Housing Choices Australia Group - Annual Report 2020



The past year has seen some changes at our Housing Services Victorian operations, we farewelled General Manager of Housing Services, Ellie Francis-Brophy, and I commenced my role as the new General Manager, Housing Services (VIC) in May 2020. The Housing Services team, along with all sta members in the organisation and our residents, experienced unanticipated and significant changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. March 2020 saw Housing Choices sta leave the oce and adapt to working from home. Whilst it was a great upheaval, it was inspiring to see everyone working together so we could continue to deliver property and tenancy services to our residents. I would like to especially thank our residents for working with us, keeping us informed and keeping themselves and everyone safe at our properties. As the pandemic surged through the country, and had particularly devastating impacts for Victorians, the Housing Services team ensured that any resident who lost their income due to COVID-19 received a review of their rental amount and also financial assistance through either our Hardship Policy, our HELP or Resident Assistance Fund (RAF) programs. This financial year, we supported 95 residents with financial assistance from these programs Whether it was assistance with the costs of food, increased costs of utilities, or home schooling, these items all add up to a significant proportion of income for our residents. With regards to our new developments, it was an exciting year for the team as we grew our portfolio to increase safe, secure and aordable housing to those who need it. Towards the end of 2019, the team were delighted to be handing keys over to our newest residents in Dandenong, Newport and Wantirna. Over the year we allocated over 250 vacancies across our portfolio - being able to provide the keys to secure and aordable housing is really rewarding. What makes this experience even better, is visiting new residents throughout the year and hearing stories of the positive impact their new home has made for them. This reminds us all about the importance of having a place to call home. While the year made it dicult for our community development programs to be face to face with residents, our Community Development Ocers quickly pivoted to providing calls to residents to check in on their welfare throughout the lockdown.

By June we adapted our programs with residents to activities that could be conducted remotely, including food deliveries to our most vulnerable residents. We also designed a new Pay the Gap Program, which aims to support residents on low incomes with the high cost of childcare in school holidays. The pilot program is being rolled out for residents living in the City of Melbourne and Darebin areas and will provide up to $400 per household direct to a holiday program. You can read more about the various community events from this past year a bit later in the report. This year we worked in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services to create a central platform for people seeking social housing, called the Victorian Housing Register (VHR). A project plan was developed with working groups overseeing operations, compliance, communication, and training. The transition means that there is now a common waitlist for Victorians applying for Social and Public Housing. We continued our journey towards operational excellence, and we embarked on a project to review our operations to strive towards consistently, high-achieving ways of working. Working collaboratively with all team members, we mapped processes, identifying pain points in both work execution and work-flow management. From this, we have built the foundation for the ‘Future Way of Working’ and enabled setting robust internal standards for quality and service. At the conclusion of the project in late 2019, we saw an immediate improvement in rent arrears – achieving our lowest figure in two years, along with our rent reviews and allocation processes becoming consistent and more ecient. The Victorian Resident Advisory Committee (VRAC) played a key role in reviewing our performance, providing feedback and assisting with policy development. Despite the challenges we were faced with, I am immensely proud of the operations team for responding with great care, patience, and collaborative work practices. I look forward to seeing what other wonderful achievements are to come in the next financial year.


Housing Choices Australia | Annual Report 2019-20

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