A safe and affordable place to live is a basic human right and fundamental to an individual and family’s well-being.
The value of a home
A home provides stability, privacy and security that is essential to fully participate in the community such as getting a job, accessing training and developing relationships in the community. Catholic Social Teaching, based on the dignity of the human being, asserts that everyone is of great value and worthy of respect and protection. Every person is therefore entitled to their rights which include a right to the basic needs of life – such as food and shelter.
The current situation in Australia
There is currently an undersupply of social housing in Australia. In 2011 it was estimated there was a shortfall of 186 000 dwellings across Australia to meet demand.1 The private rental market in certain areas is also currently unaffordable for people on low incomes such as government payments and the minimum wage.2
The evidence points to many low income and disadvantaged people suffering from housing stress. Of households in the lowest 40% of the income distribution, two thirds are spending over 30% of their income on housing, which is the established benchmark for housing stress.3 In the 2011 Census there were 105,237 people classified as being homeless (up from 89,728 in 2006).
What can the Catholic Church offer?
The Catholic Church in Australia has considerable land holdings, which are either no longer in use or are underutilised. Many of these are in locations which have become highly advantageous since initial purchase with good transport access, close to services and employment. These could be used to remedy the current undersupply of social and affordable housing.
In addition Catholic social service agencies have extensive experience providing housing services to poor and vulnerable individuals and families in the community.
Types of housing
Types of housing services currently provided include long term affordable rental housing, supported accommodation for vulnerable people, housing and homelessness related services, crisis and short-term accommodation and housing for the elderly.
Housing developments can vary in scale depending on size and development potential of the land and financial considerations. Depending on the model used, housing developments can have outcomes for the Dioceses that are financially positive as well as delivering strong social outcomes.
EXAMPLE: BALLARAT, VICTORIA
In Ballarat, Centacare bought and redeveloped a motel to create 29 affordable dwellings built around a central playground and shared community spaces. This project was financed through a loan, with repayments met from rent paid by low-income tenants and government supplements paid under the National Rental Affordability Scheme – a condition of which is that Centacare charge 25% below-market rent rates.
EXAMPLE: BLACKTOWN, NSW
In Blacktown, Marist Youth Care is redeveloping a residential house it owns where young people in Out of Home Care lived for many years. The house will be demolished and replaced by a purpose built house for young people in MYC’s Life, Education Assistance Program. The NSW Property Industry Foundation are contributing construction costs.
What are the current barriers to developing Church land?
Consultation with a number of Dioceses found that there were a range of concerns about using Church land for housing, due to current lease conditions, alternative development options, perceived lack of expertise in housing development, financial models or partnership requirements. Whilst some of these barriers may preclude housing developments, it is still worth considering relationships between Catholic Dioceses, Congregations and social services in order to explore social and affordable housing as a potential use for underutilised or vacant land.
About the Australian Catholic Housing Alliance
The Australian Catholic Housing Alliance (ACHA) was formed to promote housing as a viable option for Church land, and to help overcome some of the current barriers. Members of the Alliance work together to share their collective expertise in developing new and innovative housing developments, and reach out to other Catholic Dioceses and organisations keen to know more about housing developments.
ACHA can offer a range of advice and services to assist Dioceses, which are considering housing developments such as sharing examples of housing developments on Church land. It can also provide information and advice about financing and partnership models.
1 Housing shortage threatens living standards, economic growth: report – The Australian, December 21st, 2011 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national–affairs/housingshortage–threatens–living–standards–economic–prosperityreport/story–fn59niix–1226227537771 2 Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot (2014) http://www.anglicare.asn.au/research–reports/the–rentalaffordability–snapshot
3 Senate of Australia – Housing Affordability Inquiry 2008 http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees /Senate/Former_Committees/hsaf/report/index