Exploring Community Housing in Australia

Professor David Mullins of the Third Sector Research Centre is visiting the City Futures Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. He is learning about change in the community housing sector since his last visit in 2008. 'In many ways the progress has been remarkable, the target set in 2007 to increase the size of the community housing sector in New South Wales from 17,000 to 30,000 homes over 10 years has already been met. This has been largely as a result of the stimulus programme adopted in response to the global financial crisis but also reflects the start of exciting programmes to expand the community sector through asset transfers from public housing authorities and to harness private finance to expand the sector’.

On November 22nd David is presenting a seminar hosted by the Centre for Social Impact and Corrs Chambers Westgarth based on his work on community investment in the English housing sector.

The seminar will be attended by over 50 delegates from government, third sector and businesses engaged in the Australian housing and community sectors. David will explore the relevance of English models of community investment to the current Australian context including the prospect of further transfers from public housing, the harnessing of private finance and the development of regulation at state and national levels. ‘This is a great opportunity to reality check a think piece I am finalising for HACT (the housing empowerment charity in England). I am particularly keen to share ideas on capturing social value with the Centre for Social Impact which is a leading centre globally in this field and to explore the potential for housing providers to work with tenants and communities as partners in social enterprise and to move away from dependency models associated with large scale public housing’.

During the week David will also be meeting with community housing providers, housing finance experts and visiting major regeneration schemes such as Bonnyrigg in South West Sydney. On November 21st he was invited to lead a discussion at the NSW Registrar of Community Housing on a project developing a strategic stewardship tool to map governance capacity in the sector. ‘The point we kept returning to was the need to give meaning to the ‘community’ dimension of community housing providers. It is great that this name has been retained as the sector expands and moves in a more hybrid direction. It helps to keep alive the importance of community drivers in strengthening and developing relevant solutions to housing problems in a context in which both state and market steering have clearly failed to address the housing needs of low income Australians. However, it is important that community accountability is strengthened within the governance and activities of these expanding and transforming organisations. This highlights the importance of the models we are discussing at the CSI seminar to take forward the community investment potential of the sector’.

David’s visit to City Futures Research Centre is hosted by Associate Professor Vivienne Milligan and Professor Hal Pawson with whom David is collaborating on an international comparative study on organisational adaptation in third sector housing providers as they take on wider roles in social housing provision. This study part funded by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute builds on a methodology developed by David in earlier work third sector housing in England and Ireland. The Centre for Social Impact seminar is hosted by Les Hems who is also supporting the Australian part of the Delphi study.

During his visit to Australia, David is also visiting Melbourne where he is hosted by Associate Professor Kath Hulse at Swinburne University. He will address another seminar of housing providers in an event co-hosted by the Swinburne Institute and two housing peak bodies, PowerHousing and the Community Housing Federation of Victoria.