Community Housing Ltd (CHL) manages in excess of 120 properties in the East and Central Gippsland region in Victoria for aboriginal organisations such as the Gippsland/East Gippsland Aboriginal Cooperative (GEGAC), Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust (LTAT) and the Central Gippsland Aboriginal Health and Housing Co-operative (Morwell Coop). Under these partnerships, CHL manages the assets and tenancies and has undertaken development in partnership with the communities to deliver new housing. At Lake Tyers, CHL’s role has been even broader- it includes not only the provision of new housing and infrastructure, but employment and community development programs as well.
In 2006 Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust went into voluntary administration. CHL was contracted as the housing manager in March 2007 and operates in close coordination with the Trust, under administration by Deloitte. CHL has taken a community development approach to ongoing tenancy management and housing development at Lake Tyers. CHL staff regularly attends the Trust Advisory Committee meetings and a solid working relationship exists with Trust administration and management.
CHL staff operates out of an ‘on-site’ office leased from the Lake Tyres Trust, and make themselves available to all residents four days a week. Understanding family and community networks and the political environment have been important for CHL in building contacts and good communication over the long-term.
Rent collection has increased from an average of 64% when CHL first came on board to 98% in 2012, providing surpluses in the housing maintenance fund for the first time. CHL has developed cyclical maintenance plans for all the Trust homes and has introduced improved materials, buying in bulk and negotiating the best price with items such as floor coverings, windows and replacement appliances.
In the first four years of its partnership, CHL constructed five new homes on the Trust land. CHL re-located three ex-Commonwealth Games properties to the Trust in 2007, increasing the housing to 38 units. CHL has since delivered a further seven new properties at the Trust as part of the Nation Building Program, bringing the total to 45 properties.
Over the past 5 years the majority of properties have received some level of upgrade maintenance following two rounds of one off funding from the Commonwealth Government.
In 2008 CHL completed the construction of a community centre at Lake Tyres and project managed both the refurbishment of the sports pavilion and the child care centre upgrades.
CHL included the creation of employment opportunities for Trust residents in the management of Housing Services and Development. The Tenancy Service includes a part time trainee position of 14 hours per week for a community member. Over the years there have been four local members of staff. Employment opportunities were included for trust residents in all of the construction programs. Through a partnership with TAFE, 20 residents trained in Cert 1 home maintenance (Level 1 Construction qualification). Some residents continued with their Cert 2 qualifications.
Through the housing and construction activity CHL provides opportunities for on the job training coordinating maintenance works with the TAFE trainer. Between 15 -17% of the housing maintenance fund is spent employing residents to carry out non trade maintenance.
“It’s been about ‘getting on with business’”, says Mr Brett Wake, CHL State Manager for Victoria, “and doing what we said we would do.” Like any relationship, it takes a lot of work and both partners need to respect each other’s differences. We have delivered some exciting housing projects with the community and they are managed responsibly to ensure they are sustainable.”
It has been a difficult period for Lake Tyers over the last six years. In recent times some residents blockaded the Trust entrance to protest the slow pace of change to self determination and the end of Administration. The Trust Legislation makes it difficult for residents to move forward and the ongoing administration is controversial.
The Housing Service has been able to stay apart from the politics and has delivered good services, new housing and infrastructure as a result. Along the way it has created training and employment opportunities and supported local residents.
“CHL has made a serious commitment to this region. We have been able to expand the housing, build infrastructure, create jobs and support the local economy and our staff are proactive in their communication with the local community. ” says Mr. Wake.
CHL has built its profile amongst aboriginal communities in three states including Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia. The organisation is aware of the vastly different challenges and priorities that various communities face, particularly in regional and remote areas. These initiatives build on CHL’s commitment to provide quality affordable housing to those most in need and it is evident with over 20% of CHL’s total portfolio across the country comprising of indigenous housing.
For more information on CHL, contact:
Coordinator – Marketing and Communications
t 03 9856 0021 m 0430 555 241