An initiative raising funds for affordable housing hopes to become as commonplace as wearing a seat belt.
An initiative raising funds for affordable housing hopes to become as commonplace as wearing a seat belt.

Australian housing scheme still ambitious

It only took a relationship breakdown for one Victorian father to be forced into sleeping in his car or on a couch, while his children shared a room at his mother's two-bedroom bungalow.

The daily routine of dropping off and picking up his two young children at school in the next town over from his mum's made finding stable work challenging.

This hurdle was overcome when in 2018 the trio got a home with Habitat for Humanity, an international affordable housing organisation.

The children can now walk to school and their father has landed his first full-time, permanent job at a nursery.

Habitat for Humanity chief executive Philip Curtis says the other flow on effects of the stable housing situation for the family, and others like them, are significant.

"Improved education, employment opportunities, improved health and maybe even that really subjective outcome called happiness," he told AAP.

Habitat for Humanity is just one organisation backed by a scheme that is hoping to become as deeply ingrained in the Australian psyche as putting on a car seat belt.

Homes for Homes gets property owners to commit to donate 0.1 per cent of the future sale of their home to affordable housing projects.

Currently, more than 600,000 extra affordable homes are needed to meet demand nationwide.

Inspired by a US program, the initiative was launched in 2015 by the same people who run the social enterprise magazine the Big Issue and it has already distributed $480,000 to projects.

It is currently operating in NSW, Victoria, ACT, South Australia and Western Australia, with plans to expand into Queensland, the NT and Tasmania.

To get the best bang for their buck, the organisation has primarily targeted property developers, hoping they will add the Homes for Homes caveat to newly-sold properties.

So far, 16 developers have done so and Homes for Homes is in discussions with another 60.

Homes for Homes chief executive Steven Persson said the organisation's initial conversations with developers took longer than expected, partly because they were suspicious they weren't being asked to simply cut a cheque.

"But now there's a sense of momentum about it," he told AAP.

People who buy properties signed up to Homes for Homes aren't forced to follow through with donating when they sell their home, but about 80 per cent have and the figure is rising.

Property developer sales teams spruiking the concept has helped.

But the recent softening of the housing market dampened the enthusiasm of some developers.

"We've just had to be that little bit more patient to get that answer we want," Mr Persson said.

Individual home-owners can sign up to the initiative by putting in a request on the Homes for Homes website and they'll be specifically targeted in 2020.

Mr Persson believes the organisation could become part of the national culture like how Australians wear seat belts and recycle - behaviours that took more than 10 years to take hold.

"We're playing a long game here," he said.

Forecasting shows Homes for Homes could raise more than $1 billion within 30 years if three per cent of the population signs up.

Of the organisation's first funding round, doled out in October 2018, $40,000 went to Habitat for Humanity - equal to about a third of the cost of a new build.

The money went towards a house in Yea, in Victoria's northeast, for a couple and their young daughter who had previously been living in unsuitable conditions.

Other grant recipients included Havelock Housing Association, which received $200,000 for a unit offering long-term affordable tenancies to matched pairs of older women.

Applications for a second round of funding distribution have already closed, with the recipients due to be announced in early 2020.



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