Key Worker and Affordable Housing

Key Worker and Affordable Housing - Expression of Interest

Introduction

With the housing crisis adversely affecting the Warrnambool the community, coupled with the limited capacity of local organisations and businesses to attract essential personnel, Warrnambool City Council called for expressions of interest from community housing agencies to activate and deliver a key worker accommodation and affordable housing project.

Following the EoI Council is now collaborating with a consortium headed by community housing agency Haven Home Safe.

The project, which originally considered a 15-year lifespan, has now extended to 25 years in order to make any capital investment viable. This also meets the Housing Australia Future Fund criteria which requires 25 years as the minimum period of an agreement for Government funding.

Background

Numerous socio-economic factors have triggered a critical housing crisis in Warrnambool. Key industries including healthcare, education, and construction, struggle to attract essential personnel, negatively affecting the community. The situation is exacerbated by over 400 long-term rentals operating as short-stay accommodation while a number of motels have closed. The following key statistics illustrate the depth of this problem:

•    Rental vacancy rate - 0.8% (healthy market rate - 4%);
•    Median rental price - $500 (average increase of $100 per week from 2021);
•    Total rental properties as a ratio of total dwellings (18% - significantly lower than the state average - 30%);
•    1/3rd of renters facing severe rental stress due to increasing rents;
•    Lack of key worker accommodation is having a negative effect on industries being able to fill positions < economic development; and,
•    Lack of local presence of community housing agency to prepare shovel-ready projects for the future.

Council's 2019 Social Housing Planning document pinpointed a housing deficit of 1,430 dwellings in Warrnambool, a figure projected to rise to about 2,810 dwellings by 2036 based on current housing growth rates. Even with the record 400 building permits issued by Council in 2022, there remains an urgent need for short to medium-term solutions to alleviate the socio-economic consequences stemming from the housing shortage.

Without a swift and substantial influx of housing construction, the existing crisis will worsen. Both Council and external organisations have reported extreme difficulties in recruiting employees, primarily due to the housing shortage, especially in private rentals. This scarcity has a negative impact on the municipality's ability to attract key workers in need of affordable rental housing and also affects tertiary students. Ongoing advocacy efforts offer no assurance of housing supply through existing funding avenues, unless a shovel-ready project is introduced.

Given, the current circumstances Council has thoroughly considered strategies to tackle the housing issue in the short to medium-term by making use of land owned by either Council or the Victorian Government. While activating Victorian Government land would be a time-consuming process, there is an immediate opportunity for Council to accelerate a key worker and affordable housing development on a section of the land in Harrington Road. This land was part of the buffer zone of the former saleyards, and this approach can be pursued concurrently with the development of a master plan for the entire area.


The project 


Warrnambool City Council will lease out 15,000sqm of land abutting Harrington Road for a period of up to 25 years through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Community Housing Agency that will meet the following requirements:

•    Build a minimum of 50 self-contained units, preferably using prefabricated modular construction, with a mix of one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units.
•    Units to be made available as key worker accommodation for organisations and businesses in the municipality and affordable housing using a 50/50 split.
•    Key worker accommodation will be allocated by the Community Housing Agency through an expression of interest from local employers in the municipality that will be opened every 2 years.
•    Affordable housing allocations will be done by the housing agency through established models.
•    The project will be fully managed by a Community Housing Agency.
•    Council will lease the land for an agreed term of up to 25 years. The final lease agreement period will be determined in conjunction with the Community Housing Agency and the funding agency.
•    The land will return to Council with all built assets disposed through sale or relocation, at the end of the project period, unless a future agreement determines otherwise.
•    The Community Housing Agency will establish a local presence in Warrnambool within two years.

 

Check out a video the housing concept and street layout.

 

Harrington Road looking north.
Harrington Road looking north.

 

Harrington Road looking south
Harrington Road looking south.