Payce Foundation

Turning vacant property into transitional accommodation

In the complex, confronting and challenging aftermath of women and children escaping family violence, there is one part of the jigsaw that remains stubbornly elusive – transitional housing, that critical link between immediate relief at a shelter and a long-term solution.

Now, thanks to an innovative land bank solution brokered by the PAYCE Foundation, community housing provider Bridge Housing, and NSW’s Women’s Community Shelters, a new model of transitional housing has emerged.

On the face of it, the solution is simple: PAYCE Foundation identifies and “banks’ some of its properties that are not scheduled for imminent use. It helps to decorate the property and then hands it over to Women’s Community Shelters to find a family in crisis who will move in. The family pays what it can and that “rent’ goes back in to supporting the Women’s Community Shelter’s work. It is, by any definition, a virtuous circle. Since late 2017, the program called Pathways Home has provided transitional housing for 17 women and 12 children.

“It offers secure housing to consolidate the gains from the shelter,’’ Women’s Community Housing CEO Annabelle Daniel says. But perhaps most importantly, there is great potential in expanding the project. “We’ve now got a model, that gives us the opportunity to provide property for one, two or three years,’’ Annabelle says. “I think there’s an appetite for this and some huge untapped potential.’’

PAYCE Foundation currently sponsors a position at Women’s Community Shelters aimed at expanding the Pathways Home model. The model has been well received by the Property Council of Australia, the property industry’s peak body. The premise is that PAYCE’s lead will be taken up by others in the housing market. Castle Group has already come on board with one property, with a number of other developers showing interest and a willingness to support the model. There are also discussions about potential tax benefits for those developers who make available their vacant properties as well as expanding the model into regional areas.

Women’s Community Shelters is also forging partnerships outside of the development industry, with private and commercial property owners approaching the organisation with offers of underutilised properties to house women and children.

PAYCE Foundation ’s goal is to offer 100,000 bed nights to women and children in need: they are already at 20,000 nights. But the larger goal is to identify as many as 200 properties from a range of developers across NSW. At the first stage in the process, Women’s Community Shelters has just opened its seventh crisis shelter in NSW, with a further two shelters currently in development. The crisis accommodation lasts for about three months for each family. The growth in the number of shelters is necessary to meet the demand, but it confirms there is an equally pressing need for transitional housing.

PAYCE Foundation recently released five properties that could be available for two-three years. One of the significant benefits of being able to offer this longer-term post-shelter housing is that it gives the women the opportunity to develop a tenancy history that is often a pre-requisite for renting elsewhere.

PAYCE Foundation’s James Boyd explains the process of finding and releasing the properties to the Women’s Community Shelters. “We identify the underutilised assets and we do the necessary upgrades to the properties. The important thing is that the properties have to feel like homes,’’ he says.

Each of the seven shelters operating in the WCS network access a portion of operational funding from the NSW Government Homelessness Directorate, but corporate giving, private philanthropy and community fundraising bridge a significant gap. The WCS’s local involvement extends beyond crisis accommodation to working with communities, running respectful relationships’ courses in high schools near the shelters and an “adopt a shelter’ program.

“I’m really optimistic that we can solve these sorts of problems,’’ Annabelle said. “I’ve seen how committed business and philanthropy have been to combine and deal with this.’’

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