General description of the good practice:
‘Investors can help’ is an initiative where landlords provide their property to MARSS Australia Inc to be rented out to eligible low income tenants, particularly those from migrant and refugee communities at below market rent. This project, launched on 25 September 2012, is aimed at educating the ACT community about the need and ways in which landlords/ investors can help with the successful settlement of migrants and refugees. Many factors affect the successful settlement of new arrivals – One such factor is the access to safe and adequate housing. Through this program, MARSS Australia Inc. collaborates with private investors/landlords, the Canberra Business Chamber and the Real Estate Institute of the ACT to provide homes to ACT’s newest community members. While the Canberra Business Chamber influences companies in understanding their corporate social responsibility towards the wider community through this program, the Real Estate Institute of the ACT (REIACT) promotes the transparent and easy process of securing rental property in ACT.
Main activities of the good practice:
The ‘Investors can help’ project, established with the support of the REIACT and Canberra Business Chamber, has been extremely successful in fostering interest and gathering offers of affordable accommodation for migrants and refugees. In the private rental market, property managers receive multiple applications with detailed employment history, rental history, adequate references and full-time employment. New arrivals that lack in most of these fronts have been supported by MARSS and provided with accommodation that is both affordable and of excellent quality as a result of this project. In addition to alleviating systemic barriers that prevent migrants and refugees from securing affordable housing, the project has assisted investors in doing their bit in the society. Further, by engaging with Luton corporate social responsibility platform, MARSS has provided free furniture and any household items not needed by sellers to new arrivals.
One of our most recent success stories involved securing long term accommodation for Layla, a recently widowed elderly refugee with little English. Through the networks built through the ‘Investors can help’ project, MARSS was able to secure a one bedroom flat in close proximity to bus stops and major shopping centers.
Results of the good practice:
MARSS Australia Inc. works closely with the Department of Social Services to deliver excellent settlement services to new humanitarian entrants and refugees living in the ACT. With the ‘Investors can help’ project, MARSS provides investors an opportunity to contribute to the community they live in. May investors purchase properties for various reasons – For those investors who believe in addressing social justice issues and creating a positive impact in the society, MARSS coordinates the process of placing suitable clients in appropriate homes, thus promoting access to adequate housing for the members of migrant and refugee community. To strengthen this project, MARSS representatives carry out routine support visits and act as guarantors on behalf of the tenants. In addition to this, collaboration with REIACT and Canberra Business Chamber has assisted in informing ACT community about the need to promote affordable rental real estate management, and ways in which landlords can contribute. The ‘Investors can help’ project’s main activities are:
- To create awareness about the various barriers faced by new arrivals in Australia to secure rental accommodation
- To reduce the unnecessary costs that may be incurred by potential landlords
- To secure affordable homes for members of the refugee and migrant community with low rental or employment history
Challenges in implementing the good practice and how they are being addressed:
- Landlords worry about the maintenance of their property, and guarantee on the rent and rental bond:
MARSS Australia Inc. has employed staff who undertake routine support visits and inspections to ensure property is being well maintained. Further, MARSS acts as a guarantor on behalf of the tenants, and sets up a bond lodgment assistance scheme with ACT Government to secure rent and rental bond.
- Tenants from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds often lack English-language proficiency, limiting their capacity to either negotiate a rental price/ secure housing:
MARSS assists potential tenants by providing interpreter services, supporting them with relevant documents, reducing unnecessary costs otherwise spent on rental agencies, and finding suitable landlords to secure affordable rental property.
Investors purchase properties with a money-making objective: By collaborating with REIACT and Canberra Business Chamber, MARSS has produced ethical/ environmental investors who believe that money making and helping others need not be mutually exclusive.