A novel approach to social and affordable housing

The extent of the social housing challenge demands innovative solutions.

The extent of the social housing challenge in New South Wales is hard to overstate, with over 59,000 people on the waiting list, current stock unsuitable for many applicants, a maintenance bill of around $350m and rising property prices – city living is becoming less and less affordable. These challenges demand innovative solutions that will stimulate the development of more stock with less reliance on Government.

As social media is synonymous with the iPhone Generation, so too has social and affordable housing become synonymous with Government handouts, capital grants and title transfers. The commercial realities of developing new housing stock have traditionally required that government be the main provider, however with both federal and state budgets under pressure and demand growing, new approaches are desperately needed.

One property developer in Western Sydney is showing a way forward with a novel approach to increasing the supply of social and affordable housing without relying on one cent of government funding.

Josh Vrsaljko
Josh Vrsaljko

Sustain Community Housing, a non-profit community housing developer was recently established by Josh Vrsaljko. Sustain is currently embarking on its first project in Colyton in Western Sydney, piloting a model of acquiring land, sub-dividing, building and then selling a portion to the market and holding the remainder for social purposes. The financing was arranged by a $1.6m joint loan facility from Social Ventures Australia (SVA) and Social Enterprise Finance Australia (SEFA) – who finance impact investment projects. Sustain will use the equity in these retained properties to replicate the model on a larger scale. With each development, Sustain will partner with a traditional community housing provider to manage the tenancies and ensure those most in need of stable accommodation are able to access these new properties.

SVA has been working with community housing providers and other stakeholders on financing mechanisms, service delivery models and strategic advice on how to navigate the complex future for social and affordable housing in NSW and around the country.

From SVA’s vantage point, across high net worth investors, trusts and foundations, large corporates, infrastructure players, peak bodies through to community housing providers, front line service providers and community organisations, there is a huge amount of goodwill in the community seeking to turn the dial on homelessness and the shortage of social and affordable housing. This goodwill now needs to be translated into policies, initiatives and outcomes-focussed programs, like Sustain Community Housing’s innovative approach, that address both the supply side challenges and the support services needed to enable every single person in challenging circumstances to find a place they can call home.