Research Reports and Evaluations - Page 5

Executive summary This report presents findings from the evaluation of the Whittlesea Community Connections (WCC) pilot Housing Brokerage and Support Project (HBSP). The evaluation of the pilot seeks to document the emerging promising practices and the lessons learned by drawing on service activity data and qualitative interviews with clients and external stakeholders, a staff focus group, and case study vignettes. The evaluation also reviews the existing practice evidence base and demand for private rental support to determine how the model can be further developed into the future. WCC implemented the HBSP in 2013 to trial an innovative response to the increasing number of clients presenting to the service with experience of long-term homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness. Part of the motivation for developing a local response involved an appreciation of the difficulties faced by clients of WCC in accessing timely housing support and assistance from an overstretched housing support sector. The overall goal of the project was to assist low income households to gain access to and stabilise their private rental housing through the provision of brokerage no interest loans matched with case management support. significant risk to the funds invested or to the clients in receipt of brokerage loans. From January 2013 to October 2014, a total of 136 clients received housing information and referral whilst a total of $17,925.30 has been loaned to 18 individuals. The main client groups in receipt of brokerage loans:    The HBSP combines elements of microfinance with a model of private rental support. Microfinance provides an alternative to pay day lending and other high risk sources of credit and has demonstrated promising outcomes in assisting households towards greater financial inclusion. Private rental support programs seek to overcome the many barriers that low income households face in gaining access to the private rental sector. The existing evidence suggests that housing outcomes tend to be superior when households can be supported to remain in and transition from one rental property to another and avoid entering the homelessness service system where housing needs become more difficult and costly to resolve (AHIW 2013).  Are female, lone persons or lone parents, and new arrivals to Australia. Are all in receipt of Centrelink income support. Typically repay $20-50 per fortnight for 12 months. Have an average of 8 contacts of case management support. Key findings on the promising practices within the program that contributed to increased private rental accessibility and support included:   As the proportion of affordable rental stock declines relative to demand, private rental support programs are becoming a vital element in the package of housing assistance for low income households. Demographic indicators for the City of Whittlesea suggest that demand for private rental support programs will continue to grow. The low proportion of social housing stock in the area means that households have little choice but to rent in the private rental sector. The absence of more affordable one to two bedroom properties in the COW area exacerbates the affordability problem.  The scope of the HBSP was modest at the outset to allow WCC to trial its implementation without iv An integrated point of access through the co-location of the program within the broader range of services offered at WCC. A flexible and collaborative approach to loan management that can be matched with existing resources to provide the exact amount needed to gain entry into the private rental market. Case management support that provides advocacy and skills building to negotiate the private rental sector, including a flexible and solution focused approach to assessment to help households become loan ready even if they are not eligible upon first assessment.