Aussie bank’s shock $2bn move
One of Australia's biggest banks has made a mammoth $2 billion pledge to support affordable and social housing initiatives over the next three years.
NAB will today announce one of the most significant private endeavours towards tackling homelessness and increasing access to secure accommodation for vulnerable people.
"It's not a small number, but this is not a small issue for society either," David Gall, the bank's Chief Customer Officer for Corporate and Institutional Banking, told news.com.au.
"Affordable and specialist housing really is a significant challenge for Australia and Australians. We see it as a major societal issue and one banks should definitely play a role in trying to solve."
Across Australia right now, there are more than 189,000 people on public housing waiting lists - but that's just the tip of the iceberg.
That staggering figure doesn't take into account many of the estimated 116,000 homeless people, nor those on low incomes in unaffordable accommodation who aren't on waitlists.
Depending on individual circumstances, some people can spend several years hoping and praying for a vacant property to come up.
And it's expected to get much, much worse.
Modelling by the University of New South Wales projects an affordable and social housing shortfall of one million dwellings by 2036.
"I know that seems like a long time off but we need momentum to meet the kind of demand that's coming," Mr Gall said.
One of the groups to benefit from NAB's initiative is Launch Housing, one of Victoria's largest homelessness and housing support service providers.
By June next year, the not-for-profit will have completed 57 innovative "tiny homes" as part of a groundbreaking approach to creating affordable accommodation for at-risk people.
The low-cost, rapidly built and compact dwellings are made in a factory and then assembled on pockets of unused public land within existing communities.
"At our first site, we placed six tiny homes on a large suburban block with neighbours," Launch Housing chief executive Bevan Warner said.
"Those are tenants with long-term experiences with rough sleeping and insecure housing that are now supporting each other, with the broader community, to reclaim control over their lives."
In Greater Melbourne, the organisation has identified thousands of hectares of unused government land that could be repurposed in a similar fashion.
That's the case in other capital cities where the rising cost of housing and other financial pressures put large numbers of people at crisis point, Mr Warner said.
"The rise in rental stress, the loss of affordable rentals, people on low incomes, people who through no fault of their own face difficulties, are all vulnerable. They simply can't find somewhere affordable to live and so they're at risk of being forced into homelessness due to a dysfunctional housing market.
"We've shown that with a bit of ingenuity and a bit of support, we can deliver 57 new dwellings in quick succession and at low cost."
Launch Housing's project can provide a blueprint elsewhere in Australia for cheap, reliable and sustainable housing options.
"Of course, tiny homes aren't for everyone - they're not suitable for families, for example - but it's an example of clever thinking to solve a big problem."
It's that kind of thinking that Mr Gall said NAB is keen to support by partnering with community groups, the corporate sector and governments to get projects off the ground.
As well as initiatives to address homelessness and access to secure, affordable housing, Mr Gall said NAB was keen to support specialist housing for people with disabilities.
"I think today's commitment is very significant, both for the housing sector and the needs of society, but it's very significant for NAB," he said.
"Housing is a big part of our balance sheet overall. We've been very successful and benefited from the role we've played in Australian housing over the past 150 years.
"This is an opportunity to make sure we're also supporting the needs of Australians, as well as the industry we've done so well from over the years."
NAB will focus on providing loans and developing new financing avenues for not-for-profit organisations that build affordable and specialist housing including crisis accommodation, community housing, disability housing, build-to-rent properties and sustainable developments.