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A housing complex

Using social enterprise to fund affordable housing for women

March 25, 2024
June 21, 2018

This Bank Australia customer is using social enterprise to make a big difference in the lives of many women and children.

Women’s Property Initiatives (WPI) provides new beginnings for women facing homelessness by providing affordable, long-term homes. They believe every human being has the right to a safe and secure home and that women face the greatest disadvantage in their ability to afford one.

Only 6.4 percent of properties in the private rental market are affordable for people on low incomes, and a disproportionate number of these people are women. Women have less access to employment, they have greater limits on their ability to work and often they earn less than men.

As part of their response to this issue, WPI founded a social enterprise, Property Initiatives Real Estate in 2015. The purpose? To create an income stream that helps provide more homes for vulnerable women, by returning profits to WPI to build or acquire housing.  Over time, this will enable WPI to provide housing for a greater number of women and children.

Property Initiatives Real Estate provide residential real estate services across inner-Melbourne. The agency provides high quality property management services for investment property owners, with personalised service, competitive rates and great results. But there is a point of difference says head of the agency, Liz Charles. “Landlords can feel good about the fees that they pay because they help fund the development of secure, safe, and permanent housing for at risk women and children.

In less than two years, Property Initiatives has built a rental roll of more than 140 properties and is now almost at the point of returning profit to WPI, an incredible milestone for the social enterprise and one that will enable WPI to start planning the development of more housing.  

WPI currently house more than 220 women and children around Melbourne, enabling them to rebuild their lives. Rent is no more than 30% of household income and gives women the financial capacity to do more than just exist. Jeanette, CEO of WPI, says “We have seen them transform. Many return to work or study, or focus on parenting children who have suffered trauma through the instability of their living situation. WPI gives women the opportunity to live with dignity and contribute to their communities.”

Many of these women have experienced family violence or are migrants fleeing conflict in their country of origin. Some are older women who have worked their whole lives but can’t afford market rents. Others, simply through circumstance, find themselves living with relatives or on a friend’s couch. Crisis services and short-term housing are critical in sheltering vulnerable women, but often there is no next step towards a stable future. WPI offers this next step and Property Initiatives is helping them grow their reach.

Long-term homes for women require capital in an environment where philanthropic and government funding is increasingly hard to source. That’s why WPI is focused on finding innovative ways to expand its housing stock and increase social impact, like Property Initiatives.

Bank Australia lends to WPI to support the development of long-term, high-quality housing solutions for women on low incomes (and often their children) to allow them to start again.

We believe that where people and organisations put their money has a big impact on the world. That’s why we’re the bank with clean money. Find out more.

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