Affordable housing can, and in fact, must be innovative with its property management. There is a perception that some rental tenants are difficult to manage and represent a danger to the surrounding community. However, if the properties are well designed and a good management plan is put into place that risk can be mitigated.
Existing rental models
There are currently two main models for managing rental properties, neither of which has a good track record:
- standard real estate property management, for which the selection criteria of tenants is based on:
- Credit checks
- Rental payment history
- References etc
- Income and employment verification
- intentional communities, which have a variety of different models, commonly based on:
- group values
- consensus decision making etc
Despite the rigour of the real estate property management processes, they still fail in too many cases. Much of this may relate to their tendency to alienate renters by denying them security of tenure, denying them of any semblance of privacy or self-determination, and by imposing financially punitive rules that prevent tenants from turning their house into their home. These conditions can alienate the best of rental tenants over time.
With intentional communities, despite the good intentions of the intentional community models, they are equally prone to failure for a variety of reasons. (See Utopia Inc.)
Proposed rental model
We propose a number of points of difference from standard rental models.
- Rental leases will be long-term, so that residents have the security of tenure they need to develop further that a sense of “ownership” over the property they are renting.
- Rents will be set at rates that are “affordable” to Newstart recipients, Age and Disability pensioners, and those earning the National Minimum wage or less.
- As rents are affordable for those on welfare benefits, their earning potential is not taken into account for eligibility for a tenancy, but their actual income does determine the rent they will pay.
- As there is no financial reason for rental default, defaults will be investigated quickly but compassionately to establish the reason for the default and action that should be taken. This may result in eviction if the situation cannot be rectified.
Selection criteria and induction processes
Strict tenant selection criteria should be applied. There is no doubt that there are some amongst the contingent of homeless or housing stressed that are undesirable neighbours. This group should be identified and handled in a different way. This paper does not attempt to find a solution to how to house these people.
- Prospective tenants will have to demonstrate their commitment to the “theme” of the property prior to being offered a tenancy. For example a property may have a “theme” of environmental and social sustainability with a commitment to energy/water efficiency, recycling/reusing, chemical free food production and the like. Only prospective tenants who can demonstrate a similar commitment will be offered a tenancy.
- Prospective tenants will be asked to sign off to the standards being applied to that community.
- There will be common areas, including gardens, orchard trees, car parking, and the like, appropriate to the theme of the development, that are maintained voluntarily by the residents supported by a permanent on-site manager.
- There will be small and low maintenance private back yard areas so that those with health issues can enjoy outside privacy without excessive effort. These yards will also enable tenants to keep small pets.
- All tenants will be provided with adequate storage areas so that there is no need to store personal items in backyard or common garden and parking areas.
- There will be a manager for the property who will manage all common areas of the properties, such as meeting rooms, food gardens, orchard trees and the like.
- The property manager will set high standards for the maintenance of common areas to which residents will be required to conform.
- The property manager may also ask the residents to take more care of their private areas such as back yards if these are detracting from the overall quality of the neighbourhood.
Relationships can pose a problem when people are living in close proximity. Basic standards of respect for neighbours must be maintained. There will be standardised practices for communication/negotiation/conflict resolution in which the manager will receive explicit training, so that the manager is able to mediate difficulties based on the welfare of the entire community.
Whilst there is no requirement for community engagement, the options are there for those who want to take them up. Where possible there will be a community building for shared activities.
Common and shared resources give residents the opportunity to connect, socialise, entertain and share resources with other residents if and when they choose.