Home' Border Enterprise : Autumn-Winter 2011 Contents enterprise
Vol 4. Autumn/Winter
ALOCAL housing association can
help industries and businesses on
the Border attract and retain key
The Rural Housing Network
Limited (RHNL) is the largest provider of
community housing in the Hume region of
Victoria. "Many people don't know about
community housing," said Catherine Upcher,
CEO of RHNL . "It offers long term, affordable
rental housing to individuals and families and is a
real alternative to both private and public rental,
with good quality housing and rents below
RHNL became a registered Housing
Association in Victoria in 2007. "This enabled
us to apply for state government funding to
buy and build houses," Ms Upcher said. "In
2007-08, we purchased 37 existing houses and
units and more recently, we have undertaken a
building program across the region."
Since the beginning of 2009, RHNL has
contracted to build more than 140 properties
in Wodonga, Wangaratta, Benalla, and other
Victorian towns in the region, at a total cost of
$45 million. These have been a mixture of 1, 2, 3
and 4 bedroom properties, many of which have
been designed to provide for tenants with physical
disabilities or declining mobility.
In Wodonga, RHNL has partnered with Alatalo
Bros, Dennis Family Homes and Southern
Vale Homes. "Southern Vale Homes recently
completed two developments in central
Wodonga, with another due for completion
by the end of June --- a further 14 properties
providing affordable housing for low to middle
income earners" said," Ms Upcher.
"All of our properties meet five-plus star
energy rating and are located close to schools
and services. We have partnered with local
builders and tradespeople across the region,
ensuring that there is a real financial benefit to
each local community.
"We believe that it is important that people
have good quality housing but it is also
important that the community as a whole
benefits from that housing. By forming
partnerships with local contractors, we know
that the money keeps local people employed,"
Ms Upcher said.
The State Government has funded 75 per
cent of the cost of construction of each property
and RHNL raises the other 25 per cent of the
fnancing required. Ms Upcher said that strong
partnerships with financiers have also helped.
"We have been able to negotiate financing at
competitive rates and a number of banks and
building societies have been interested in the
work we do."
RHNL is also keen to attract private
investors. "Investing in affordable, community-
based housing will provide an investor with a
competitive financial return," Ms Upcher said.
"At the same time, the investment is creating
sustainable, long term economic and social
benefits for the community. It makes good sense
to invest in the future of our communities."
RHNL has also been able to partner with
philanthropic trusts to increase the supply of
housing. "The RE Ross Trust donated $90,000
towards the cost of land and the construction of
two units in Wangaratta," said Ms Upcher. "This
significantly reduced the overall cost to RHNL and
we are keen to attract other philanthropic funds
if we can. RHNL has deductible gift recipient so
any donation over $2.00 is tax deductible.
“Good quality, affordable housing is central to
the welfare of a community", said Ms Upcher.
"Research indicates that people are more likely
to take up employment opportunities and young
people stay at school longer if they have stable
housing. Good housing also equates with
better health. It makes sense for us to invest in
RHNL is a not-for-profit company, with all
surpluses used to increase the supply of housing
and improve the service RHNL offers clients."Our
Board of Directors volunteer both time and skills
to lead the organisation," Ms Upcher said. "By
increasing our income or reducing overheads,
we will be able to increase the funds we have
available to build housing. We are very keen
to explore partnerships with the business
community, through ongoing sponsorships and
contributions of skills and expertise, as well as
donations of land or money."
Rural Housing Network CEO, Catherine
Upcher with Peter Sproule of Southern Vale
Homes, at a townhouse development in
Hensley Court, Wodonga.
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