What goes into our social housing?
At the same time, the urgency of building homes shouldn’t come at the expense of quality and functionality, and new dwellings should meet the needs of residents both now and as they grow older.
For more than 40 years, Churches of Christ has been working with the Queensland government to provide a range of housing options including social, affordable and disability housing and supported housing for families experiencing homelessness. During that time, we’ve become a leading provider of housing in Queensland, and we’re currently rated as a Tier 1 provider by the National Regulatory System of Community Housing.
It’s fair to say we’ve learned what works in social and affordable housing. There are a lot of factors that go into a successful social housing complex or campus. from choosing the location, to the design of the building and individual residences, and having people on site helping the community function in harmony.
Location, location, location
Location is very important for so many reasons. The complexes built specifically for residents aged 55 and older are designed to allow people to ‘age in place’. This is why we look for locations near public transport, close to shops, businesses and medical services. We know people want to live near good services, but they also want to enjoy their local area.
A space for friendship
Social housing is as its name implies ‘social’. When people from diverse cultural backgrounds are brought together to live in a residential complex, it helps that community if there is a space where they can come together. This is why new builds are designed with community spaces. Some might only have a small communal area with a barbeque and some seating. But others are lucky enough to get a community centre with a kitchen and space for organised activities or even functions.
Good design for the ages
Churches of Christ builds housing that allows a person to live there for the long term, and the homes have subtle design features which allow residents to ‘age in place’. The benefits of people staying in their homes for as long as possible are twofold: first to the resident themselves who will still enjoy seeing their friends and being independent. The second benefit is to the taxpayer – it costs less for a person to live in their own home and have care services brought to them, than it is for them to be in an aged care facility. So our designs minimise trip hazards and cater for mobility aids. Some of our social housing is even located near our home care services, making it very easy for residents to start asking questions about what is available to them, like cleaning or shopping or home care.
When you bring people together from a range of backgrounds, it helps if someone can facilitate relationships between residents. Churches of Christ have chaplains who get to know the residents and encourage residents to come together for events organised by the community engagement team like Melbourne Cup or Harmony Day. When residents feel safe with their neighbours, they form bonds and start to look out for each other. Sometimes it takes a little nudge from the chaplain, but often residents know when to call in to check on their neighbours.
Each of the social housing complexes has a housing officer, and they coordinate activities in much the same way a strata manager does. Some residents have been homeless, many have lived in free-standing homes, so it can be an adjustment when they come to live in close quarters with lots of other people. The housing officer helps with explaining what the tenancy rules are and what is acceptable and what isn’t.
Understanding the residents
One of the key factors to successful social housing communities is knowing the community – who they are, where they’re from. The community engagement team, the chaplain and the housing officer have very important roles here, and they get to know residents, through regular social activities, contact and sometimes surveys to get a more fulsome understanding of the cohort and their needs.
The housing complexes managed by Churches of Christ need to be safe and provide amenity for residents and there are rules to help this happen. Having a housing officer and chaplain there to chat to residents if need be, ensures a safe and harmonious complex.
We’re very proud of what we do for social, community and affordable housing. But we’re even prouder of the staff who work so hard to build these communities. We don’t want to merely put a roof over a person’s head. We want our residents to live in safe communities. We want them to feel they belong to something bigger, so they want to live there for as long as they want to.
For more information, read our Housing Services 2022 Year in Review by clicking here.