Our Pulse Session held on 3 March heard updates from both the public and sector representatives. It was great to exchange information relating to our strategy of ending homelessness.
The topic for this session was on social and affordable housing.
With the implementation of the Housing First Homelessness Initiative including the Housing First System Co-ordinator and Housing Support Services it is timely to examine the housing options to support this initiative. It was a good opportunity to hear from some local projects which promote social and affordable housing.
In his introductory comments the Executive Officer for the Western Australian Alliance to End Homelessness (Alliance) John Berger outlined the real “pressure points” of Perth’s housing market. With a tight housing market, low rental vacancy rates, government making a limited commitment to build social housing and the looming end to the eviction moratorium the present housing system will come under great stress.
With this key issue in mind the Alliance invited three speakers to outline a few initiatives taking place to increase housing supply at the local level.
City Rotary is Western Australia's newest Rotary Club comprised of focused members from diverse occupations and backgrounds. It labels itself as a “can do” style of Rotary delivering high-value, complex projects which make a difference, and require a strategic approach, leveraging members’ networks to create partnerships with community, government, academia and business.
Liz Pattison, a Rotarian since 1992, is looking at how business can be encouraged to increase housing supply for people experiencing homelessness based on the Housing First model.
After seeking input from the Alliance and several other experts in homelessness The Emplace Initiative was established. Aimed only at key corporates, the initiative encourages those in business to simply help build houses. Its proposition is to find the many key developers, philanthropists and builders who are concerned about homelessness and would like to make a difference.
The initiative has a tight focus. It does not do advocacy work as other people and organisations already do this and it does not fund raise. It simply acts as a conduit to allow projects to emerge with the intent to promote their scaling as they succeed.
“We are an enabler, we are not a builder, we are not a project leader, but we can reach out through our networks to whatever is needed for a project to happen,” Liz said.
A target list of major key business leaders has been drafted by City Rotary and they will be invited to The Emplace Initiative table to see how existing projects such as My Home can be made scalable and to look for the other projects or existing housing development projects that can incorporate housing for people experiencing homelessness. A new website will be up and running soon.
The “My Home” concept is based on the Housing First model and is delivered on land provided by the Western Australian State Government at a peppercorn lease. It is devised by Michelle Blakeley, a local architect, with a keen interest in housing those experiencing homelessness.
The concept works through a three-way partnership being private, public and provider. The private sector enables either construction, funding or supply of materials and products. The public through the state government leasing vacant land at a peppercorn rent. And a Community Housing Provider to manage the housing, tenancies and acts as a conduit to support services.
The project has been enhanced by the acquisition of two sites, Congdon Street in North Fremantle and Berwick Street in Victoria Park. Planning approval has been granted for North Fremantle and an application has been submitted for Berwick Street.
Costs are kept low by using a prefabricated process which provides for an efficient way of construction. The method uses timber prefabricated wall, roof and floor cassette systems which are delivered to site with insulation, external cladding, windows and cavities for services. The structure for each house can be erected in a day, making them extremely cost efficient.
The base cost per house is $80,000 but excludes site costs, service headworks and professional fees amortised across each unit on site.
Dr Amity James
Dr Amity James from Curtin University spoke about a project the University is doing on behalf of the Alliance.
One of the key challenges is to get a good understanding of the many initiatives being done not only in Western Australia but both on an interstate and global level. Dr James is working on creating a repository of reliable and robust information on who is providing housing to support Housing First.
By collating this information relating to building or housing initiatives it will benefit potential corporates/businesses should they wish to invest in a particular Housing First project or scheme.
Information contained within this clearing house will be detailed on which an investor can make clear decisions on housing options with actual examples of those approaches that support Housing First. This information will be readily accessible and can be used by the State Government, industry, philanthropists and investors.
Information will be deliberately conveyed into plain English terms to ensure any party who has an interest in undertaking a possible investment can understand which option suits them. The clearing house information will be reflected in a charter that relates to the principles of Housing First.
The project is in the very early stages and work is being contracted now. A survey forms part of the work and will be released mid-year.