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New grant scheme opens for community housing

Community housing providers are now able to apply for grants of up to $20,000 to help them prepare the necessary finance and support needed for their loan applications.

As funded in the 2017-18 federal budget through the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC), the Capacity Building Program will assist community housing providers with help to access finance from the NHFIC.

The $1.5-million grant program aims to help community housing providers (CHPs) access NHFIC’s financing to support the delivery of additional social and affordable rental homes. 

As of Monday (1 July), eligible CHPs can now access grants of up to $20,000 for professional advisory services to help them with the upfront finance and business planning work required to support an NHFIC loan application. 

The grants cover consultancy services in

  • Finance - such as project and business financial modelling, fund-raising, financial risk analysis and key ratios
  • Business planning - including project and business planning, preparation of business cases, forming partnerships, monitoring results
  • Property development - for help developing or procuring new social and affordable housing, mixed tenure, sustainable and accessible property design, urban planning, place making
  • Risk management - such as understanding risks (business, financial, policy, governance, etc.) and managing, monitoring and mitigating risk

The Community Housing Industry Association Limited (CHIA) will administer the Capacity Building Program on NHFIC’s behalf.  

Speaking of the new scheme, the CEO of the NHFIC, Nathan Dal Bon, commented: “In the less than 12 months since commencing operations, NHFIC has made rapid progress and achieved tremendous early success in helping expand and accelerate the delivery of more social and affordable housing in Australia. 

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“By providing a grant program that funds professional advisory services, we aim to strengthen the ability of CHPs to access NHFIC’s lower cost, longer tenor finance and unlock more housing supply.”  

CHIA CEO Wendy Hayhurst added: “There are many smaller specialist and regionally based community housing organisations that have potential projects that will deliver great benefits to their tenants and communities. 

“Being able to get upfront advice to help prepare the proposal could turn the idea into reality.” 

The Minister for Housing and Assistant Treasurer, Michael Sukkar, welcomed the launch of the program, stating: “These grants will be particularly useful in assisting CHPs to get the specialist advice necessary to expedite their proposals.

“This will mean CHPs are able to get their projects up and running in a timely manner, ultimately benefiting tenants and those who require access to community housing,” Mr Sukkar said.

While the scheme was announced in the 2017-18 budget, the Coalition government did include a range of measures to boost housing in the federal budget for this financial year.

In the budget 2018-19, released in April, the Coalition said it would allocate funding to a range of packages aimed at providing more affordable housing and shelter for those in need.

Chief among these is $1.7 billion to support state affordable housing.

The vast majority ($1.56 billion) of this will be for the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA) – which was set up last year to help improve access “to affordable, safe and sustainable housing across the housing spectrum, including to prevent and address homelessness, and to support social and economic participation”.

Of the $1.56 billion allocated to the NHAA, NSW will get the most in 2019-20 with $484 million, followed by Victoria ($406 million), Queensland ($320 million), Western Australia ($166 million), South Australia ($109 million), Tasmania ($34 million), ACT ($27 million) and Northern Territory ($20 million).

An additional $114.9 million will go to National Partn­­­erships in 2019-20 to support state affordable housing services, with $110 million for housing for Indigenous Australians in remote communities, particularly in the Northern Territory.

This will help address overcrowding, homelessness, poor housing conditions and severe housing shortages.

The remaining money for National Partnerships will be allocated to states, provide funding to state governments to trial social impact investments, which aim to assist vulnerable priority groups as well as those that help young people at risk of homelessness.

On top of this, the government announced that it would provide:

  • $75 million to fund for emergency housing for women and children escaping family violence
  • $30 million to provide over 100 new social housing dwellings in Greater Hobart in partnership with community housing providers (as part of the $529.9 million it will provide to Hobart City Deal projects over 11 years from 2018-19)
  • $37.5 million to South Australia to assist with costs associated with the provision of remote housing

[Related: Coalition urged to do more on housing]

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