The CEO of an Illawarra-based community housing provider says we are at a "crucial moment" in Australia's housing crisis.
"Financial hardship has left many in rental stress and will push more people into homelessness without urgent intervention," Housing Trust CEO Michele Adair said.
"Community housing is undoubtedly the most efficient model for increasing the social and affordable housing supply."
A large-scale social housing program is one of the best ways to boost Australia's economic recovery following the COVID-19 downturn, a new survey of economists and housing experts produced by the UNSW City Futures Centre has indicated.
Ms Adair has been CEO of the Housing Trust since 2017, which now manages 1100 rental properties in the Illawarra.
They currently have projects that are in different stages of planning, and will deliver at least another 250 homes over the next couple of years.
In late 2020, Ms Adair told the Mercury some 10,000 households across the Illawarra are already in housing stress and more than 3000 on the social housing wait list.
Now, Ms Adair's new role within the peak body for NSW community housing will enable her to advocate further for the importance of social and affordable housing.
The Community Housing Industry Association NSW has named Ms Adair as its new chair, as part of changes that result in CHIA NSW's board having a female-majority for the first time.
Ms Adair said the group's priorities included ensuring the NSW government recognised the economic, employment and social outcomes that would be achieved via a sizeable investment in social and affordable housing.
Ms Adair said her new role - which she will undertake in addition to her position at the Housing Trust - would also be beneficial for the Illawarra.
"The role as chair gives me direct access to the highest levels of government, and not just in NSW," she said.
"It allows me to make sure that the needs of our region are absolutely considered within all policy, advocacy and investment settings.
"It's a great opportunity for our region."
Ms Adair said the UNSW City Futures Centre research reinforced the need for an investment in social and affordable housing.
"It's critical as a mechanism for not just getting us out of the COVID crisis, but more broadly, as the Illawarra continues to grow we've got to be able to provide affordable homes for key and essential workers," she said.
"And come September, we have local council elections across the state.
"So our peak body will also be communicating very clearly and directly the mechanisms by which we see partnering with all of our local councils as also being essential to improving the life and circumstances of our communities."
Mark Degotardi, CEO of CHIA NSW, said Ms Adair is the ideal leader to help grow the community housing sector amid the accelerating economic and housing crisis.
"Housing affordability is one of the most complex and urgent challenges facing our state, and Michele brings an invaluable working knowledge of the landscape that will help us advocate for community housing providers and tenants alike," he said.
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