The partnership between the City of Port Phillip (CoPP) and HousingFirst began in 1985 from a community campaign deploring the loss of affordable housing options within the municipality.
The CoPP has since made a name for itself as a national leader in local government programs that address the loss of affordable housing due to gentrification. It is widely regarded as the exemplar local government supporter of community housing in Australia.
In 1985, the Council (then St Kilda City Council) established a program which positioned it as a direct developer of affordable housing. Over the 21-year period from 1985 to 2006, this became the largest local government housing program in Australia; its achievements included the provision of 286 units in 12 residential development projects.
As a direct developer of community housing between 1985 and 2006, the Council’s housing projects were largely funded through joint ventures with the Victorian Government's Department of Human Services where project costs were shared. In addition, Council also undertook two partnerships with private developers.
Of equal significance was the 1985 formation of the St Kilda Housing Association Inc. – later to become Port Phillip Housing Association Ltd – to manage the Council’s portfolio of residential properties.
In 2004, as a result of the outstanding success of its Housing Program, Council resolved to separate its role as the responsible authority for development approvals from its role as a community housing developer, while supporting HousingFirst to become a registered Housing Association under the Victorian Government’s new community housing regulatory system. The restructure also aimed to enhance the capacity of HousingFirst as a developer of community housing. In 2005, Council completed this process by establishing a Housing Trust and transferring ownership of 12 community housing projects (then valued at $39 million) to HousingFirst as Trustee of the Housing Trust.
Since establishment of the Trust, Council has supported the growth of community housing through cash and property contributions. The Port Phillip Housing Trust, under the stewardship of HousingFirst, now totals 358 units valued at approximately $68million.
Although Council now has no direct involvement in HousingFirst project development, the ethos of HousingFirst is fully supported by Council’s policy framework. Community housing requirements are also integrated within the Port Phillip Planning Scheme and the City’s Municipal Strategic Statement. This support and inclusion have enabled the essential continuity and progressive development of community housing, resulting in one of the largest, and most successful, commitments by a local government to a community housing program anywhere in Australia.
The Council’s foresight and bold innovation has seen the small community housing organisation it gave birth to evolve into what is now one of Australia’s leading housing companies, providing over 1,000 affordable housing dwellings across six Melbourne municipalities.
HousingFirst is looking for new opportunities to partner with councils who wish to further the supply of quality affordable housing for key workers and persons on low incomes within their municipalities.