United Housing Co-operative Successfully Implements Family Violence Project

In July 2016, United Housing Co-operative (UHC) was notified by the Department Health and Human Service (DHHS) that it had been approved for a $3.54 million capital grant under the Rapid Housing Program, where UHC contributed $880,000 in a 75%/25% in a matched funding arrangement. UHC was given twelve months to purchase and finalise tenancy arrangements for eight homes for families in urgent need of housing, who had become homeless as a result of family violence.

UHC is now pleased to announce that it has successfully met the tight timeline of the Rapid Housing program and produced great outcomes for the eight new member families and for the co-operative.   Arrangements for the purchase of the eighth property was finalised at the end of May 2017 to provide secure and affordable housing for families escaping family violence.

The Rapid Housing Program was an initiative of the Andrew’s Labor State Government, in response to the Royal Commission into family violence, which identified the need for an urgent housing response to this critical issue.

The Board of Directors has worked very hard to support staff to implement this program in a short timeline and this was not a simple process for a Co-operative that is committed to consulting with its membership, and needed to be carefully managed.

According to Chairperson Carly Richardson, “the Rapid project was something the Board carefully considered and we needed to consult with the members before agreeing to give the staff the go ahead to apply for funding.  We wanted to be sure that we could provide the right environment for families in crisis and also that the families could become a productive part of our Co-op.

“And all indications are that it is a win win situation, Carly continued, “the families are securely housed and the Co-op has grown and is more financially robust.  And what’s more the membership has been very welcoming to our new members. I believe the whole project has given our Co-op more focus and a great sense of giving back to the broader community and to enable others to access secure and affordable housing”.

The intake of new members was carefully managed by the member based Tenant Member Selection Committee.  Members ran the Information Programs and completed the interview process with staff representation in keeping with UHC philosophy, which ensures a high level of member involvement and control.

Staff, the Board, the Property Development and Tenancy Selection Committees have all played an important part in a challenging process.  Special mention to our property specialist Janet and Mea who worked tirelessly with staff to identify suitable properties and Tracey, Elisa and Kim who contributed lots to the Tenant Selection process.  And of course there were many others.  The Member Services group are now planning a morning tea and will continue to work to welcome  the new members.

The final property settlement occurred on 24th May and the family moves in on the 19th June after all works are completed.    From there UHC must complete an Acquittal and present all financial records for auditing.

DHHS video: “Telesia’s Story”. 

UHC was invited to participate in a promotional video about the Rapid program which has been completed and placed on the Victorian Premiers and DHHS facebook pages.  UHC members Telesia and Janet have presented a fantastic grab of the many advantages of the Rapid program for women and their children and highlights some of the benefits of the co-operative housing model for families coming out of difficult situations and backgrounds.

The Co-op model provides informal supports to tenant members in addition to the professional support provided by Support Services.  The new members have been offered a mentor to assist in understanding the workings of the Co-op and its governance processes. UHC also offers a range of social engagement activities, morning teas and training opportunities.

In conclusion, UHC’s Rapid Program has been a very successful venture and has provided excellent outcomes for new UHC members and for the co-operative generally.   UHC is in a position to build on this success and its stronger financial position to leverage additional funds for new projects and support more people in need of affordable and secure housing within the co-operative model.

Peter Sibly
General Manager