Corporate Member: Unity Housing


Name of Organisation:
Unity Housing

CEO: Matthew Woodward

Joined AHI: 2016


Vision of organisation:

“Our by-line is ‘affordable homes in sustainable communities’. Unity’s vision is that all South Australians have access to affordable, safe and secure homes in sustainable communities, regardless of income.”

Summary of services provided:

“Unity is a specialist housing provider, we deliver a broad range of housing options including boarding house accommodation for people at risk of homelessness, social and community housing for people with a range of needs, and affordable housing for people on low incomes. In this way, we provide a continuum of housing options that enables our tenants to change their housing arrangements to meet their changing needs.”

“We currently have around 2,000 properties, going up to 3,000 this year, in which we house a very diverse tenant group with a wide range of needs. Our tenants include people affected by homelessness, older people and people with disability, women and families affected by domestic violence, people experiencing mental health issues and other challenges. We also provide homes for people who simply can’t afford appropriate housing in the private rental market.”

“Unity is also one of the most prolific not-for-profit housing developers in Australia, having delivered 376 new dwellings with total development costs of over $100 million. This has included affordable rental properties and some for market sale but the great bulk of our housing portfolio really sits in the social housing space.” 

Defining features of organisation:

“Unity is driven to address unmet need and to venture where we can add value. A defining feature of our organisation is our very strong partnership ethos. This has evolved because many of our tenants are vulnerable and require additional support in order to sustain their tenancies. To address this, we have developed a model of partnering with specialist support providers. Unity has established formal partnerships (memoranda of understandings) with around 35 specialist support providers, across government and non-government, and with whom our staff work very closely to ensure that our tenants succeed.”

“Unity is also very transparent and collegiate in the way that we work with other housing providers in the broader housing sector. We are happy to partner and share our experience with like-minded housing organisations for the greater good of the sector.”

Achievements of organisation in 2016/17:

“Unity has established a formal alliance partnership with Bedford Industries, the largest provider of support, training and employment services to people with a disability in South Australia. This has seen the transfer of around 130 properties from Bedford to Unity with tenants in-situ, the largest transfer of its type in South Australia. The alliance allows Bedford to focus on its core business, which is the provision of support, training and employment for people with a disability. This was a large and complex housing transfer that was almost two years in the making, and we are now jointly planning future housing developments for people with a disability.”

“Internally, we’ve implemented a major new business IT system that enables us to manage our growing portfolio and lays a platform for the further growth in which we’re now involved. In an environment where regulation and compliance is becoming ever more important, this new IT system has been a key outcome for the organisation.”

“Unity was also successful in acquiring the housing management transfer of 1,100 properties from the state government, which will commence in September. This will take our housing portfolio to over 3,000 properties.”

“The other major achievement for the last 12 months has been the sign-off with the Commonwealth Bank of a $50 million finance facility, which establishes the basis for a really strong development program going forward. That, combined with the stock transfer, gives us a really significant capacity to go forward – so we’re in for an interesting couple of years.”

Current programs:

“At the moment, our major focus is preparing for the housing management transfer of the 1,100 properties in September. In particular, we’re expanding into the Limestone Coast in the southeast of South Australia, establishing a new regional office and team in that region.”

“We are also exploring the opportunities that will arise for the provision of housing in the disability sector through the introduction of the NDIS. Unity plans to develop new accommodation options for people with a disability working in partnership with specialist disability support providers so that each organisation can focus on what its best at. That way we will achieve the optimum outcomes for the people that we house.”

Comment on the current state of housing:

“If I was to make one comment, it would be my real concerns over the future of the social housing portfolio nationally. You can’t provide subsidised housing without a subsidy and, for people on the lowest incomes and the most vulnerable of our community, they require deep subsidy and I don’t see that. Bond aggregator and all that is great – we’ll take advantage of it, we’ll use it, we’ll create more housing – but it is unlikely to be social housing, it will be largely affordable housing.”

Why did you become a Corporate Member of the AHI?

“Unity recognises the need to continue to grow the professionalism of our housing sector, and has been a long-standing supporter of the AHI through event sponsorship and participation. Becoming a Corporate Member was the next logical step in our support of the AHI. I believe there is an obvious need to develop an accredited and benchmarked professional training structure across the national housing sector, and the AHI is the obvious vehicle to achieve that.”