From Housing Challenge to Housing Crisis

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A ‘tsunami’ of social and economic disadvantage

Social housing across Australia and New Zealand are facing significant challenges both in the short and long term. These challenges create pressure for community housing providers (CHPs), meaning they must seriously evaluate how they operate.

Australia sees severe demand on housing stock

The Covid-19 era is having a significant impact on the housing and homelessness sector in Australia, partly to do with social distancing restrictions, but also because the pandemic has caused a reduction in income for many households where jobs have been lost. According to the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services, this loss of income makes these people particularly susceptible to housing instability, and more likely to suffer from rental stress - spending more than 30 per cent of gross household income on rent.

Rental stress is affecting 50.2% of low-income households in the Australian private rental market, and even those receiving commonwealth rental assistance (CRA) are struggling.

The report also found there had been a long-term reduction in public housing stock. Public housing dwellings decreased from 331,371 in 2011 to 300,403 in 2020, though the report noted the government was getting better at allocating homes to those in greatest need.

The loss of public housing coincided with an increase in the use of community housing – long-term rentals provided by not-for-profit organisations – which almost doubled over the decade.

New Zealand faces social housing crisis
New Zealand is facing the same problems in what's being called a public housing crisis. More than 2000 new households in a month have joined the public housing waitlist, which has grown nearly sevenfold in the past five years to 22,409.

The latest figures come despite the Government and CHPs building more public houses than ever before. 2590 new social houses are set to be built for the year to June - nearly 1000 more than the original target.

“The Government is committed to continuing its public house build programme at pace and scale," says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. "The extra public housing and transitional housing places reinforces the Government’s investment in public housing."

Meanwhile, rents and house prices are also continuing to skyrocket across the country.

Information and tools CHPs need to better manage property lifecycles

In our last blog, Long term asset management planning - a must for Community Housing Providers, we highlighted the eight parts to effective asset management planning. Here, we're looking at lifecycle forecasts in terms of how CHPs can be prepared by improving planning capability by moving from asset-level analysis to project-level planning and decision-making.

CHPs need to be able to invest smarter in new and existing assets. This means increasing their focus on asset information management and longer-term asset management planning, which will enable them to properly resource regular and ongoing property assessments and produce 10 year maintenance plans.

Managing increasingly larger portfolios over longer periods necessitates following asset management best practice, a challenge in an environment where capability and resources are always under pressure. And that's where good asset data and predictive modelling comes in. These tools include asset management software and asset reference libraries that establish robust, comprehensive databases which can then be analysed to inform decision-making. Investing in asset lifecycle software will give CHPs access to a range of predictive models on which the analysis is performed.

Surviving the 'tsunami' - keys for effective asset management planning

CHPs need to be able access the right information, understand what this information is telling them, and then respond to those insights. Achieving successful asset management planning means:

  • Adopting a proactive approach that moves away from reactive repairs and compliance and into longer-term planning

  • Efficient delivery of planned maintenance works programmes

  • Accurate unit rate data that provides a clear view of current asset valuation and ongoing budgets

  • The ability to proactively leverage opportunities provided by Governments and industry

  • The ability to track state-mandated minimum rental quality standards

Incomplete, inaccurate, unreliable or simply poor-quality data about a portfolio makes both short and long-term asset management much more challenging. Qualitative and quantitative information (reliable, complete and accurate) about housing stock is essential, so that CHPs ensure their chosen strategies are achieving the right outcomes.

Strengthening the asset management framework for social housing

SPM Assets is taking part in a ground-breaking exercise to improve asset management in social housing across Australia. The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute is funding leading academic institutions including RMIT to develop a Social Housing Advanced Asset Management (SHAAM) framework. This framework will outline asset management processes and criteria for making decisions specific to the unique aspects of social housing. It will be designed to be used by different types of social housing providers, providing metrics to drive organisational excellence and providing the basis for national regulation and policymaking.

Keen to learn more? Download the Community Housing Provider white paper and discover the information and tools CHPs need to better manage the lifecycle of their property portfolios.