Community housing a vital part of dwellings mix

McCullough Robertson Lawyers Chair of Partners Kristan Conlon - Newsreel
McCullough Robertson Chair of Partners Kristan Conlon says community housing is a vital link in the housing mix. | Photo: Supplied by McCullough Robertson Lawyers.

Community housing could provide many of the answers to Queensland’s accommodation shortage and the social problems that often come with it.

McCullough Robertson Lawyers Chair of Partners Kristan Conlon said the role of community housing, owned by regulated not-for-profit groups, was often under-appreciated in the solutions mix.

“One of the great advantages of community housing is that it has a lot of wrap-around services,” Ms Conlon, who is also Chair of the Community Housing Industry Association, said.

“Community housing providers tend to be well connected to other organisations who can provide support.

“With some tenants it is not just about putting a roof over their head, it’s actually about those wrap-around services that create social fabric and community support around those people.”

Ms Conlon said Queensland was facing a potential long-term housing shortage and needed to apply innovative thinking to how it could accommodate its growing population.

Governments were working hard on the problem and quickly adopting policies to speed up housing supply.

“I think governments are being really progressive in this space but there are still a lot of hurdles to jump,” Ms Conlon said.

“Every single (building) site has its challenges. There’s not that much (land) out there that’s really shovel ready.

“Everyone in theory wants to fix the problem but they don’t necessarily want affordable or social housing, or any higher density development, next to them or in their neighbourhood.

“I get it, but we are going to have to find ways to balance these competing needs.”

Ms Conlon said the circumstances would drive innovation and creativity that would see different forms of housing emerge.

“I think, for example, you’re going to see different models of shared housing that accommodate older women,” she said.

“Some of the councils are also looking at options around infill (extra housing on existing blocks) and there are discussions around applying for additional infrastructure charge relief for some of these projects.

“We know there’s only a limited amount of supply in terms of land and there are obvious advantages in creating extra housing where there is current infrastructure.”

Ms Conlon said there were shortages across the “full spectrum” of housing – private, social (government) and community – and policies were needed to boost all of these.

“There is now a real focus from government in this space with the issues around capacity to build and that is where community housing comes in,” she said.

“There is a need for true backing in terms of having more affordable stock managed by community housing providers that could directly alleviate some of the shortages.

“We need the full spectrum, but we need to foster this (community) space in particular because I think that will really help (to lift the supply of affordable rental accommodation).”

Ms Conlon said more social housing was also important with the current waiting list “astronomically long” and this made it difficult to match supply with demand.

There was also a reality that many people moving into social and community housing would need it for long periods of time, given their personal circumstances were unlikely to change.

“Thankfully the (State) government is extremely open to conversations and good ideas to unlock supply at the moment in the (housing) market.” Ms Conlon said.

“This includes a master agreement with community housing providers that should streamline and assist the process.

“There’s been a lot of talk about granny flats and people are actively looking at activating space in non-traditional ways to improve the community housing infrastructure.

“There, for example, are a lot of three- and four-bedroom homes with a single person living in them. Some of these people, particularly older people, may be willing to move to different types of accommodate if we can find innovative models that still provide privacy, preferred location and other things they need as human beings.”

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