Project Independence, a not-for-profit community housing provider, has secured a $500,000 investment from Social Ventures Australia (SVA) to provide people with an intellectual disability a new pathway to home ownership.
Project Independence’s latest development will see 10 residents living in three separate homes, with accommodation for a live-in Resident Coordinator to support residents. This interesting arrangement offers residents flexibility, a long-term housing option, and a stepping stone to independent living. It also gives them the choice to acquire equity in the property.
Each resident will complete a one year ‘try before you buy’ rental period during which they live in the unit to assess if Project Independence is the right accommodation option for them before purchasing. Residents can then build up equity in the property through their regular payments out of their Disability Support Pension.
The first two developments in Canberra have been operational for over 12 months and SVA’s investment, which takes the form a construction loan, will partly finance the development of the third ACT development. Other finance includes $1.5 million in philanthropic grants and in-kind donations from partners including the Snow Foundation and Icon.
Project Independence Chair, Glenn Keys says …
‘The Project Independence model is unique in Australia, in that it provides a home ownership option for people with an intellectual disability. We start by understanding the needs and goals of each resident, to build both the independent living skills and financial independence of our residents, which leads towards true home ownership. We partnered with SVA as they understand the need for flexible financing and the complexities of scaling innovative social programs. This relationship is critical for being able to roll out Project Independence, at scale, across Australia.’
SVA’s $500,000 investment comes from its SVA Diversified Impact Fund and follows the Fund’s recent $1 million investment in education start-up Maths Pathway.
SVA Executive Director, Impact Investing Michael Lynch says Project Independence offers a new model of home ownership to the Australian social and affordable housing market.
‘This investment is a great opportunity to support and shape an innovative, scalable shared equity model and intellectual property licencing to other potential not-for-profits. SVA has strong experience in purposeful construction loan financing, with successful prior investment in projects with Nightingale, Glenview and Life Without Barriers.
‘This construction of 10 dwellings will offer a place of safety for the residents to grow their independence both financially and socially. Project Independence’s model is an important step towards more equitable home ownership in Australia for people with disability.’ he says.
The availability of affordable housing, and disability-specific housing is a major issue in ACT, with waitlists of more than two years. Research shows that in Australia, people with disability are under-represented in home ownership and are more likely to experience housing affordability stress, inadequate housing or homelessness than those people without a disability.
Construction of the Project Independence dwellings will begin in early 2019 with residents planned to move into their homes in 2020. The loan will be drawn down as construction proceeds. Ashurst provided SVA with pro bono legal advice on the financing.
 Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute. Shared home ownership by people with disability. Retrieved from https://www.ahuri.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/12583/AHURI_Final_Report_No277_Shared-home-ownership-by-people-with-disability.pdf