Our Housing Services showed their resilience, experiencing minimal financial impact while quickly pivoting to ensure they continued to provide services. Financial stability and an agile workforce enabled us to respond quickly to the changes and to continue delivering vital services to disadvantaged and vulnerable households, despite the social distancing challenges.
The impact on rental revenue has been largely unaffected because most tenants’ main income source was welfare benefits, which were unchanged. Less than 1% of our long-term community housing tenants reported loss of employment or reduced work hours, rents were adjusted for those that did. Longer-term effects will emerge if tenants currently on JobKeeper are unable to return to work or find a new job.
In line with government advice, we cancelled the March rent review, which was reflected across the community housing sector. Tenants’ rent is normally reviewed twice per year when welfare payments are indexed in line with changes to inflation. This was mostly aimed at allowing tenants to have more cash for extra costs related to the COVID-19 lockdown period, such as buying cleaning products and food.
Vacancies remained low in both Transitional Housing Management and Long Term Community Housing, due restricted movement in the rental market.
Maintenance & inspections
Inspections of all types were suspended unless there was an urgent need. Vacant inspections continued only after the property remaining vacant 72 hours.
We restricted maintenance services to emergency repairs where tenants were in immediate danger and repairs were needed within 24 hours). We pivoted to conducting some property inspections (and welfare checks) on digital platforms such as video calls and were able to perform the initial response and inspection for maintenance via video call or other digital platforms.
New work practices and precautionary measures were implemented for maintenance services, including social distancing. We asked tenants screening questions to ensure compliance with COVID-19 restrictions and ensured tradespeople adhered to social distancing and sanitation requirements.
There was no negative feedback received from tenants regarding any of the measures put into place to avoid the spread of COVID-19.