Research Reports and Evaluations - Page 41

7 Conclusions and recommendations for future program development The emerging evidence suggests that there is a growing demand and a role for microfinance across the spectrum of households needs. The benefits are generally positive and superior to those from fringe lenders that low income households are forced to rely on when they have no other alternative and where government funded programs are limited. As governments look towards new ways of delivering housing assistance through public-private partnerships, it is likely that models of microfinance will have potential appeal. There is however limited understanding of the effectiveness of microfinance in the broader housing context. This evaluation goes some way to building an emerging evidence base that can inform the further development of models in the future. Although limited in scope, the brokerage program has been effective in leveraging more rapid access to private rental properties for those assisted. The modest size of the program has allowed WCC to trial its implementation without significant risk to the funds invested or to the clients in receipt of brokerage loans. Section 2 reinforced the growing importance of the private rental sector as the main housing option for low income households now and into the future. It is critical that private rental support programs can mitigate the market risks of gaining access to rental properties and to sustaining tenancies over time. The provision of upfront assistance to remain in the private rental market is an effective means of preventing homelessness and its associated social and economic costs to society. This final section documents the suggestions and recommendations for how the model can be further developed in practice. The recommendations provided extend to those that can be addressed by WCC within the scope of the program. 7.1 Expansion of the brokerage capacity The initial capital investment of $12,000 has provided housing brokerage assistance for 18 clients. Both internal and external stakeholders believed it was necessary to seek additional funding from a mix of government and private philanthropic funders for the program to expand. It was not articulated how large the program could grow. However, growth needs to be manageable within the capacity and resources of WCC. Staff identified that the program would need at least an additional $25,000-$30,000 in brokerage funding to meet existing demand, which could continue to be replenished as clients pay back the loan. There was also a view that the brokerage funding could be better tied to HEF money for financing different aspects of the resettlement process. With additional funding there was a suggestion that funds could be directed to shared or matched commitment to the purchasing of essential items where the client pays a certain amount and the services match the amount. Step down models for rent assistance were also suggested where the service commences to pay 75% at the initial housing stage, then moves down to 50% and then 10% and then the client moves to independent payment. There was a strong view amongst those consulted that the program must continue to target individuals and households who have the capacity to repay. The three groups targeted for loans were considered suitable and should remain the focus of the program as it moves to the next stage of development. Generally, clients felt very satisfied with the amount of assistance they received and the service’s main impact has been to ‘open the door’ to private rental housing as well as creating a greater sense of stability. Nonetheless, affordability problems remain a persistent concern for the majority of tenants in their properties, requiring them to be disciplined in their budgeting and making sacrifices in order to get by each week. The initial brokerage program was implemented cautiously as a small scale pilot with the intention of expanding it further following the implementation phase and evaluation of the pilot. Staff, stakeholders and clients were asked to comment on whether ѡ