance but they need their own community to drive it.
    Lots of organisations breezing in for a few weeks, bringing things they had not asked for or providing advice that is well-meaning but also not asked-for can be very infuriating to communities trying to recover.
    Practical assistance that comes alongside a community that has been engaged with the NFP rather than dumped at their doorstep is received so much better. Try to link with and support local communities that may have been, or at least feel forgotten.
    If you make a commitment to come alongside, don’t promise the world and then breeze out in a few weeks. Recovery lasts years and sometimes it is impossible to ever recover what has been lost.
    Rather than bringing assistance in from outside the community, is it possible to help the community by mobilising their own resources/businesses/volunteers first?
    Or, something that brings the community together – eg a community kitchen kept going in Maryborough for 3 years after Black Saturday – first daily, then weekly, finally monthly so locals could get together and support each other (outsiders were not invited) – empowering communities to do things like that can be very healing for them.
  3. Always make sure you coordinate with other agencies, especially with the ones that may have already been tasked and perhaps funded to do the thing you are thinking you may want to do.
    They may actually appreciate someone who can come and assist them, especially when such a wide geographical area has been hit. But please don’t upset other agencies by seeming to come in on their turf, so to speak.

Finally, in some places, recovery will actually never happen. There will be a new reality but it will be very different, often forever different, from what was before. So please do not give trite sayings such as “time heals” and “you’ll get over it eventually”. Often this trauma can stick for a lifetime and sometimes it is more about getting used to a new life, one that people didn’t ask for, so please be gentle in your conversations.

Bushfires compound housing woes … but also present an opportunity

Like many of our sister agencies, Anglicare was on the frontline supporting our communities as the bushfire crisis unfolded across NSW, ACT, Victoria and South Australia this summer.

Brad Braithwaite, who is deputy CEO of Anglicare NSW South, NSW West & ACT, filed this report. (Brad is also on the board of Churches Housing.)

Key bushfire facts:

In NSW alone, there have been…

  • 2,448 homes destroyed
  • 1,013 homes damaged
  • 5,469 outbuilding destroyed

The immediate toll has been horrendous: precious lives taken, thousands of homes destroyed, untold livestock and livelihoods lost, and millions of hectares of native flora and fauna destroyed.

Yet, as we move further into the long and difficult recovery phase, one key issue will consistently occupy our minds – homelessness. The sheer scale of housing loss in this crisis is unprecedented, and as a society our attention will naturally gravitate towards those who have become homeless because of the bushfires.

But what is increasingly occupying the minds of services such as Anglicare, Vinnies and the Salvos is the perilous plight of those who were already homeless or under extreme housing stress before the bushfires.

Will the 5-to-10 year expected wait times for social housing in most coastal communities become 10+ years?  Will already scarce affordable rental accommodation simply become non-existent? As whole communities compete for what little temporary accommodation there is, will even camp sites and caravan parks become a pipe dream to the homeless?

On the south coast, our already stretched specialist homelessness services are struggling to cope, and we are far from alone. What is most concerning is that, whilst everyone is acutely aware of the problem, to date there have been very few suggested solutions. It has all become too hard.

Of course, as our Churches Housing members know all too well, there is no quick fix solution to entrenched housing problems. However, this horrible bushfire event does present an opportunity. As our governments look to support communities to rebuild homes and revitalize their economies, the community housing sector has a prime opportunity to advocate for housing as ‘social infrastructure’.

In response to bushfire devastation and increasingly uncertain economic times, what better way to stimulate the national economy than to build homes for the homeless and vulnerable in our communities?

Let’s seize the moment to make a more sophisticated economic case to government for nation-building investment in social and affordable housing.

Minto to gain aged care and living units

A recently approved development application in Minto is for a seniors’ living village that includes a residential aged care facility and residential living units. At the corner of Sark Ave and Pembroke Road, Minto, the development has been designed by award winning Architects Group GSA.

Ten 3- and 4-storey buildings will include a 100-bed residential aged care facility and 345 one and two-bedroom residential living units, with ample parking for residents. The site will also include a large community centre, a café, extensive landscaping with a kids’ play area, pet-friendly facilities, various internal and external communal spaces for all residents, plus outdoor amenities to promote health and social interaction.

The development will be completed in 2 stages. Stage 1 will be the 100-bed residential aged care facility and 6 residential unit buildings comprising 220 units. The estimated completion date is mid-next year.

Anglicare is incorporating affordable housing for people over the age of 55 as part of this large-scale seniors’ living development.

Bill Farrand, Anglicare’s Chief Operating Officer for Community, said: “Due to the substantial size and growth of Minto and increases in the cost of housing in Sydney, the number of people in the area in need of affordable rental accommodation options has increased substantially over the last 10 years.

“There are over 1,800 individuals aged over 55 living in the Campbelltown LGA who have an individual weekly income of less than $500 per week. Over 25% of these individuals are earning less than $300 per week – most likely they need affordable housing.”

Wesley Mission to refurbish Glebe property for affordable housing

Sydney’s Wesley Mission is lodging a development application (DA) to completely refurbish the RJ Williams property in Glebe Point Road to provide 74 environmentally sustainable self-contained units of single and double bed studios plus four-bedroom units that can accommodate a group or family.

These private units will also have shared spaces, including a rooftop garden, to suit tenants looking for quality and convenience.

Formerly the mission’s RJ Williams aged care facility, the building began life as a motel in the 1960s before Wesley Mission bought it in 1975.

Lisa Ellis, operations manager for Wesley Community Housing, says the plans for the refurbished building have been drawn after extensive community consultation.

Ms Ellis – who is also a director of Churches Housing – says the units will “meet the growing demand for affordable living in a vibrant Sydney neighbourhood”.

Anglicare to build more housing in Fairfield

Anglicare is developing more affordable accommodation in Fairfield, focusing on housing for women over 55 and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women over 45, who need long-term, secure affordable housing.
The recently approved development application is for a mix of affordable and strata units at 36-40 Kenyon Street Fairfield, designed by award-winning architects GroupGSA.
“The number of people in Fairfield in need of affordable rental accommodation options has increased substantially over the last 10 years, due to the substantial growth in the area and the cost of Sydney housing,” says Bill Farrand, Anglicare’s chief operating officer.
“There are over 5,300 individuals aged over 55 living in private rental accommodation in the Fairfield LGA who have an individual weekly income of less than $500 per week. It is likely they need affordable housing.”
The development approval is for a 6-storey building which includes 36 studios, one- and two- bedroom units, and onsite car parking. The building will also contain a large communal room with kitchenette which opens onto a landscaped area containing barbeque, outdoor seating, and garden.
Anglicare has received approval for a 6-storey building with a mix of 36 affordable and strata studio units and 1- and 2-bedroom units in Fairfield, 23km west of the CBD.
This will provide affordable housing, in particular, for women aged over 55 and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women over 45.
Anglicare also has the green light for a co-located development in Minto, 38km southwest of the CBD, with a 100-bed aged care facility and 345 x 1- and 2-bedroom village units across 10 x 3- and 4-storey buildings. The site will also include affordable over-55s housing.

Minute with Magnus

Sometimes affordable housing meetings are not always what you expect.

Landcom just launched a partnership opportunity through an event focused on the increased supply, diversity and affordability of housing.

Dan Gregory, of Gruen Transfer fame, opened proceedings, discussing how we lead change; especially relevant as we are in a sector with the unsolvable solvable problem of affordable housing.

In the increasingly changing digital era, the problem for us is not that we don’t have enough information, it’s that we have way too much information.

The problem of information overload means that good is no longer good enough.

What we really need is not even more information but the space to think even more creatively about the problem, focusing on innovative solutions instead of precedents.

More than ever, we also need to ensure we are solving the RIGHT problems and that we work at increasing the DIVERSITY in our problem solving teams – research demonstrates that increasing diversity, bringing in people who think differently from the rest of the group, will always lift the combined IQ of the group.

Being more collaborative is actually about generating solutions that were not thought of until we get everyone around the table – and think diverse, everyone!

Sometimes it means deliberately going out to find the people that can deliver insights that you don’t have around that table, such as the emergency medical teams who learnt amazing things about handing over patients from the leaders of F1 pit crews (https://ama.com.au/ausmed/doctors-use-formula-one-pit-crews-safety-model).

How are you going to lead creatively in the future?

Vertical village project develops

Church Housing’s Vertical Village project is up and running with approval now given for the research proposal and an ongoing submission of the ethics component through Macquarie university.

Planning for the theological underpinning of the project is also underway with topics being formulated and paper writers being approached.

For those new to the concept of Vertical Village, here is a simple explanation.

We all know about horizontal villages, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. We have either grown up in one or visited one at some stage.

Think of a country town with a town centre boasting the usual amenities; shops, police, fire station, church, community hall, parks and sporting fields, swimming pool, clubs as well as housing for the populace.

In this scenario most are within walking distance horizontally. These horizontal villages usually have a strong sense of community. People often work in the local area.

For those who grew up in the suburbs of a city, what you experienced is somewhat akin but on a larger scale. The amenities are still spread horizontally but with larger distances (no longer walkable). Sense of community is somewhat less as commuting to work and the centralisation of amenities in large regional marketplaces means travelling outside the local community.

Since the invention of the lift, higher density living has been possible and with the increasing world population, inevitable. With less horizontal space available, density needed to become vertical. But vertical density whilst still working on the horizontal village model has created loss of community and isolation of individuals and families.

The communal space available in these higher density areas was created on the horizontal plane and cannot cope with the number of people wanting to use it. People have little or only passing contact with neighbours.

The Vertical Village concept seeks to address this problem by asking the question “How can we provide the necessary amenities vertically alongside/within housing developments where communities can develop and flourish?”

Project brief

The aim of this research is to explore how faith-based organisations (FBO) can facilitate place-making and community development in multicultural high-rise, mix-tenure and high-density urban environments.

Planned project tasks

  • explore examples of FBO-led and secular community development in high density, multi-cultural urban environments
  • design a case study on Macquarie Park & other developments
  • research the ways in which place-making and community development can be helped in mix-tenure developments through urban design and practice
  • conduct and evaluate community-development workshops to explore the assets, resources, networks and capacities of local FBOs and residents to grow connections and enhance place-making in Macquarie Park.
  • develop an online toolkit and research report to inform urban design, place-making and community development in high density urban environments
  • write a theology of place and community to inform both village design and church engagement

Project partners

muniWebcropped-ChurchesHousingLogo_colour_without_tagline.jpgSalvos-ShieldTogether For Ryde

Minute with Magnus

I’ve been procrastinating writing my minute! For everyone working in our sector, particularly in regards to advocacy and systemic policy change, things can often be more than a little disheartening.

So much talk, so much reading, lots of writing, so many meetings and discussions, plus a few elections for, well … often very little discernible result.

And yet there are hopes, such as the 1,600 or so units currently being built by the church sector (Vinnies, Uniting, BaptistCare and Anglicare Sydney) through the Social and Affordable Housing Fund.

Still, sometimes it is just so hard when things move so slowly.

And yet, a few days ago, I may have made a discernible difference, just because I stopped to chat to Alex, who has been on the streets for a few months since his mum’s place burnt down.

We had a coffee together and I bought him a pie.

Then I walked down the road with him to the Homelessness Connect fair in Parramatta Mall and introduced him to a few service providers who will hopefully be able to help him out.

It really wasn’t that hard and only took a few minutes.

Later that afternoon I went to Parliament House in Macquarie St to talk some more with politicians about the way forward and Alex has given me some extra motivation to keep going.

These are not just policies we are talking about, these are real people facing enormous difficulties often without any resources or other people to help them along the way.

A minute with Magnus? Nah, a minute with Alex is much better!

Churches Housing’s survey shows satisfaction up

Each year, Churches Housing surveys members to assess what’s working and what’s not. Overall, this year’s survey shows that satisfaction is increasing as shown in some random results:

  • 83% of members think we’ve supported them to deliver innovative housing solutions
  • 82% are satisfied to very satisfied that we’re doing a good job public advocacy on housing issues
  • 81% say we’ve kept them well-informed about government programs

What would you change to improve Churches Housing’s service to its members/stakeholders?

  • Churches Housing provides a wide range of services to smaller NGOs in the Tier 3 area. While communications are quite good and various forums & get-togethers provide a strong platform for information share and networking, more directed gatherings supporting the three tiers might be beneficial.
  • Information available to connect with projects and other initiatives, networking opportunities

 

General comments

  • I have been impressed with the level of commitment and knowledge in my dealing with Churches Housing. They act as a strong intermediary in dealing with FACs and LAHC. They form an integral link between CHPs and the funding body.
  • Cannot speak highly enough of Rob Powell who was an absolute pleasure to work with. Rob guided us through the Community Housing registration process and his knowledge and expertise made the process incredibly straightforward and seamless.
  • I think what Churches Housing is doing is great I very much appreciate their inclusiveness and their deep knowledge of homelessness that the people who work there have. I think this is extremely important in any program working to support those in danger of homelessness.