An innovative real estate agency, Property Initiatives Real Estate, puts 100% of its profits into buying and constructing properties for women and children escaping domestic violence or poverty.
Partner organisation and not-for-profit, Women’s Property Initiatives (WPI), based in Melbourne, is behind launching this full-service, social enterprise real estate agency. Vendors can sell or lease out their property through Property Initiatives Real Estate, the revenues used for building new houses and apartments for needy women and their families.
The real estate agency’s profits help WPI add to their inventory of properties rented out to the vulnerable. WPI launched in 1996 and is backed by an executive board filled with real estate industry, finance and social welfare experts. It receives some philanthropic funding, but struggles to provide enough properties for the number of women referred to it by charities.
What is community housing?
WPI’s mission is to work with women to help them secure community housing, which is simply affordable rental housing. It can be argued that the basic human need for affordable housing is currently not being adequately met by the government or private sectors. Often women are the most susceptible to disadvantage and discrimination while trying to access affordable housing.
An affordable home, according to WPI, can change a woman’s life. It enables them to maximise their opportunities. They become secure and more involved in society.
In the WPI model, tenants (women and in may cases their children) still pay rent for long-term, high-quality housing, but it is no more than 30% of their household income (never exceeding 75% of market rent). This gives them the financial freedom to thrive. They can live with pride and integrate back into the community. The women WPI helps are varied. Some have faced family violence. Some are migrants fleeing conflict in their country of origin. There are older women too who have suddenly found themselves without the financial resources to own a home or pay rent.
The Beaconsfield community housing project for older women
A recent example of affordable housing built for vulnerable older women by WPI is a current development in Beaconsfield.
The Beaconsfield development is part of a pilot program for WPI that targets older single women who do not have the means to purchase a home, providing them with a long-term, safe home.
Many older Australians are living longer, putting a potential strain on their finances and lifestyles.
This program will allow women with too few assets to achieve home ownership to invest and secure affordable housing into the future whilst preserving their capital. They will no longer be locked into the private rental market, their savings vanishing.
The Beaconsfield project, which will be built in the coming year, comprises four modest, high-quality units that can be adapted as the inhabitants age.
The units are designed to Livable Housing Australia’s Gold performance level, which has prescribed guidelines for the accessibility of dwellings. A second living/study space will be able to be closed-off, to become a second bedroom for a caregiver or visitor.
Each unit also has an elevated sloped ceiling over the living spaces, designed to capture the sunlight and create a greater sense of space to the modestly-sized dwellings.
The project is landscape-driven too. The four car spaces are designed to create flexible areas that can become vegetated communal outdoor spaces. The front garden is planted with herbs, vegetables and fruit trees, providing an offering to the street whilst fostering a strong sense of community among the four occupants.
This project, and others from WPI, with the support of Property Initiatives Real Estate, will have an impact on women’s lives now and into the future.
Combined with support, affordable housing can break the poverty trap many women can fall into.