Corporate Member: Link Housing

Name of Organisation: Link Housing

Executive Director: Andrew McAnulty

Joined AHI: 2018

Vision of organisation:

“We’ve just updated our strategic direction and our new vision is: “Enhancing lives through community housing.”

Summary of services provided:

“We’re a reasonably broad operator but social housing is at the core of our business, and providing housing for people on very low and low incomes, including those who are at risk of, or are, homeless.”

“We also manage about 500 affordable homes – the next segment on the housing continuum –targeting people on low to moderate incomes, including many key workers. And then, in the last year, we’ve expanded quite considerably into specialist disability housing as well. So there’s three prongs to our business – social housing, affordable housing and now disability housing.”

Defining features of organisation:

“We aspire to be an organisation that delivers long-term legacy outcomes, so we focus a lot on tenant engagement and involvement. The culture of the business is also very important in this, and we keep getting positive feedback from tenants and staff about our culture. In our recent annual tenant and staff surveys, some of the words that kept coming up were ‘open’, ‘honest’, ‘helpful’ and ‘supportive’. This is what we want.”

“I think my style, and what we replicate down through the business, is a willingness to take chances with people, treat them as individuals and help them build their futures. Given that we’re trying to house those who are most in need in many instances, we also have to be open and vulnerable ourselves. Some of that is about acknowledging that, as individuals and as an organization, we’ll make mistakes but that it’s not necessarily a problem as long as we’re prepared to continue to invest in people and learn.”

“A few years ago, our Board added the value of ‘leadership’ into our Strategic Direction – the wording is ‘the courage to shape the future’. That, in a way, acknowledges the boldness and ambition we must have to create the change needed. As an organisation, if we’re passive and simply compete for a share of the existing ‘housing pie’, we’re missing the point of what we’re collectively trying to achieve as a sector – that is, to move the status quo of housing so that people in need are actually considered by governments and the private sector as important, as opposed to being bypassed because there is no obvious economic or political win in resolving the issue. Given the importance of housing, we’re very focused on advocating for positive change with state and local Government, the private sector and a wide range of other organisations.”

“Partnerships and collaboration is a defining feature of Link Housing. In Australia, you have to partner with others. You have to link in with developers, local government, state government and federal government, and try to get combined wins over the line. If you don’t collaborate, people just ignore what you’re saying. You can’t just complain to government or complain to the private sector – you have to jump in with both feet and collaborate.”

“We want to make a difference. We want to do seemingly straightforward things really well. It comes down to four things: being a really good tenancy manager; a really good asset manager; listening to, and involving, our tenants; and working with support providers to enhance people’s lives and give them access to opportunities. When we achieve these four things, we know we’re doing a good job.”

Achievements of organisation this year:

“Over the last four years, we’ve been focused on making sure our organisation is ready and capable of growth, as well as lobbying for opportunities. We’re in an exciting period for housing and for us as an organisation.

“When I joined Link Housing almost five years ago, we had 1,100 homes in management. We focused on our affordable housing portfolio and have since grown this to 500 homes. We’ve also recently focused on disability, and now have close to 300 tenancies.”

“With our Social Housing Management Transfer in December 2018, we will have trebled our social housing portfolio, which will bring us close to a total of 4,000 tenancies in management by the end of the calendar year. It’s a very positive trajectory for us but we can, and must, do so much more.”

Current programs:

“The specialist disability accommodation for 235 tenancies that we went live with in March, in partnership with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, was pretty major. And we’ve got the Social Housing Management Transfer of Ryde/Hornsby within Sydney, which is almost 1,900 tenancies, which I just talked about – that goes live in December.”

“I’m very passionate about youth homelessness, and we’ve got some 30-year partnerships with various youth homelessness support providers, one of which is The Burdekin Association who we have worked with to provide housing and support for over 500 individual young people on Sydney’s northern beaches – terrific long-term success.”

“We’re also exploring Aboriginal housing opportunities with the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, which is really interesting because I can provide expertise about things that I take for granted around governance, development, housing strategy and structure. At the same time, I’m learning so much about this often marginalised community with so much untapped potential. I’m very excited about these conversations to partner with Aboriginal people.”

“For a couple of years now, we’ve been a White Ribbon-accredited workplace. We were the first community housing provider in New South Wales to achieve that status. That came out of discussions in one of our staff groups around the issue of domestic violence and the realisation that a number of staff had family members who had experienced it. It was a real awakening when we started talking about it, how confronting it was and how abhorrent it was. So we went along a journey of thinking about what we could do. Our first step was to look after our staff, and then it cascaded to thinking about how domestic violence impacts our tenants and the wider community.”

Comment on the current state of housing:

“In New South Wales, there’s been some dynamic progress made. Under [NSW Minister for Health, and former Minister for Family and Community Services] Brad Hazzard, and now Minister Pru Goward, the policy Future Directions has provided a positive, long-term vision statement and real opportunities like the Social Housing Management Transfer Program.”

“I can also see real leadership in organisations like Landcom under CEO John Brogden and the Greater Sydney Commission. We’ve met with Sarah Hill and Lucy Turnbull a number of times. They’re two dynamic women on a mission to look at the big picture of Sydney’s future. I’ve got a lot of faith in Sarah Hill. She’s a dynamic CEO, and affordable housing is part of the mantra of the Greater Sydney Commission, so I’m really optimistic about that major strategic planning body.”

“The broader planning system in New South Wales is looking at how we incorporate inclusionary zoning in Sydney. It’s taking baby steps but it’s moving in the right direction. It’s like everything – I’d like to see more but I have to congratulate the New South Wales Government in many respects for moving housing up the agenda. It needs to move further but there is good momentum. Importantly, the momentum needs to be bipartisan and built on by future governments, irrespective of political persuasion.”

“Nationally, I’m still bemused why there’s not a national housing strategy. I’m confused why there’s not a national housing minister. I’m hoping that through the various state elections, then the next federal election, and through the Everybody’s Home campaign and other campaigns like it, that we will get housing higher up on the national agenda.”

“You have to have a national housing strategy, and you have to have national and state targets. Without targets, people can just hide or ignore the fact there are 119,000 people who are homeless around Australia – an obscene percentage of whom are people under the age of 25, as well as the growing percentage of older women. These statistics need to be part of mainstream dialogue, and people need to be disgusted with the fact that there are that many homeless people in Australia. Without focus and realistic targets for new social and affordable housing across Australia, it is simply something of a talk fest – and not a discussion about investment to resolve homelessness.”

Why did you become a Corporate Member of the Institute?

“Quite a number of our staff – including me – have been individual members or are currently individual members of the AHI. It was time for us to join as a Corporate Member.”

“One of the things that sets AHI apart is its emphasis on training. It also has great networking opportunities. I regularly see a number of our staff who are active members going off to the debates and other social events, and it feels collegiate. In a space that is very busy, I think the AHI has quite an interesting national – and international with New Zealand – view on these business connections and partnerships. We look forward to getting more involved with some of the social, corporate and training events.”

“What is also noticeable about the AHI is the way the organisation captures the views of its members but also the tangible stories about people who have achieved their goals due to having a decent, stable home. It’s a unique approach that helps to demonstrate that community housing is for decent, honest, mainstream people living in Australia who simply need a stable and affordable place to call home.”  

Twitter: @andrew_mcanulty