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28 Aug 2017


SSI showcases innovative housing solutions at Cultural Shift

SSI Program Manager, Housing Services, Charles Rich (left) and NBRI Chair the Rev. Michael Aitken (right)

The Cultural Shift conference was a two-day symposium organised by SSI that brought together experts, prominent Australians, practitioners and community members to explore and discuss new ways of working together and effective approaches to supporting migrant and refugee families through settlement.

This year’s focus, “From Settlement to Belonging”, provided a platform to hear about housing initiatives aimed at facilitating settlement. They included those delivered by SSI Housing and by community organisations such as the Northern Beaches Refugee Initiative (NBRI), Habitat for Humanity and the FACS service Link2home.

“Today less than 5 per cent of the available accommodation in NSW would be considered affordable by accepted standards, which makes leading a stable and secure life very hard for some people in our communities, including refugees and people seeking asylum, but also many others,” SSI Program Manager, Housing Services Division, Ravi Emmanuel said.

SSI Housing’s EHA began as a project to meet the high demand for accommodation linked to the arrival of maritime entrants who would find themselves at risk of homelessness once in Australia, Mr Emmanuel said.

However, the program has evolved to offer a broader response to the lack of affordable housing in NSW and it currently provides accessible and fully furnished crisis accommodation for anyone in the community who might need it.

SSI Housing also presented the Modular Housing Development, an exclusive and innovative project that offers the benefits of having a solid house without the large investment associated in terms of time and funds.

“The Modular Housing Development is a great investment opportunity for anyone looking at participating in an ethical project, which also has a quick return and guaranteed tenants once it’s completed,” SSI Program Manager, Housing Services, Charles Rich said.

“It is just constructed within a matter of weeks from prefabricated materials and delivered flat packed, while maintaining all industry quality standards. But, most importantly, it can provide an affordable home for many families in need.”
SSI Housing also provides property and tenancy management services for landlords looking for a social return as well as financial benefits for their investment.

NBRI Chair the Rev. Michael Aitken spoke about a notable housing initiative being implemented since 2015 in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. It had seen nine families of refugee background successfully settled in properties belonging to local families in the first 12 months after arriving in Australia.

“After the Government’s announcement to increase Australia’s humanitarian intake by an additional 12,000 permanent places for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, we thought we had to do something to help and we put a call out in our community,” Mr Aitken said.

“We’re Australian and we believe in giving everyone a fair go, which means providing help when they start afresh in a new country.

“That set the wheels in motion and soon we had a response from some community members who were interested in helping. We made contact with SSI, which was supporting some families who could benefit from this project.”

The NBRI took off and slowly more families joined the initiative, providing not only properties and granny flats to rent below market prices, but also assisting the new arrivals in areas such as improving their English skills, making meaningful connections in the community, driving lessons or finding employment contacts.

“Besides the great results of having nine refugee families settled in the area, the NBRI has been proven to work as it has integrated the local community in the project and it is sustainable,” Mr Aitken said.

The housing initiatives session concluded with a presentation by Habitat for Humanity NSW about providing opportunities for refugees in rural communities, and one by Link2home Service Delivery Manager Graham Moore, who gave an overview about a loan pre-approval initiative offered by FACS for people of refugee background.

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