AFTER failing to obtain financing the first time around, the not-for-profit organisation building group homes for the 300-plus residents of the Stockton, Tomaree and Kanangra disability centres says its restructured program is well under way.
Home4Life, a 50/50 joint venture between the Hunter's Compass Housing and the Campbelltown-based BlueCHP, won a tender to build the homes in September last year, after an earlier agreement was terminated because of difficulties in obtaining funding.
While Home4Life is responsible for the houses themselves, the residents are cared for by three other organisations, depending on the location. They are the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, The Disability Trust, and New Horizons.
Home4Life general manager Mark Shepherd said yesterday that Compass and BlueCHP were both specialists in building and operating affordable and social housing, and any surpluses they made were "ploughed back for the social good".
Critics say making charities borrow more than $100 million to build the homes is wrong, especially after the government had let people think the homes were being publicly funded.
For example, in August 2014, the disability services minister at the time, John Ajaka, described a $30 million budget allocation as only part of the "amount that will be ultimately provided to build and develop" the homes.
But Family and Community Services (FACS) said last week that it had been "transparent" about the private funding, pointing to an October 2015 fact sheet for families that said it was building only 10 group homes.
The remaining homes were to be "financed, constructed and managed" by non-government organisations, with pension-linked rent and NDIS subsidies as income for the organisations that would build and own the homes.
While no-one would say at the time why the first tender was "terminated", Home4Life partner BlueCHP's recent annual report says that "uncertainties and complexities" with the NDIS had made "financing difficult to obtain".
Last week, FACS confirmed these delays were related to NDIS Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) packages, which provide various housing subsidies.
In its annual report, BlueCHP said the state restructured the project after terminating the first tender, meaning "some changes to the number and configuration of group homes".
Home4Life was invited to re-tender - this time with Melbourne's Lighthouse Infrastructure taking part as "financier" - and again won the work.
FACS said it had had been buying the 69 home sites over the past four years, while Mr Shepherd said Home4Life was buying them from FACS.
BlueCHP would design and build the homes, and Compass would manage and maintain them.
Home4Life's rent would be 25 per cent of the disability pension plus any Commonwealth rent assistance - together with SDA payments or Continuity of Support (CoS) payments for those over 65.
Mr Shepherd said Lighthouse was an Australian fund manager specialising in "sustainable infrastructure" including solar farms. Home4Life was its second SDA-backed investment.
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LEAVING HOME: A Herald investigation