Corporate Member: Horizon Housing

Name of Organisation: Horizon Housing

COO: Jamie Muchall

Joined AHI: 2015

Vision of organisation:

“To be a leader in the provision of affordable, innovative housing solutions.”

Summary of services provided:

“Horizon is a developer and manager of social and affordable housing in Queensland and New South Wales. We also have a subsidiary organisation that we purchased a few years ago called AAHS – Australian Affordable Housing Securities – which manages NRAS compliance on nearly 3,000 properties nationwide.”

Defining features of organisation:

“I think, for us, the defining feature of Horizon Housing would be our appetite for innovation and new ideas. We’re always keen to try out new ways of doing things; new models, new housing programs. Also, along with that, we have a commitment to evidenced-based housing solutions, making sure that whatever we do try does work. If it doesn’t work, stop doing it. If it does work, then do more of it.”

“The other thing I think is a little bit unique about Horizon is that we try to have a balanced approach between professionalism and social outcomes. Because we have a large NRAS portfolio and a lot of private owners, we need to be very professional. We also want to deliver value for money services through government but, at the same time, we’re delivering housing solutions for low income and high needs people so we have to balance that approach in what we do. We have a really great team here that can do all of that.”

Achievements of organisation this year:

“We assisted just over 5,400 tenants last year, and we’re also really proud of our tenant satisfaction, which was 95.7%.”

“We also completed our first poetry and short story competition for tenants as part of a tenant engagement program that we run. We alternate between an art and photo competition – which we did last year – and then a poetry and short story competition this year. We’ve just started opening the next art and photo competition for the holidays.”

“We also secured some funding from Dignity First, which is a Queensland Government initiative. We got $55,000 to help people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, move into our properties, as we were finding a lot of our tenants or potential tenants didn’t have furniture or, while we might be providing them with a furnished unit, they wouldn’t have linen or they wouldn’t have the money to fill a fridge. They’re already trying to get a bond loan to pay for the bond and they’re struggling to get a rental grant to pay for their first two weeks rent so we applied for some funding to help them establish themselves and start from at least zero, instead of from behind.”

“We secured $75,000 out from the Department of Communities in Queensland for the Age-Friendly Grants to do a research project in Roma in western Queensland about designing homes and modifications to homes for older people living in rural communities. We did this because there isn’t a lot of research available. We hope to demonstrate the findings in a pilot project.”

“On the development side, we completed our project at Murwillumbah. We did a project funded under the Building Better Regional Cities Program and we finished it this year. The exciting thing about that for us is we included a second mortgage program. It’s very similar to shared equity, where we’re trying to help first home buyers into the market in a very hot market down on the Tweed [River region]. We’ve built 22 homes that we’ve retained and are renting as affordable housing but we also sold 32 properties that are going to first home buyers and others who wanted to build a home but couldn’t afford the full market price.”

“Lastly, but not least, of course, we’ve partnered with MS Queensland and Youngcare in Queensland to deliver tenancy management for some of their disability properties, so we’ve established good partnerships in the SDA disability housing space.”

Current Programs:

“The things we’re focusing on at Horizon is to increase delivery over the coming year or so for our disability housing, and those partnerships with Youngcare and MS Queensland and others. So delivering more housing for people with disabilities, either under SDA or as accessible disability housing, and then also the delivery and the rollout of those two programs I talked about before: the Dignity First funding and the Age-Friendly Grant. Those are the main new activities we’re looking at, at the moment, on top of further improving services in our core areas of social housing, transitional housing and the NRAS properties that we manage.”

Comment on the current state of housing:

“We’re pleased to have some continuity in Queensland now that we have a returned government. We’re not going to have the whiplash that we experienced last time where we went from one housing strategy to another housing strategy.”

“But there’s still a lot of work to be done, and not a lot of funding available. I know it’s not exactly insightful but we’re in a time where there’s a lot of demand for housing and very little funding for it, especially in Queensland, or outside of New South Wales really. So there’s great demand for companies like us to be more innovative, more efficient and to be able to take the larger risks.”

Why did you become a Corporate Member of the AHI?

“As I mentioned earlier, we’re about professionalization, and we think the AHI is all about professionalising and developing excellence in the housing sector – especially in housing officials.”

“I also really like how the AHI have both government and non-government members. It’s unique. Many other community groups and community housing groups focus on the non-government sector, whereas the AHI’s bring both government and non-government together holistically. It’s great to be able to share the successes and lessons of both sectors with each other.”