The Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot earlier this year revealed that of more than 1300 private rentals available in the ACT and Queanbeyan, none were affordable for a single person living on the disability support pension.
It’s clear the need for safe, affordable housing is a very live issue. And CEO of Project Independence Dianne O’Hara is happy to be part of the solution.
A social housing provider boasting a unique approach to ensuring people with an intellectual disability have a roof over their heads, Project Independence runs two facilities in Canberra – in Harrison and Latham – with another on the way in Phillip. Each one houses 10 units.
The project in Phillip has met delay after delay since COVID-19, but Dianne says it’s finally back on track.
“It’s a bit of a muddy hole in the ground with some footings at the moment, but the date for completion is mid-November,” she says.
Many of the more than 50 applicants have been on the waiting list for years, so they’re “super excited”.
“We’ve been saying to them it’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming and now we can finally give them confident dates.”
Project Independence’s model has operated successfully for 10 years in Canberra. Instead of money disappearing into the black hole of rent, residents pay a portion of their disability support pension to Project Independence. This goes towards overhead costs and home equity.
“Every other model for disability housing is endless renting with no ability to own your own home,” Dianne says.
“This is a model that encourages people to acquire equity which can be used to move on from Project Independence. When they move on, they are repaid the deposit and equity – as well as some capital gains – so they can use this as a lump sum to get into a private dwelling of their own.”
Dianne says the idea is to help people develop their independent living skills.
“It also gives the family comfort that the person with the intellectual disability has a more secure future.”
The ACT Government donated the land, while the rest of the money has come through philanthropic grants. Several companies have also rallied to Project Independence’s aid, including Morgan’s Carpets, Amber Tiles and ICON Building.
“Some of these are donating 100 per cent of the materials, while others are heavily discounting it,” Dianne says.
“At the moment, this means the world. Phillip has seen a number of COVID-related delays and the cost of building supplies has gone through the roof. The cost of building rose by 47 per cent all up.
“Late last year, we spent a lot of time just trying to raise the additional funds we needed.”
Project Independence is still looking to raise a significant amount of money for the Phillip build and is launching a tax appeal to encourage donations before the financial year draws to a close on 30 June.
The next step will be harder still, whittling down 50 applicants to the 10 who most need safe and secure housing. But for those who miss out, Dianne says Project Independence is working with a number of developers to bring the social housing model to more locations across Canberra.
“We are actively working on securing more blocks and building more homes,” she says.
“Once we give them detailed technical specifications, some local developers are more than happy to add in a block for Project Independence.”
For more details or to donate funds to help change the lives of people in some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups, visit Project Independence.