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Homes North Begins New Era in Region’s Social Housing

As 2019 begins, a new era in social housing is dawning in the New England North West region of NSW and a mail-out to all local social housing tenants has just been dispatched that requires their urgent attention. Local organisation Homes North is tripling its size in May 2019, when the NSW State Government hands over the tenancy management of about 1,700 social housing properties across the region. According to Homes North CEO Maree McKenzie, this will mean a new level of communication, responsiveness and opportunities for social housing tenants.

“We are very excited that Homes North’s social housing management scope is growing from about 1,000 properties to just under 3,000. We are part of the community in our region and we aim to ensure our residents also feel a sense of community here,” Ms McKenzie said.

“The information package that we have just mailed out advises residents about their tenancy changing from FACS to Homes North Community Housing,” she said.

One of the biggest changes explained in the mail-out, will be how rent is paid. However, as long as all of the required forms are completed and submitted, the out of pocket amount the tenant pays from their current income remains the same.

“As Homes North is a community housing provider, tenants are now eligible for Commonwealth Rent Assistance.  We will charge rent for what Commonwealth Rent Assistance tenants are entitled to. Basically, tenants will be charged a bit more rent but will get an allowance through Commonwealth Rent Assistance to cover that extra amount. This new system brings more Commonwealth funding into the social housing system in NSW,” Ms McKenzie said.

“The information pack we have sent out includes all important forms that tenants need to fill in and return to us. They are required to start Commonwealth Rent Assistance payments and to allow rent to be paid direct from Centrelink.  The support form will also allow Homes North to talk to tenants’ support providers, so we can better assist with any changes.” Ms McKenzie said.

“All of our tenants will have the information packs by the middle of January. Failing to complete the forms and get them back to us by the end of March 2019 will see them fall behind in their rent. Nobody want this to happen, so we are here to help.”

All of the staff at Homes North are looking forward to welcoming the new transfer tenants. “We see this as a wonderful opportunity for the region. It is a game-changer for social housing and regional NSW,” said Ms McKenzie. “We are a regionally based community housing provider, servicing communities in our region. We can tailor planning and management of social housing to the specific needs of our region. We have offices in Armidale, Glen Innes, Gunnedah, Inverell, Moree and Tamworth, which are staffed by locals and this is an economic positive for the region.”

Ms McKenzie said that our already strong relationships with community leaders will underpin the Homes North social housing approach. “Each community will have local social housing plans and the development of those will involve looking at what residents want or need, what are the vulnerabilities in our communities and how can social housing be improved in the context of specific towns,” she said.

The Homes North mail-out to social housing tenants included the details of six BBQ and information sessions:

  • Wee Waa, at Best Employment, 77B Rose St. 1-3pm on 21 January
  • Narrabri, at Narrabri Winanga-Li, 35 Hinds St. 9-11am on 22 January
  • Inverell, at Inverell Linking Together Centre, 16 Waratah Ave. 1-2:30pm on 29 January
  • Armidale, at the Uniting Church, 114 Rusden St. 10am-12pm on 4 February
  • Tamworth, at Coledale Community Centre, 2B Kenny Drive 9-11am on 5 February
  • Moree, at Moree PCYC, 359 Boston St. 9-11am on 6 February

Regular social media updates can be found on Homes North’s Facebook page, with updates on the mail out, drop-in sessions where tenants can meet Homes North staff and perhaps get help filling in the forms, plus more details about the door knock program closer to the date.More information is also on the website www.homesnorth.org.au via Frequently Asked Questions.

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