Housing affordability is going backwards, social housing waiting lists are growing and the time has come to “stop running pilots and actually start replicating”.
So says Jon Ross, a consultant to the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC), which has successfully provided close to $2 billion of support into Australia’s affordable and social housing sector during the past few years.
“The demand for capital for this sector ... it’s an enormous amount, many billions of dollars,” he said.
“Our focus going forward will be on finding different ways to efficiently fund the sector and the focus will be on working with the private sector so that we’re a facilitator and we can bring in other financiers who also have a focus on the sector.”
Ross, who will speak at The Urban Developer Affordable and Social Housing vSummit on October 28, said NHFIC was involved in public-private partnerships for pilot social housing projects in Victoria and New South Wales.
“There are new techniques that are being used to deliver better outcomes,” he said.
“But one of the things that this sector really needs to do is stop running pilots and actually prove up the concepts and start replicating.
“We’re just on the cusp of doing that ... and, indeed, other states are now talking to us about doing similar things.”
Ross said there was now also a stronger ESG focus across Australia that was playing in the sector’s favour.
“One of the things we’ve been successful in doing is issuing a 15-year bond, which we did this year,” he said.
“All of our bonds are government-guaranteed and they have a social and sustainable element to them, so there has been a lot of investor interest because they tick that ESG box.”
Ross said in the first 12 to 18 months after NHFIC was established in 2018 it did “a lot of refinancing” that benefited community housing providers (CHPs) by lowering their cost of funds and giving them additional equity they could invest into new housing.
“But that game has pretty much played out so now we’re focused much more on providing financing for new dwelling stock ... and getting a lot more leverage into the sector and that’s a good thing because CHPs don’t have big balance sheets and you can only leverage them so far.”