Members and guests made their way to The Flour Factory in Perth’s Queen Street on 19th September for the AHI’s 2017 WA Professional Excellence in Housing Awards. As well as hearing from AHI President Andrew Davis, keynote speakers on the night included the Hon. Charles Tinley, Minister for Housing, Veterans Issues and Youth in the McGowan State Government; and Grahame John Searle, the interim Director-General of the WA Department of Communities.

With the formalities taken care of, the handing out of awards began; the first being the Inspirational Team Member Award, which went to Tony Benson from Access Housing.

Tony joined Access Housing to manage the rollout of an enterprise software system, and quickly set about learning the business and building relationships. He was embraced for his fun and visionary thinking about how the business could embrace technology to improve customer service and the working experience of staff.

To be honest, I had to check the definition of ‘inspirational’, because there was absolutely no way someone working in I.T. could be considered so.

His enthusiasm for thinking out of the box and finding innovative solutions means he is frequently sought out for inspiration or a brainstorm. As his colleagues put it, “Not satisfied with what is, Tony continually seeks to identify our future requirements and ‘next steps’. Known for his ‘there is always a way’ motto to approaching a problem, he truly is an inspirational team member.”

“To be honest, I had to check the definition of ‘inspirational’,” Tony tells HousingWORKS. “Because there was absolutely no way someone working in I.T. could be considered so.” He laughs.

When asked where he draws his own inspiration, Tony says, “Essentially it boils down to if ‘they’ can do that, then why can’t ‘we’ do this…. I think a good example would be the Philae Comet landing mission from a couple of years’ back, where the European Space Agency landed a probe on a comet. I know these things take lots of money, planning and cooperation but if ‘we’ can choose to do that and succeed, surely I am capable of offering good I.T. solutions to a social housing provider.”

Competition was tight in the Leading Community Engagement Practice category; so much so that the judges awarded top honours in the field to the Housing Authority of Western Australia and the Kimberley Development Corporation for the Transitional Housing Program, and then proffered a Highly Commended recognition to Access Housing Australia for the Creating Choices Program.

The Housing Authority of WA’s Transitional Housing Program looks to provide stable and affordable housing for eligible Aboriginal people. It began in the East Kimberley at Kununurra in 2012, Halls Creek in 2015, and has now expanded to the West Kimberley, and uses housing as a platform to improve employment and educational outcomes, as well as facilitating intergenerational change. The program also generates growth and income for the community through housing construction and market sales.

As the name ‘transitional’ implies, the program is intended to be stepping stone, and not an end in itself.

As the name ‘transitional’ implies, the program is intended to be stepping stone, and not an end in itself, to help participants achieve longer term private rental housing or home ownership. Participants are given support, mentoring and referrals to help them achieve their housing aspirations. In return, they must be employed or in training and, if they are parents, their children must attend school regularly.

“The Department of Communities felt honoured to be the recipient of this prestigious award, which recognises how, through active community engagement, the Transitional Housing Program is making a significant difference to tenants and the Kimberley community,” comments Greg Cash from Communities WA.

“We acknowledge the win wouldn’t have been possible without ongoing engagement with our partners, service providers, program participants and the wider Kimberley community,” he continues. “Most importantly, we must recognise the hard work of our program participants. Since commencement of the program, five participants have purchased – and moved into – their own homes, and 11 have transitioned into private rental accommodation. I anticipate this is just the beginning.

Relying almost exclusively on voluntary tenant participation, the Highly Commended recipient for Leading Community Engagement Practice, Access Housing Australia’s Creating Choices program, works to streamline pathways and remove the myriad of barriers to employment, education and volunteering opportunities to improve tenant’s social inclusion and wellbeing outcomes through a collective impact approach. The program was co-designed with tenants through focus groups and one-to-one consultation.

“It is gratifying to have the program, and the vision and innovation of the company, recognised,” says Garry Ellender from Access Housing. “I’m proud of the difference we have made – and will continue to make – in the lives of the tenants who chose to engage with the program. An increased sense of pride and independence can be seen in these tenants, and that’s very satisfying.”

Access Housing took out top honours in the Leading Housing Development Project category for the Sustainable Housing for Artists and Creatives (SHAC) Development. Only three-years-old, the program is a unique and exciting partnership between Access Housing, SHAC (a co-operative of artists with the purpose of creating affordable housing options for artists and creative workers) and the state land agency LandCorp. The project includes 12 ‘key worker’ dwellings and two studios, and is located in WA’s first One Planet Living Community.

The striking project achieves excellent passive design, including a working space in each apartment.

The project provided a number of firsts for Access Housing and offered many learnings for the affordable housing sector, while SHAC members actively participated in the design of the project. Standard materials and construction techniques were used but the striking project achieves excellent passive design, including a working space in each apartment. External common areas were designed by SHAC, and two studio spaces will facilitate economic and community development for residents and the local community.

“SHAC has been the most collaborative project Access has delivered,” acknowledges Ralton Benn from Access Housing. “Over what has been a four-year journey, we’ve partnered with the SHAC, the surrounding White Gum Valley Community, Landcorp, Curtin University, the City of Fremantle, JAXON Construction and ARENA.”

“Artists and creatives are an intrinsic part of any society and the Fremantle community is a shining example of this,” continues Ralton. “This particular collective of the tenants has performed, taught, produced art or delivered events in – and around – Fremantle, and the development provides accessible and sustainable accommodation that allows them to continue to do this and our community to continue to benefit from it. This award is fantastic recognition of the result of this collaboration, and one that Access Housing is delighted to share with our project partners.”

Artists and creatives are an intrinsic part of any society and the Fremantle community is a shining example of this.

There were joint winners in the Leading Innovation category, with the judges unable to split Foundation Housing’s ‘Homes for Carers’ Program (in partnership with the WA Department for Child Protection and Family Support, and the WA Housing Authority) and WA Housing Authority’s SHIP Assisted Rental Pathways Pilot program.

 In partnership with the WA State Government, Foundation Housing designed and enacted their Homes For Carers Program to achieve one aim with twin benefits: access to larger rental homes for longer periods for family foster carers, while also providing fresh opportunities for landlords to secure tenancies in a tough rental market.

This was all about taking a great idea and having a go at it.

 “This was all about taking a great idea and having a go at it,” explains Barry Doyle, Project Coordinator of Homes for Carers. “There was no conceit about it being an instant success or solution. We took the view that the opportunity was overdue to get things started and there is value in the attempt itself. That it has got off to such a great start is a wonderful sign of things to come.”

Kathleen Gregory, CEO of Foundation Housing, is also thrilled to see the organisation recognised: “Winning is a huge boost for all the partners in the Homes for Carers program,” she tells HousingWORKS. “It is welcome recognition that we’re succeeding in our goal to provide housing that enables children in foster care to be reunited with family. We’re particularly proud we have successfully demonstrated, by targeting a niche sector with extended lease periods, we’ve been able to deliver benefits to all parties.”

Co-winner in the category – WA Housing Authority’s Assisted Rental Pathways Pilot – is an initiative of the Housing Authority’s Social Housing Investment Package (SHIP). Under SHIP, the WA Housing Authority committed to delivering 1,000 social housing dwellings and, in conjunction with other initiatives, managed to halve the number of seniors and families on the priority waitlist by 30 June 2017.

As part of the Pilot, Housing Authority of WA partnered with four community services organisations to trial an innovative form of assistance to support social housing applicants and tenants to transition into the private rental market. Two hundred social housing applicants and tenants will be supported in private rental accommodation for up to four years – with tiered rental subsidies and individualised assistance – to build their personal capacity and financial independence so they can become self-sufficient. To date, the initiative has housed 39 participants, with 25 of those participants diverted from the waitlist and 14 from social housing.

“We are really proud and thrilled to be recognised by the Australasian Housing Institute in the Leading Innovation Award category,” says Jacqui Herring of Communities WA. “It’s fantastic acknowledgement of the dedication and creativity of all those people that have contributed to the success of the Pilot.

Jacqui continues, “For me, the most exciting part about this Pilot is the collaboration between government and the community services sector, and that it has the potential to truly make a difference to people’s lives. The Pilot’s a true example of collaboration and can be summed up really well by the words of Helen Keller: ‘alone we can do so little; together we can do so much’.”

Wrapping up a banner night for Communities WA was a win in the Excellence in Social Housing category for the Foyer Oxford Project, which was operated in partnership with Anglicare WA, Foundation Housing and North Metropolitan TAFE.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.

A housing and support service for at-risk young people, Foyer Oxford is a 98-unit complex in Leederville, an inner suburb of Perth, providing secure accommodation and services to transition young people into independent and productive lives. The facility was designed and developed in accordance with the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness and the implementation of the A Place to Call Home Initiative.

Foyer Oxford is part of an international movement that aims to address the root causes of youth homelessness, and applies a proven model for helping young people transition into independence. Residents enter into a ‘deal’ setting out rights and responsibilities for both sides, including a requirement for residents to participate in education, training and/or employment. The ‘deal’ is based on a spirit of reciprocity – residents must help their supporters to help them – and, since opening in March 2014, Foyer Oxford has consistently exceeded its target key performance indicators. Behind these statistics are many stories of young people whose lives have been transformed for the better.

“Communities and the many parties involved are delighted with the win,” says Greg Cash. “We are proud to have delivered a program that provides stable, affordable housing and support services for people. The award also showcases the impact the program has had in utilising housing as a platform to improve employment and educational outcomes, and facilitate intergenerational change.”

Click here to access pictures from the ceremony.