Social housing drives growth on the Northern Rivers

A 10-YEAR social housing reform program announced by the State Government is expected to generate $22 billion in construction activity, and there are plenty of opportunities on the Northern Rivers.

Ready to face the changes locally is Lismore-based organisation North Coast Community Housing (NCCH), which now has more than 900 properties on its books.

Chief executive John McKenna said the release of the government's program, Future Directions in NSW Social Housing, had given his organisation a new focus.

"We have really grown in last five or six years … it has taken us a while to get where we wanted and to start kicking goals, but we're definitely doing that now," he said.

"We are focused on getting ourselves ready for the future challenges."

In releasing the Future Directions program this week, Social Housing Minister Brad Hazzard said the reforms would deliver "more housing, better opportunities for independence and better services for vulnerable households".

He said mixed communities - in which social housing is blended with private housing - was the way of the future.

"Children in social housing should not see disadvantage as their only future," Mr Hazzard said.

"It does them good to see their neighbours in private housing going to a job each day."

Mr McKenna agreed, and said NCCH had been using a similar model for a number of years with great success, including a 93% tenant satisfaction rate.

"We've recently had DA approval from Lismore City Council for a new social housing project at Goonellabah, which will be nine two-bedroom units," he said.

"They will be mixed - it will be social housing, affordable housing and market housing.

"This is really the only way to go.

"If these properties are managed well, as ours are, they do work. It would be very hard to pick our houses from 'normal' houses."

Mr McKenna said the formation of a regional Housing Alliance had also helped to push local issues further into the spotlight.

He thanked Parliamentary Secretary for the North Coast, Chris Gulaptis, for recently convening a meeting to raise regional housing issues, many of which will be addressed as part of the government's new social housing strategy.

"People living in regional areas have different needs to those in the city," Mr McKenna said.

"Thanks to our alliance, and politicians like Mr Gulaptis, that is finally being recognised."


Better outcomes:

  • 23,500 new and replacement social and affordable housing dwellings
  • Increasing the use of private rental assistance products by 60%
  • Mixed communities where social housing blends in with private housing
  • Transferring management of up to 35% of social housing to community housing providers.


Benefits of social housing:

IN THE 2014/15 financial year, North Coast Community Housing (NCCH) made a significant contribution to the local economy.

According to the annual report the organisation paid more than $1.46 million in rates to local councils.

Chief executive John McKenna said NCCH also spent $2 million on hiring local contractors to carry out works on 900-plus properties.

"Last year we turned over about $10 million and I would say 98% of that would stay in this local community," he said. "We really focus on operating locally and regionally."

In 2016, NCCH is working towards finalising the purchase of its new commercial premises and the major refurbishment of its Lismore office.

The organisation is also expecting further growth to be sourced from stock transfers from Housing NSW.

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