7 February 2024

New $5 million affordable housing program set to benefit the Illawarra community for decades

| Keeli Royle
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West Dapto housing growth.

Renters in Wollongong will now have a better pathway to home ownership. Photo: Wollongong City Council.

A new housing affordability scheme to help give renters a pathway into home ownership is set to address the intergenerational impacts of housing insecurity in the Illawarra after receiving a multi-million dollar funding boost by Wollongong City Council.

The program, to be delivered by Head Start Homes, will provide eligible community members in the Wollongong area with the opportunity to save and prepare to buy their own home while living in an affordable rental property owned by the not-for-profit organisation for up to five years.

Participants will also receive Head Start Homes’ Enhanced Empowerment Services including financial coaching, homebuyer education and ongoing social support to help put them in the best position to purchase either the home they are already renting, or another property of their choice if they are approved for a bank loan.

READ ALSO Illawarra rents stabilise in 2023 but affordable housing remains a struggle for many

Head Start Homes Founder and Managing Director Stephen Woodlands said the innovative program would give struggling renters better access to housing and transform many lives.

“Having more safe, stable and affordable homes with fairer pathways into home ownership will also have profound positive flow-on effects for the local community whilst also helping to reduce intergenerational poverty for our clients and their children,” he said.

If clients choose to purchase their existing rental from Head Start Homes then funds from the sale will be used to purchase another affordable rental property to provide opportunities to another household.

Mr Woodlands said the program could operate long-term because of this cyclical process.

“It’s envisioned that the Head Start Homes affordable housing scheme would run for up to at least 20 years, thanks to the recycling nature of the program,” Mr Woodlands said.

Stephen Woodlands.

Head Start Homes founder Stephen Woodlands. Photo: Head Start Homes.

The funding of $5 million was provided through the Wollongong Affordable Housing Program, with Head Start Homes part of the third and final round of the scheme.

“While affordable housing isn’t something we can directly deliver on our own, by partnering with not-for-profit organisations such as Head Start Homes, council can help address this enormous challenge,” Wollongong City Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said.

“This program will benefit the lives of some Wollongong residents who are facing financial hardship and cannot access safe housing by themselves. This is quite an innovative program and while there’s more work to be done in this space, it will be wonderful to see the long-term benefits of this partnership in action.”

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He said this latest program was just one of many actions within council’s Wollongong Housing Strategy that sought to increase the overall availability and affordability of housing across the local government area by providing the right type of housing in the right locations.

“It’s a forward-thinking document that looks at what tangible actions we can take over the next 10 to 20 years to improve housing affordability and availability in the Wollongong LGA,” Cr Bradbery said.

Actions being implemented by council include increasing housing supply by rezoning land, approving neighbourhood plans to permit more dwellings and releasing council-owned land as well as making more efficient determinations of development applications and assisting support organisations.

“Here at council, we have a very specific and important role when it comes to supporting the housing needs of our community,” Cr Bradbery said. “Our role as local government is through our planning controls, how we purposefully allocate funds from developers and through the conversations we have with stakeholders including other levels of government.”

Expressions of interest are now open for Head Start Homes’ Wollongong Affordable Housing and Home Ownership Program.

To find out more or to register interest visit the Head Start Homes website.

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