30/06/2020 - 18:38

Access Housing in $900m merger

30/06/2020 - 18:38

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The $900 million entity to be created by the merger of Rivervale-based Access Housing Australia and an interstate counterpart will bring innovative funding for social housing to WA, it is hoped.

Access Housing in $900m merger
An Access Housing property in White Gum Valley.

The $900 million entity to be created by the merger of Rivervale-based Access Housing Australia and an interstate counterpart will bring innovative funding for social housing to WA, it is hoped.

Access Housing, which provides nearly 2000 homes in Western Australia, will merge with Melbourne-based Housing Choices Australia effective from today.

Combined, the two organisations will have assets of more than $900 million, with Housing Choices already serving four states.

Income would be about $70 million annually.

Housing Choices managing director Michael Lennon told Business News that increased scale brought improved capacity and capability.

“(Our) organisations run increasingly complex transactions that blend public and private income streams,” Mr Lennon said.

Organisations needed to have governance and management capability to deliver, he said.

An example of a complex recent transaction was in the Adelaide CBD, where Housing Choices partnered with the state housing department and an aged care provider to build a 14 storey apartment building.

Mr Lennon said that initiative was built to have aged care services grow in place to reduce premature entries into the public health system of older tenants and avoid institutionalisation.

A further benefit of a national organisation was that focus can be shifted between states depending on need.

Previously, Housing Choices had shifted attention to Tasmania when Victorian opportunities dried up, he said.

Mr Lennon said the organisation's priorities in WA in the months ahead would include using the state government’s public housing stimulus funds intended for maintenance work.

The second priority would help address what he said was a big shortfall in public housing in WA with about 9,000 Western Australians being homeless on any given night, he said.

This would be achieved by developing new models that minimise reliance on government funding.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth, PwC and Social Ventures Australia advised on the deal.

Neil Starkie, who had served as interim chief executive of Access Housing since February, will become executive general manager of the WA division of the merged entity.

Mr Starkie said the amalgamated entity would be the second biggest community housing provider in the country.

“There’s lots of benefits,” he said.

“Combined together we can do more than we can individually.

“The need for social housing is growing in the era we’re in now… we want to do more.”

Social housing provision was becoming increasingly important because of the economic downturn, Mr Starkie said.

The two organisations had been working on the merger plans for two years.

“It's been interesting working on a merger through COVID-19,” he said.

“We’ve done everything through zoom and teams… adapting to a different way of working.”

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