When defence personnel Jeremy and Carney Elias took up a posting in Queensland late last year, they wanted to offer up their McKellar home to a family in need.
With house prices and rent going through the roof and many Canberrans hit hard by COVID-19 lockdowns, the couple decided to give another young family a leg-up by offering discounted rent through HomeGround Real Estate Canberra.
HomeGround’s affordable housing program aims to help low income earners save money in the hope that, one day, they’ll be able to afford to buy their own home.
Carney said she’s pleased their tenants, a couple with three children, can afford to live in their four bedroom home with a backyard for a few years.
“It’s amazing to be able to give this family an opportunity to reduce their rent without having to live in a shoebox, especially with young kids,” she said.
The tenants, who both work in community service and have dedicated their lives to helping others, had hoped to be able to purchase their own home but, with price rises over the past 18 months, Carney said their chances of breaking into the property market were “blown out of the water”.
“We asked them, if they were able to pay lower rent, would that help them save for their own home and they said yes,” Carney said.
“Our motivation is also about trying to live out our Christian faith and we were happy to be able to help them out.
“We are very conscious of our privilege and everything we have and we feel really grateful that we are in a position to assist other people less fortunate than us.”
Carney said the property management team at HomeGound “handled everything” and she was encouraged by the company’s track record with finding good tenants.
“For us it’s great to have the level of service they provide and to have that surety as a landlord,” she added.
HomeGround business development and property manager Maria Edwards said, under the affordable housing scheme, landlords have the choice of who they offer their property to, unlike social housing (public and community) where there is a waiting list based on emergency need.
She said Canberrans were often confused about the different kinds of supported housing options that are available to struggling Canberra residents.
“We operate a not-for-profit property management model and our landlords, who choose to rent their properties through the affordable scheme, are generous and thoughtful members of society trying to give a hand to others who need it,” Maria said.
“We have a range of properties from newly built to older heritage homes that are all in good condition and are looked after by our tenants over short or long term.
“We have almost no rent arrears and have had no tribunal cases.”
ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) CEO Dr Emma Campbell said social housing was for people on the lowest incomes and was pegged at 25 per cent of a tenant’s income, whereas affordable housing, which is capped at 74.9 per cent of market rental rate, is for tenants living on low or medium incomes.
“Private rental rates for even the smallest properties in Canberra are too high for people on lower-than-average incomes and waiting lists for social housing are currently about four years, so affordable rentals are critical to provide an option for them to be able to rent,” she said.
“For example, affordable rentals can play an important part in providing housing for essential workers including cleaners, workers in disability and aged care, hospitality workers and retail workers.”
Maria said there had been an influx of landlords keen to be part of HomeGround’s affordable housing program.
“We’re getting ourselves out there in the community and people are starting to realise what we offer and how we operate,” she said.
“It would be amazing to have more landlords on board because there are a lot of people that could use a helping hand right now.”
Tax incentives also mean that, for a minimal impact to their hip-pocket, landlords can make a big difference.
“If a property is being offered for rent at a rate that is a discount to market rent of more than 25 per cent and the tenant meets income eligibility requirements, landlords may fit the ACT Government’s criteria for a full land tax exemption,” Maria said.
“We also have an ATO class ruling that may allow us to provide landlords with a tax deductible donation receipt for rent foregone by offering their property at below market rent, which would enable them to reduce their assessable income.”
Landlords also save on property management fees, as Homeground charges lower rates than traditional agencies.
“It’s a real win-win for everyone,” Maria added.
HomeGround Real Estate Canberra provides complete property management services for both market rent and affordable rental properties, as well as strata management services.