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