Pirie Street’s Hotel Tivoli was the scene for the 2017 AHI South Australia Awards for Professional Excellence in Housing. Hosted by former AHI President Tony Gilmour, keynote speakers on the night included the Hon. Zoe Bettison, Minister for Communities and Social Inclusion in the Weatherill State Government, and the current AHI President, Andrew Davis.
With the formalities out of the way and invitees enjoying drinks and canapés, it was time to get down to the business of handing out awards. Phil Fagan-Schmidt of Housing SA got the ball rolling, announcing Nicole Chaplin, Operations Manager at St John’s Youth Services, as South Australia’s Inspirational Team Member for 2017.
Described as an “experienced, committed and talented housing professional who motivates the St John’s Youth Services team to follow her example,” Nicole is also heavily involved in supporting and developing the organisation’s future leaders, and devoting a great deal of time and energy to mentoring young workers coming through the ranks.
“I’m honoured to be recognised by my organisation and my peers,” Nicole tells HousingWORKS. “The commitment, passion, creativity and dedication of those around me to work alongside young people to build on their talents and achieve their dreams, despite the current economic and political pressures, really motivate me.”
The Hon. Zoe Bettison returned to the podium to present Matthew Woodward, CEO of Unity Housing, with this year’s AHI South Australia Outstanding Achievement Award.
Matthew’s involvement in social housing goes back to the early 1990s where he worked among the CBD homelessness services of Adelaide. Since then, he’s helped establish South Australia’s largest and most highly respected community housing organisation – growing from 780 properties in 2008 to what will be over 3,000 properties by the end of this calendar year. Matthew is a respected and sought-after advisor to government, and a spokesperson for the sector on key matters of policy.
“I’m humbled and little embarrassed,” says a typically understated Matthew of his win. “I’m very aware of the capacity, hard work and dedication of so many of my colleagues so I’d really like to thank the person who submitted the nomination – whoever they are!”
The AHI’s South Australian Director, Julie Blake, then took the stage to recognise Anglicare SA Housing with the Leading Housing Development Project Award for 2017 for their Bowden Rent-to-Buy Development.
In partnership with Oryx Property, Anglicare SA Housing’s innovative model provides ten low-income tenants with the option to purchase a high quality, two-bedroom apartment in Bowden in Adelaide’s inner north by 2021 at 2014 prices. During the first five years of their occupancy – while preparing for the purchase – the tenants pay a reduced rent to assist them to save a deposit to purchase the property. With an overwhelming number of registrations of interest, the 10 successful applicants moved into their new apartments in mid-2016.
“Along with our project partners, Oryx Property, we’re extremely proud to be involved with such a fantastic initiative,” remarks Anglicare’s General Manager of Housing and Development, Michelle Gegenhuber.
Far from basking in the glow of the award, Michelle takes the opportunity to run through other projects in the pipeline at Anglicare SA: “Just recently we completed another unique major project called The Arches. This project provides short-term accommodation for alleged offenders who are suitable for bail but, without an appropriate place to live, would otherwise have to be incarcerated.”
This year, four nominations were received for the Tenant Led Initiative category, with Unity Housing’s Tenant Art Exhibition taking out the honours.
Launched at the South Australian Living Artists Festival (SALA), the members of a boarding house and community housing art group held an exhibition of their works, which the tenant group took the initiative to host, plan and organise. Despite having minimal art experience but through a shared support and encouragement of each other, the residents’ exhibition was a resounding success. In fact, they sold over half of the 60 artworks on display, earning over $1,000.
Their collective effort in holding the exhibition has resulted in increased attitudes of self-worth and knowledge that they belong in their community. This is an ongoing initiative and its members are determined to mount another exhibition for the next SALA festival.
It was a return to the winner’s enclosure for Nicole Chaplin of St John’s Youth Services who stepped up again with her organisation and partners, Unison and Housing SA, to accept the AHI’s Leading Asset Management Award for an innovative mixed tenure apartment complex in the Adelaide CBD.
The complex, known as UNO, provides social and youth crisis accommodation, affordable housing and private dwellings, as well as commercial shopfronts.
Speaking on behalf of the partnership, Nicole tells HousingWORKS, “The biggest positive of this relationship is the outcomes it achieves for the UNO Community: bringing three organisations working together that are focused on maintaining the performance of the asset’s built-form to support the people and their community.”
A Highly Commended award was also given to Improving Assets Together, Westside Housing Association, in the Leading Asset Management Category for successfully transitioning people and their homes from 12 separate small co-ops into the Westside family. These new ex-housing co-op member tenants now total 25 percent of Westside’s tenant base.
Competition in the Leading Innovation Award category was pretty willing this year, and the judges struggled to split the nominees. In the end, Housing SA’s Vacancy Maintenance Inspection Application (VIMA) took out top honours, with Anglicare SA receiving a Highly Commended nod for their Sustaining Complex Tenancies program.
With a portfolio of over 40,000 properties, Housing SA’s VMIA app has played a vital role for the organisation in improving its systems for performing property maintenance. Eschewing paper-based process,es maintenance inspectors now use iPads and wireless technology while on-site to relay information to a secure website and database that then manages the repairs process. The result is faster repairs, a reduction in costs and speedier turn-around times in tenanting vacant properties.
“We’re delighted to have won this award with VMIA,” says Housing SA’s Rob Birch. “We have a really strong focus on efficiency through teamwork and getting people into houses quickly, and VIMA has really streamlined vacancy write-ups for contractors to commence work faster resulting in a quicker turnaround and allocation to customers.”
Following on from their win in the Leading Housing Development category, Anglicare SA’s Highly Commended acknowledgement for their Sustaining Complex Tenancies program proved to be the icing on the cake for their evening.
“The staff were thrilled to be recognised for their hard work in delivering our intensive tenancy and support service model,” confirms Michelle Gegenhuber. “We’re always driven by what is best for our tenants and we like to push the boundaries on what we currently do. We are always searching for ways we can do things better. We believe innovation in social housing means breaking new ground to make it easier and better for our tenants.”
Next up was the Leading Community Engagement Practice Award, with the judges awarding top marks to ac.care’s Tenancy Education Program.
Developed as a homeless prevention tactic, ac care’s Tenancy Education Program is a one-and-a-half-day program conducted monthly. People in the program learn skills that aim to help them find and secure long-term housing options, understand and better meet their tenant obligations to maintain a successful tenancy and reduce their likelihood of falling back into homelessness.
“It’s amazing! We’re stoked!” exclaims a clearly delighted Trish Spark, Manager of ac.care’s Homelessness Services. “It’s great to receive recognition for the hard work the team have put in to develop and implement this program. We brought a couple of staff from each of our three regions to Adelaide and it was so fantastic for them to celebrate the win together.”
“As well as recognising our efforts, it encourages the team to continue to develop innovative ideas and it’s an opportunity to share the award with community organisations and businesses who have helped to make the program such a success,” concludes Trish.
The awards component of the evening was rounded out by the Excellence in Social Housing gong, which went to Outstanding Achievement winner Matthew Woodward and his team at Unity Housing.
With a unique partnership between Unity Housing and the Bedford Group taking shape, the alliance has resulted in the transfer of Bedford’s existing housing to Unity, consisting of 130 properties that house 170 people with a range of disabilities (see ‘Corporate Member’ profile on p.? for more details). The transition of disability housing from Bedford to Unity is the largest and most complex transfer of its type in South Australia.
Both Unity Housing and The Bedford Group have worked diligently to overcome a number of complex challenges, with great emphasis placed not just on the needs of tenants but also the potential concerns of residents’ families. Their efforts have resulted in a huge success.
Congratulations once again to all the state nominees and winners, and fingers crossed for further success in the AHI’s National Awards for Excellence in Social Housing.
Click here for more information about AHI’s Professional Excellence in Housing Awards.