West Dapto in Wollongong

Wollongong City Council has awarded a $5 million tender to Head Start Homes for a rental to home ownership pathway program, as part of its Wollongong Housing Strategy.

The Wollongong Recycling Affordable Housing and Home Ownership Program (Round Three) will help address the critical need for affordable homeownership in the City of Wollongong.

It will provide two services: 

  • A new affordable rent-to-buy homeownership pathway (known as Equity+) that provides people with affordable rental housing that they can apply to purchase
  • An enhanced empowerment service that will provide financial guidance and support to people to increase their financial capability through supported savings education plans

This new injection of funding will complement the previous funding Council provided Head Start Homes in 2022, during the Round Two tender process, where they were awarded $1.3 million, and a tender to the value of $4.34 million that was awarded to the Illawarra Housing Trust in 2019.

Wollongong City Lord Mayor, Gordon Bradbery, said that Council is committed to working with local organisations to address housing affordability and housing supply in the region. 

“We’re taking a strategic approach to tackling this issue and this is through the Wollongong Housing Strategy which was adopted by Council in February 2023,” Mayor Bradbery said. 

“Through this we’ve been focussing on the mechanisms we have at our disposal to improve affordable housing opportunities in our city. The provision of affordable housing will take solutions from all levels of government as well as community housing providers, developers and industry groups.

“By working together, we will be able to make a difference in the lives of some Wollongong residents who are facing financial hardship and cannot access safe housing by themselves. 

“There’s more work to be done in this space and we will continue to invest in and prioritise innovative solutions that have a direct benefit for our community.”

This is the third and final round of funding, which is being provided through the Affordable Housing Program, an initiative that came about through a federal grant under the Building Better Regional Cities program to Wollongong City Council. 

Through the funding, Council has already awarded $4.43 million to the Illawarra Housing Trust in 2019 for the delivery of 17 affordable dwellings across two sites in Wollongong and Dapto. Then in 2022, Council awarded $1.3 million to Head Start Homes for the delivery of a Pathways to Home Ownership program.

Wollongong City Council General Manager, Greg Doyle, said that housing affordability and supply was a complex issue that involved multiple barriers.

“We know that supply isn’t the only barrier to homeownership. Being able to save for a deposit is another one, especially as the current rental market has made it difficult for people to put money into savings,” Mr Doyle said.

“This rent-to-buy homeownership pathway will offer people an opportunity to save to purchase. For some people, this may be their first opportunity to do so, and this financial freedom will be life changing.

“This project is just one localised solution to an issue that is wide-ranging and complex. We know that we will need the continued support of the New South Wales Government and Federal Government to make long-term change.

“The recent Business Illawarra report on affordable housing supply speaks to the same findings and concerns in Council’s Wollongong Housing Strategy. This timely report is a sobering reminder that to address housing issues we need to, as a community, acknowledge and implement big changes to our suburbs and town centres.”

Head Start Homes Founder and Managing Director, Stephen Woodlands, said the funds would create more opportunities for Wollongong residents to own their own home.

“Our heartfelt thanks to Wollongong City Council as these vital funds will help us to build on the momentum of our Wollongong Recycling Home Ownership Program which was announced by Council 12 months ago,” Mr Woodlands said.

“Head Start Homes will use the funding to provide a range of new services and products, including increased access to financial counselling and the supply solution known as Equity+.

“We will be able to continue to grow and deliver on our innovative and new approach to addressing affordable housing and homeownership for local Wollongong renters seeking the security and safety of home ownership.”

Featured image: West Dapto in Wollongong. Image credit: Wollongong City Council.

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