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Could private investment be the way forward for social housing?

Private investment in Australian property has been one of the fastest growing asset classes for a number of years now, but could the private sector actually become one way to improve the social housing strategy of the nation in years to come? 

According to one expert, this could be the case, with Michael Lennon, the chief executive of Housing Choices Australia, one of the country's biggest not-for-profit community housing operators, claiming the government should be looking towards private investors as a way to bridge the gap in social housing numbers. 

He said the government needs to look at transferring ownership of the country's social housing stock to the community sector to reverse the long-running decline in the volume of community housing units available in Australia. 

Between 2004 and 2014, the volume of social homes available in the nation has seen a quick decline, falling by six per cent in a decade, according to Housing Choices Australia. This is in spite of $12 billion in grants being afforded to the industry by the Commonwealth government. 

"Transferring ownership allows providers to borrow against their long-term income streams to redevelop surplus land and produce more housing," Mr Lennon said. 

"We know the existing [social] housing model is crippled and broken financially," he said. 

"The government is currently running loses across all its public housing accounts with a maintenance bill in the billions. 

"These losses are being funded this through the sale of assets, which is why the number of properties is declining."

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