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Combatting the affordable housing crisis in NSW

Housing is so often taken for granted – that you’ll have a roof over your head and a safe place to sleep is something many presume as a given. The stark reality, however, is that many Australians struggle to access a secure and affordable home to live in. Social housing assistance does exist in Australia, but waiting lists are demoralisingly long. Nationally, at 30 June 2018, there were:

  • 140,600 applicants on a waitlist for public housing

  • 8,800 applicants on a waitlist for State Owned and Managed Indigenous Housing (SOMIH) dwellings

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, of those new applicants on the waitlist at 30 June 2018:

  • 45,800 applicants on the waiting list for public housing were in greatest need. This is an increase of over 2,600 people in greatest need on the public housing waiting list since 30 June 2014

  • almost 4,700 applicants were in greatest need and waiting for SOMIH dwellings, up from 3,800 at 30 June 2014

Gallagher Jeffs is honoured to support Affordable Housing Solutions (AHS) in playing a role in combatting this critical affordability housing issue. In 2019 AHS seconded us to assist with the Amélie Housing project. Located at 19-21 Centenary Rd, Merrylands and valued at over $30M, it was completed by the community housing company of the Trustees of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, NSW.

Amelie House is a crisis accommodation and case management service for unaccompanied women or women with children who have experienced domestic/family violence and/or homelessness and provides safe individual unit accommodation.

Consisting of 38 one bedroom apartments, 32 two bedroom apartments and 8 three bedroom apartments, this site was one of several across NSW that form part of a larger capital investment being undertaken as part of the Social and Affordable Housing Fund, NSW (SAHF) and managed by the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS). The landholder, St Vincent de Paul, engaged AHS to develop the project, while Gallagher Jeffs, led by Senior Project Manager, Matt Langshaw, was tasked with the management and co-ordination of all consultants. We also ensured everything was in a suitable format for novation under a design and construction contract. This also encompassed the preparation of the tender package, the procurement of head contractor and overseeing the attainment of permits and various authority approvals, as well as administration of the design and construction contract for the development.

As with any project, there were obstacles; the most significant being soil contamination. While the land had been generously donated to St Vincent de Paul some years ago, it was done so with the knowledge that an old fuel tank lay dormant underground. Geotechnical and environmental testing was completed at the commencement of the project, however, the extent of fuel contamination uncovered was far greater than anticipated. This was compounded by the discovery of asbestos during excavation.

To overcome these issues, the project team adopted a collaborative approach. The building contractor, Hacer, worked diligently to overcome this, together with the Gallagher Jeffs team. We not only increased communications but so too the meeting and reporting frequency during this period. We provided the ideal platform to ensure ongoing liaising between all parties was upheld and that the team were kept up to date with the current status of these issues and their resolution.

In fact, it was the thorough selection of an exceptional contractor which also attributed to the success of the Amélie Housing project. Not only was St Vincent de Paul extremely happy with the completed product but remarked that it was the best development that they had been provided with to date. They regularly commented that the quality delivered at the Merrylands site was far better than they were seeing on their other projects being handled at the same time.

The Practical Completion Certificate awarded to Hacer was issued 24th February 2020 and the tenants moved in during the weeks following. This now means vital crisis accommodation is more readily available to unaccompanied women or women with children who have experienced domestic/family violence and/or homelessness, via the Amélie Housing project.

For more information on Gallagher Jeffs and our approach to support operators and developers, design and build urgently required social accommodation in Australia, contact your local GJ office, details below.