HOUSING affordability for those in need across the region entered a new era on Wednesday, as work started on six specially designed units in Armidale.
Not-for-profit community housing provider Homes North, working in conjunction with Hibbards Developers, is behind the $2.1 million Stephen St development, which is a first for the regional organisation.
Homes North chief executive officer Maree McKenzie said it was the first time they had been involved in planning and building accommodation for disadvantaged clients, and it wouldn’t be the last.
Homes North is considering further projects in Armidale and Tamworth.
The not-for-profit provider has been operating in the sector for the past 30 years and now manages more than 1000 properties across the region, with offices in Tamworth, Armidale, Glen Innes, Gunnedah, Inverell and Moree.
The six units will be ready for their first tenants by the end of the year and will cater for families and those living with a disability.
Ms McKenzie said the project was enabled by the state government, which gave the organisation the capacity to borrow the money necessary, with the loan to be serviced by the rent from the units.
Aside from fulfilling a desperate community need for more affordable accommodation options, she said the new units were also kind to the environment, with their high energy-efficiency ratings.
“The homes will be comfortable and have lower ongoing costs for residents. Under our social and affordable housing program, rent will also be discounted. It’s a great outcome for the future residents,” Ms McKenzie said.
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall described the project as “a leading example of how to build low-cost housing”.
“This project is not just about affordable housing, but it takes a much longer view, by ensuring that living in these units will be affordable, through thoughtful design that minimises the need to buy in external energy,” he said.
Mr Marshall said providing affordable housing for those with limited opportunities to earn an income was a big challenge for communities.
“Failure to do so means that we condemn people with a disability, and others in need, to a sub-standard life – or perhaps to homelessness,” he said.
“Through this project, Homes North and Hibbards have built a model that should have some valuable insights to offer any community struggling with how to provide good, cheap housing to those who need it.”