2017 AHI Victorian Awards For Professional Excellence in Housing

On a cold and windswept mid-winter evening on 18th July, Rydges Hotel on Russell Street in Melbourne’s CBD saw Victorian AHI Members gather for this year’s state Professional Excellence in Housing Awards reception in notably higher numbers than previous years. In fact, the growth of the AHI in Victoria was a major point of discussion around the room.

After a welcome address from President Andrew Davis, the business of handing out awards got underway with Kristie Looney winning this year’s Inspirational Team Member award, although she was not there on the night to bask in her glory.

The growth of the AHI in Victoria was a major point of discussion around the room

In 2015, Kristie helped establish a social enterprise real estate agency called Property Initiatives Real Estate. The profits from this agency are used by its community housing provider arm, Women’s Property Initiatives, to fund affordable housing and creating new beginnings for women and children at risk of homelessness.

As well as her entrepreneurialism in the area of social enterprise real estate, Kristie works tirelessly to raise awareness of the issues surrounding women and their access to affordable housing.

“It was really lovely to be recognised at the awards award,” Kristie told HousingWORKS when we caught up with her after the awards night. “I was overseas but, when I got a message
from our team, I was absolutely delighted. It’s great recognition of our hard work but also the valuable role our social enterprise can play in changing the lives of women and children facing homelessness.”

Housing Choices Australia’s Love your Laneways mural project took out the honours in the Leading Community Engagement Practice category.

Gallaghers Place in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD is home to 24 residents over the age of 55 who’ve previously experienced homelessness. Owned and managed by Housing Choices Australia, the development provides integrated housing with support delivered in partnership with Wintringham Aged Care Services.

The residents recently collaborated with local businesses and the wider community to breathe new life into their neighbourhood through the Love Your Laneways Program, funded by the City of Melbourne. Chosen from over 800 applications submitted for the four available grants, the resulting mural reflects residents’ journeys through homelessness to their current place of serenity and calm within the central business district. Imagery of rainforests and other meaningful elements were utilised to convey their message.

“We are delighted the project has been acknowledged by this award,” said Michael Lennon, Housing Choices Australia Managing Director, when accepting the award on behalf of all  involved. “It was a marvellous collaboration between our staff, our residents – many of whom have done it really tough – our partner, Wintringham, and two extremely talented artists. And, of course, the tremendous support of the City of Melbourne.”

The winner of the Leading Housing Development category was Women’s Property Initiatives (WPI) for their seven townhouse development in Reynard Street in Coburg, which is situated in Melbourne’s inner north.

This development provides safe, permanent and affordable housing to women and children at risk of homelessness, but in innovative townhouses characterised by their seamless integration into a long-established urban community. WPI’s Reynard Street townhouses are now home to nine individuals in a suburb that would generally be out of financial reach.

Women’s Property Initiatives CEO Jeanette Large was feeling something like a jack-in-the-box having only just accepted Kristie’s award and then jumping up again for this award.

“It’s a fantastic project,” she admitted. “But, because we’re smaller and we were up against some of the bigger housing associations that do bigger projects, I was disappointed that our development manager, Caroline Larcher, couldn’t be heregto get up and take the glory for that one, because right from the beginning she had worked on this project. It’s beautiful to see how it’s finished up.”

Judges in the Leading Innovation award category gave HomeGround Real Estate the nod, while recognising the work done by Housing Choices Australia with a Highly Commended acknowledgement for their National Housing Service Standards project.

In their submission to the AHI Awards, Housing Choices Australia described the Standards as being “a first in the social housing sector” that identifies nine specific standards for “fair, transparent and responsive delivery of housing assistance” when working with Housing Choice Australia.

As they confirmed, “[The implementation of the Standards has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from staff, stakeholder and, most of all, delighted customers.”

Our work and our contribution to ending homelessness is something we’re very proud of

HomeGround Real Estate – a social enterprise arm of Launch Housing – was established in 2015, with the aim of increasing the supply of affordable housing in Melbourne. To date, they manage over 300 properties. The agency appeals to property owners and investors with a social conscience, offering investors the option of listing their property at full or belowmarket
rent to assist a household in need. Revenue generated from management fees is reinvested into homelessness programs run by Launch Housing.

“We’re very proud and honoured,” said Sharry McFarland when accepting the award. “We’re very passionate about what we do, and helping tenants – those that aren’t at a stage to be in
the private rental market – and we’re continually thinking of new ideas to help those people. Our work and our contribution to ending homelessness is something we’re very proud of.”

Taking out the Tenant Led Initiative award was Port Phillip Housing’s Ashwood Cook-Up – a tenant led cooking program run out of Ashwood Gateway’s OPU Common Room. From pasta-making to sushi-rolling and creating dumplings from scratch, the tenant community and volunteers of the Cook-Up chose the menus, and took charge of shopping for the ingredients and food preparation. This helped with increasing residents’ confidence and provided opportunities for social inclusion.

They wanted to share with each other their knowledge of food, their cultural aspects of food, and also sharing food together as a community to create connections

“The wonderful thing about the cook-up was that it really did come from the tenants,” said Helen Brooker of Port Phillip Housing. “It really was about what they wanted and how they wanted to use their space. They wanted to share with each other their knowledge of food, their cultural aspects of food, and also sharing food together as a community to create connections.”

The Victorian AHI Award for Outstanding Achievement was awarded to Steve Bevington, Founder and Managing Director of Community Housing Ltd. Group, one of the largest not-forprofit
housing providers in Australia.

Since being established in 1993, Steve has built CHL into the pre-eminent community housing enterprise that it is today, including a growing number of overseas territories in East Timor, Chile, PNG, India and – later in 2017 – Rwanda.

Far from making the award about him, Steve reflected on the importance of having CHL’s work recognised in Victoria: “Although CHL’s very far-flung, we’ve been around for about 24 years and I’ve been there for about 23 of them. In the first 15 years, we never managed a house outside of Victoria. We had our largest portfolio in Victoria so it’s fitting that we’ve been presented with this award in Victoria.”

Port Phillip Housing Association (PPHA) has been no stranger to AHI recognition in past years, and 2017 is no different, with PPHA taking out the Leading Asset Management award for their Tenant Induction Program.

Moving into a new home can be a minefield of unknowns at the best of times. To help new tenants feel safe, secure, comfortable and in control of their new homes, PPHA devised an innovative Tenant Induction Program specifically for newcomers to the Wominjeka Apartments in Essendon. The aim of the program is to minimise stress, foster greater independence and help connect tenants with each other and local services.

“This award really means a lot,” said a spokeswoman from Port Phillip Housing Association at the awards ceremony. “A lot of the time, tenants have other stuff going on in their lives and they don’t always take in information. This is a really great way to sit down with all the tenants and explain about the property, how everything works, and it really helped them settle into their
properties.”

A lot of the time, tenants have other stuff going on in their lives and they don’t always take in information

Undoubtedly, the most emotional award of the evening was the final one – the Anthony Hardy Award for Excellence in Social Housing. Recognising the tireless work of Anthony, who died unexpectedly in late 2016, the award honours AHI Members who find new and unique ways to deliver social housing, and go above and beyond the call of duty to alleviate homelessness.

The winner of this inaugural award went to Haven; Home, Safe for their Sidney Myer Haven – a $7.5 million, 23-unit development in Bendigo that combines medium-term social housing with a range of supports, life skills and education programs.

“We’re truly honoured to receive such a fine award,” said Executive Director, Trudi Ray. “Anthony was such a fine friend to Haven; Home, Safe. Together with my colleagues, we’ve been able to provide 23-units of independent living for these amazing people that we have on our site. We’ve had many, many successes come out of this program, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this organisation and we couldn’t be more proud to receive this award.”

The AHI’s Victorian Members wish all of the award winners well and look forward to meeting up with all the other winners at the Australasian Awards later in 2017.

Click here to access pictures from the ceremony.

Click here for more information about AHI’s Professional Excellence in Housing Awards.