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Home Ground charity wants to bring free rent to Canberra


Phillip Thomson

Heather Holst, CEO of Home Ground Services.

Heather Holst, CEO of Home Ground Services. Photo: Penny Stephens

A charitable organisation wants to find loving Canberra landlords who can offer free or subsidised properties to hard-up renters.

It could mean hundreds of dollars a week slashed from the cost of renting some of the territory's trendiest homes in locations such as Civic or the inner south of Canberra.

Former public servant Heather Holst had the idea several years and pitched it to charity organisation Home Ground Services when she applied for the job of chief executive.

She secured the job and support for the ambitious program.

"We could have fallen flat on our faces or looked like real gooses," she said.  

She established the philanthropic real estate agency in Victoria earlier this year. It now has more than 50 benevolent landlords on the books who have offered knocked-down rents across Melbourne.

A handful of homeowners have offered free rent while others have reduced the cost significantly.

An Albert Park terrace home which could have cost as much as $580 a week was rented for $300 while a two-bedroom South Yarra apartment which could have been leased for $440 a week was let for $250. 

The South Yarra home was rented to a woman in her 60s who was a low-income earner and had been couch surfing for a year. 

Dr Holst said Canberra would be the perfect market to establish an arm of the charity.

"Canberra has precisely the sort of people tuned in to housing affordability," she said. 

The charity would become a competitor to real estate agents which manage rental properties. 

Particularly because it also offers to manage rental properties at their market value.

Any management costs are put toward Home Ground's charity work. 

Australian Property Monitors data from earlier this year found the average cost of renting a unit in Canberra was $410 and a house $460.

Dr Holst, an ex-Victorian public servant who worked in the welfare sector, said the not-for-profit rental scheme could be introduced in Canberra as early as 2015. 

"There's an obvious need for this model in every state and territory across Australia," she said. 

As reported in April, a rise in vacant rental properties in Canberra had failed to provide relief for low-income earners struggling to find housing.

Researchers from Anglicare Australia found there were more than 600 extra properties on the market compared with the same period last year, but there were no affordable and appropriate rental properties for eight of the 13 low-income categories.

These included families reliant on a government allowance and single-parent households on full-time minimum wages. Less than 0.5 per cent of the properties were within the reach of families with two minimum-wage incomes.

11 comments so far

  • Good idea but the biggest problem in Canberra would be the Labor Government's squeeze on landlord's through the highest land tax and rates in the country. Any place around me would be up for a minimum of $250 per week in local government charges before any other normal costs.

    Date and time
    June 27, 2014, 11:54AM
    • Absolutely, so Landlords are supposed to rent out properties so the government can squeeze more money from them and homeless people can be housed? Yeh not sure it will take off in the A.C.T. where the government takes that much in taxes it is like it is their rental property. Landlords need to be getting something out of it!!!

      Date and time
      June 27, 2014, 2:04PM
    • Ahh yeah no.. how about you use facts rather than hyperbole?

      A quick look at the rates calculator shows that a $1m house would cost $4938 in rates over a year - or less than $100 per week. Considerably less than your $250.

      Or are all the houses around you worth over $3m? (and if so, how I pity your misfortune)..

      Date and time
      June 27, 2014, 2:23PM
    • Matt, are you sure on those numbers? Don't forget a rental property has land tax applied, not the rates you used. On your $1m property and guessing a AUV, this is more like $300 week......

      Date and time
      June 27, 2014, 4:29PM
    • @Matt: add in the land tax which you pay when renting (rates x 1.7) then the $250 quoted by Taxi is close. Plus add in insurance, maintainence.

      Date and time
      June 27, 2014, 6:23PM
  • How do you define appropriate for renters? My grandparents raised 4 kids in a two bedroom house in the 1960's, I had high school friends in the 1980's whose parents raised 7 kids in a 3 bedroom house. I know families with two kids in 2 bedroom units.

    Date and time
    June 27, 2014, 12:16PM
    • Is there a tax liability for renting a property at significantly below market rate?

      Date and time
      June 27, 2014, 3:27PM
      • Rates $1000, Land Tax $1300, Body Corp $2000, Loan interest $14400, Water charges $900; total $20900. Rent I can ask in the current climate, $340pw = $17680 pa. I know I might make a capital gain in the end, that's the gamble, but the cash flow reality for an ACT landlord right now is pretty dire. I'd love to support a disadvantaged renter if I could. I agree rents are far too high in this town. I've been a renter myself and it isn't easy. But what can I do?

        Date and time
        June 27, 2014, 5:04PM
        • I suggest that Heather checks out our Land Tax regime first.
          Inner suburb houses pay huge land tax bills, with rates and land tax taking as much as 80% of rents, then there is agents fees, repairs, depreciation etc.
          Irrespective of the rent land tax is payable if any property is rented. All rental properties are subject to land tax.
          With rates projected to triple, on average, a bad situation will only get much worse.
          No wonder the supply of rental houses in inner suburbs has declined dramatically over the years and its certain to get a lot worse.

          Date and time
          June 27, 2014, 7:48PM
          • Or is there a way where the landlord gains a charitable deduction using whatever allowance Home Ground works under?

            Date and time
            June 27, 2014, 8:30PM

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