Housing Choices Australia Group - Annual Report 2020

      ‡  The work done to establish our national PMO structure allowed us to smoothly rebalance as it rapidly emerged that a key COVID-19 economic recovery strategy would be to stimulate the construction sector, and importantly, via shovel-ready projects that could deliver urgently-needed social and aordable housing. Our approach to harnessing the opportunities that lie ahead has been multi-faceted: analysing the broadest range of funding options, models and partnerships, including long-term ground lease arrangements; reviewing our existing portfolio to identify opportunities for re-development as well as new development, optimising the potential of older or under utilised stock, increasing the volume of accommodation outcomes at existing sites through great design and construction innovation; and working with Local Government Authorities to deliver housing where it’s needed and optimise the use of ratepayer-owned assets. Our private real estate agency Urban Choices Property (UCP), led by Manager Dina Gatsios, has revitalised its team this year in preparation for future delivery of aordable tenancies through build to rent and other aordable housing opportunities that will emerge in the private sector in response to COVID-19. Despite the significant challenges presented by the pandemic environment for both UCP tenants and landlords, the team successfully managed both these important stakeholder relationships with great insight and highly focused eort. As a result, UCP has experienced extraordinarily low rent arrears over what could easily have been a confronting year. As our Group heads confidently into a ‘COVID-normal’ environment, we know the best contribution we can make as a national housing provider is to continue to provide good homes for vulnerable people, and to those living on low incomes or living with a disability. Because, as our nation recovers from the far-reaching impacts of the pandemic, it is they who will continue to need our homes and our help, more than ever before.

This year is best viewed as comprising two distinct halves. Through to February, our commercial activities were dominated by the pursuit of growth, aligned with our Business Strategy and Plan, and preparing our organisation for delivering that growth. A major focus was on securing development funding opportunities through the Social Housing Growth Fund and other government funding vehicles. We also set about laying the best possible foundations for delivering what we want to achieve, including our capacity to leverage the scale of opportunity provided through our merger with Access Housing in Western Australia. Part of the task was to have clear sightlines as to what our national growth should look like, and what the Housing Choices Australia Group needed to deliver it. This included the creation of a well-designed and well-resourced Project Management Oce structure (PMO), that would allow us to function smoothly, eciently, and systematically as a truly national organisation, from commercial, development, project management and asset management perspectives. We made an important decision to bring commercial analysis expertise into the Commercial Team, a significant move for a community housing provider but essential for one with our ambitions. We ended the year with a vision for a PMO framework in place and a Property Development and Asset Management (PDAM) team brimming with experience, intelligence and expertise; a team that would absolutely stand out in any for-profit enterprise. It continues to both amaze and inspire me how committed our PDAM team is to the vision and mission of our organisation, and that they choose to work in our sector rather than for-profit. My task is to ensure they can do their important work eciently and professionally; seeking innovative and diverse funding opportunities, and designing, building, developing and maintaining homes for the many Australians who struggle to find a safe and accessible place to live. We settled a number of key partnership relationships including those that will deliver the R.Corp South Melbourne and Queen Victoria Market housing projects in Victoria. In South Australia we oversaw Spence on Light’s exciting arrival onto the Adelaide city skyline, and in Tasmania the delivery of a number of standalone dwellings with the assistance of grant subsidies under a range of state government initiatives. Importantly, the successful negotiations with the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) has given certainty to Tasmania’s future development pipeline. When COVID-19 hit, our PDAM team transitioned seamlessly to an online operating model.


Housing Choices Australia | Annual Report 2019-20

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