By Grant J Everett
One of the greatest elements of independence is to live in your own home, a place where you are the boss. However, when you combine a state-wide shortage of properties, rising rental prices, and the very real threat of having to move out at the drop of a hat, finding (and keeping) your own place can be difficult and stressful. Renting a decent home seems to be something that’s moving further and further out of reach for many of us, even for people who are employed.
Expanding our scope
Flourish Australia wanted to do something about this issue. So, it was decided that our organisation would dip its toe into the real estate market by building an affordable block of apartments in Guildford. Guildford was chosen because it’s situated midway between Parramatta and Liverpool, an area that contains a lot of people on low incomes, making it an ideal location for people who work, and it’s also a good option because the local property prices are pretty reasonable for Western Sydney.
It’s important to note that although Flourish Australia deals predominantly with people who have a lived experience of mental health issues, our Guildford flats will be available to tenants outside of this scope, too. That means you don’t need to have a mental health issue or any other sort of preexisting connection with Flourish Australia if you want to move into one of these apartments.
Due to the nature of our organisation, this project isn’t motivated by profit: the Guildford development has always revolved around the core idea of offering affordable housing solutions for people who are having trouble making ends meet.
A definite positive to our apartment block is that it has three unit sizes to cater for different budgets and space needs. All up, there will be 19 two-bedroom units, 16 one-bedroom units, and 6 studio apartments. The two-bedroom and one-bedroom apartments will have their own underground parking.
Figuring out exactly who gets to live in these flats will be a task for Community Housing Limited, a not-for-profit organisation that delivers affordable housing to some of the most vulnerable people in our community (people who are homeless, people with disability, single parents, and so on). Any administrative details such as leasing paperwork and other documentation will be looked after by a Community Housing Provider.
Flourish Australia maintenance crews will be looking after the Guildford apartment block by mowing the lawns, cleaning the hallways and windows, and keeping the gardens in good shape.
As these flats will be private rental properties, getting one will require the same process as renting anywhere else: you’ll need references, proof of income paperwork, 100 points of ID, and you’ll need to pay a bond (which is usually equivalent to four weeks of rent) up front. In case you aren’t familiar with renting privately, tenants are usually expected to sign a 12-month lease at the start. If you’re a good tenant, then your chances of extending this lease will also be good.
Renting a home involves certain responsibilities, and they’ll all be clearly spelled out. Breaking the rules of your rental agreement can lead to eviction, so it’s very important that you know what’s expected of you. Like any other flats, tenants cannot keep pets (except in some circumstances, such as guide dogs) and won’t be allowed to smoke inside, either. You’ll also need to make sure you don’t damage anything, such as the walls, doors, windows, carpet, or fixtures like taps or sinks, or you’ll have to pay for repairs out of your bond. These flats will all be inspected every few months to make sure they are being appropriately cared for, but there will be lots of notice to ensure your home looks its best for the inspection.
A measured decision
It goes without saying that there’s a lot more to building an apartment block than simply whacking together some bricks! Due to the large scale of the Guildford project, we had to make sure the entire Flourish Australia board and senior leadership team was on board before a single tradie loaded up his ute. Nowadays, it’s reached the point where any additional decisions are handled by a small team of upper management. We’ve examined every step, but progress has been steady.
The Guildford project should be finished in the first quarter of 2017, with its first residents moving in a couple of months after that. The outcome of this project will have a huge impact on what we can offer the wider community. So while it’s far too early to be making any educated guesses, everyone is very excited by this new venture and we hope it’s the first of many worthwhile examples of community development.