A Series on Homelessness by Fletcher Street Cottage
Fletcher Street Cottage is Byron's homeless hub, providing a safe and welcoming space for individuals and families at risk of homelessness, and those already sleeping rough, to access connection and broader support.
The shortage of affordable housing has been a growing concern for many nations, including Australia. Recognising the need for increased private and institutional investment in the community housing sector, the Australian Government took a significant step back in 2018 by establishing the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) and launching the Affordable Housing Bond Aggregator (AHBA). This initiative aimed to address the pressing issue of affordable housing and boost the community housing sector's capacity. In this blog post, we delve into the workings of the AHBA and its impact on the community housing landscape.
Understanding the Affordable Housing Bond Aggregator (AHBA)
The AHBA operates as a lending mechanism under the NHFIC. It provides loans to registered Community Housing Providers (CHPs), enabling them to acquire or build new housing units, maintain existing properties, fulfil capital and corporate requirements, and refinance existing debts. The AHBA's primary objective is to enhance the community housing sector's ability to expand and cater to the growing demand for affordable housing options.
Positive Reception and Testimonials
Initial feedback from various Community Housing Providers regarding the AHBA has been largely positive. According to Compass Housing Services, the NHFIC's efforts have contributed to increasing the capacity of the community sector to provide more housing options. The initiative has not only boosted the sector's supply capabilities but has also resulted in financial benefits for some organisations.
One noteworthy example is the experience of a Housing and Homelessness Service (HHS), which managed to refinance its existing debt at a more favourable rate through a 10-year loan from the AHBA. This strategic move decreased the organisation's refinancing risk, lowered costs, and provided more room for investment and development. This sentiment was echoed by Ms. Trudi Ray from HHS, who shared that the organisation saved approximately $10 million over the loan's term.
Addressing Shortcomings and Gaps
Despite the AHBA's positive outcomes, there remains a pressing issue in the form of a shortfall in social housing. While the AHBA has contributed to improving the situation, it is not a standalone solution to bridge the existing gap in affordable housing supply for those urgently in need across states and territories. This concern was raised by Housing and Homelessness Service (HHS), which acknowledged that although the AHBA had been beneficial, it was insufficient to fully close the existing gap, let alone cater to projected future shortfalls.
The Need for Additional Funding
Several community housing organisations, including Launch Housing and Mission Australia, have emphasised that while the AHBA's establishment is a critical reform, it alone cannot provide the necessary subsidy to significantly increase social and affordable housing at the lower end of the market. While the AHBA facilitates concessional funding for Community Housing Providers, it falls short in addressing the fundamental financial gap required to balance costs and operations. Without substantial funding to bridge this gap, the initiative's impact on addressing the current critical shortfall in affordable housing remains limited.
The Role of Ongoing Subsidy
The AHBA's potential to increase the supply of social housing hinges on the availability of ongoing subsidies. Research from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) suggests that achieving efficient results requires capital grants and subsidies aligned with the community's needs. This approach reflects the higher risks and costs associated with housing homeless or at-risk individuals.
The establishment of the Affordable Housing Bond Aggregator (AHBA) through the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) has marked a significant step toward addressing Australia's affordable housing crisis. While the AHBA has demonstrated its positive impact on the community housing sector, it is clear that additional measures and funding are required to bridge the existing gap in affordable housing supply and provide meaningful solutions for those in urgent need. As discussions around affordable housing continue, finding a balance between lending mechanisms, ongoing subsidies, and comprehensive funding becomes paramount in ensuring a more equitable and accessible housing landscape for all Australians.
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