Taking steps to address housing affordability
Like many in our community, Wollongong City Council is concerned about the affordability of housing for our residents.
While the primary responsibility for housing policy and funding lies with federal and state governments, at Council we also have a role to play in supporting our community to have more options to rent or purchase their own homes.
On Monday 27 June 2022, Council accepted a tender from Head Start Homes to deliver new pathways to home ownership for low to moderate income earners in our city, with a focus on the Southern Suburbs.
The decision followed a competitive tender process that commenced in November last year where Council called upon community housing providers to put forward tender proposals to deliver new and innovative ways of delivering affordable housing and service delivery options in our city. Head Start Homes was the successful tenderer from a pool of four applicants
“I would like to acknowledge all those who put in tenders through this process and appreciate that we all share a common goal – to provide affordable housing for our community,’’ Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM said.
“Congratulations to Head Start Homes on being the successful tenderer. I look forward to seeing this program delivered for our community.
This is a way that Council can play a small role in the much larger issue of access to affordable housing. Council has few levers to pull, but we are willing to do our bit within the scope of our legal powers and limited resources. Each level of Government has a role to play to support our community when it comes to affordable living options, but Council doesn’t build housing - that’s the domain of other agencies. Affordable housing stock is a space where we can play a small part in this significant societal challenge.”
“What I’m most excited about is the fact that this program will provide affordable housing options for individuals and families who might otherwise miss out.’’
The funding to deliver these outcomes is provided through the Affordable Housing Program, an initiative that came about through a Commonwealth grant under the Building Better Regional Cities program to Wollongong City Council. With the support of the Federal Government, and in acknowledgement that the scheme’s original parameters were impractical due to the rising cost of land and housing, the program was modified with an updated Memorandum of Understanding in 2017 to continue to facilitate the delivery of affordable housing in the region.
Through the funding, Council has already awarded more than $4M to the Illawarra Community Housing Trust, better known as the Housing Trust, for the delivery of 17 affordable dwellings across two sites in Wollongong and Dapto.
“Council is focussed on using this grant funding to support those in need of housing security and by using tenderers who have demonstrated experience to undertake such projects,’’ Wollongong City Council General Manager Greg Doyle said.
“In this round we were looking for a tender response that met a range of criteria, including targeting those in greatest need of housing security, demonstrating innovation in building design or new ways of service delivery, and including secure and affordable rental options or pathways to home ownership for low to moderate income earners.”
“Council will commence another competitive process for the balance of our Affordable Housing Program funds shortly.”
Stephen Woodlands, founder and Managing Director of Head Start Homes said the funds will see the creation of a new Wollongong Recycling Home Ownership Program, which will provide solutions to the home-ownership barriers faced by tenants living in the Wollongong Local Government Area.
"This life-changing, practical support will in turn, help to free up more affordable rental housing for other families in need which means the community benefit flows on. Our cost-effective solution will lead to beneficial social outcomes within the Wollongong LGA and will also have a demonstrable positive impact on the local economy,” Mr Woodlands said.
Chair of Head Start Homes, Vanessa Chan said the program aligns with Head Start Home’s goal to create innovative new pathways to housing security for disadvantaged families.
"We have been able to establish home ownership programs across New South Wales, South Australia, and Queensland by creating dynamic partnerships with councils, community housing providers, government agencies, large corporations, and local businesses. Our partnership with Wollongong Council is a new way of working to address this fundamental community issue."
Cr Bradbery said that Council has, and will continue to, advocate for more affordable housing locally.
“We share our community’s frustration about the challenge of accessing local affordable housing, alongside the impact of rising living costs.
We know that Council has a role to play in supporting access to affordable housing. The response to this crisis requires all levels of government, community organisations and the development sector to work collaboratively.” Cr Bradbery said.
The Wollongong City Council Housing Strategy will be delivered to Council for consideration in late August. It will include a range of actions focused on continuing to address affordable housing.
“The strategy will include ready to deploy activities, partnerships, and importantly changes to policy and planning that will have real impacts,” Mr Doyle said.
“We know that this requires a long term, sustainable, multi-dimensional, inter agency and organisational approach – we are committed to playing our role and delivering our Strategy.”