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Housing an Ambition

6 March 2015 at 3:39 pm
Lina Caneva
As the CEO of Women’s Property Initiative, Jeanette Large has a passion for building a secure future for disadvantaged women and children. Large is this week’s Changemaker.

Lina Caneva | 6 March 2015 at 3:39 pm


Housing an Ambition
6 March 2015 at 3:39 pm

As the CEO of Women’s Property Initiative, Jeanette Large has a passion for building a secure future for disadvantaged women and children. Large is this week’s Changemaker.

Jeanette Large joined WPI as Development Manager in September 2005 and became CEO in 2009.

With a Bachelor of Behavioural Science and a Graduate Diploma in Business Management, she has extensive experience across the housing sector; from running refuges and local housing groups to management roles in Government departments.

Under her leadership, WPI’s housing stock has increased from 11 dwellings to 66. By working with public, corporate and non-Government partners, Large has increased the organisation’s size and influence.

In this week’s Changemaker column she explains her passion for advocating for more affordable housing for women and their children.

What are you currently working on in your organisation?

Currently there are four key projects:

A.  Our Social Enterprise Real Estate Agency, Property Initiatives Real Estate

We will be opening the doors to Property Initiatives Real Estate very soon. This Real Estate Agency has been established to provide a revenue stream to Women’s Property Initiatives (WPI) to contribute to building more homes for disadvantaged women and their children.

WPI is the sole beneficiary of Property Initiatives Real Estate, which will operate in the ‘for profit’ sector, but with the all the profits contributing to a much needed housing for women and children. This is the first ‘full service’ (including property management and sales) Social Enterprise Real Estate Agency in Australia and is a very exciting development.

B.  A Town House Development in Coburg

Through the extremely generous donation from the Estate of the Late Edward Wilson, WPI purchased a piece of land in Coburg from Moreland Council at a slightly discounted rate to build seven architecturally designed townhouses in a fantastic location for women and children in need. The Planning application has been lodged and funding submissions lodged for construction costs.

WPI is feeling very optimistic that the necessary funding will be sourced to commence construction in the 2015/16 year. This a wonderful example where WPI has again be able to demonstrate their ability to get a project off the ground through leveraging and collaboration with the philanthropic, private, community and public sectors.

C.  Urban Coup

WPI partnered with Urban Coup a couple of years ago to progress an innovative co – housing project which incorporates 24 private owners and six properties owned by WPI. WPI will be the developers and a management agreement was signed by both parties to provide direction, structure and facilitate the process. Urban Coup is actively seeking land opportunities with a couple of options currently being considered. This will be a very supportive community environment for single older women and women with children which also has a focus on environmental sustainability.  

As the developer, it is expected this will contribute financially towards the homes that WPI will own, decreasing the amount that needs to be sourced through other avenues for these homes.

D.  Older Women and Housing, Shared Equity proposal

In 2013, WPI produced an Issues paper highlighting the increasing emerging need for affordable housing for older women. While there are a variety of options that need to be provided, including more community housing, there is one group of older women, who have some equity, that WPI is keen to assist.

These women have some equity, but not enough to purchase a property and their ability to access a mortgage is not possible as their working life has concluded. Rightly so, these women would like to maintain this equity, rather than squander it in the private rental market. By having this equity, these women are not eligible for community housing. It makes sense to use this equity to increase much needed housing stock and WPI is keen to see if a shared equity option with a community housing organisation can facilitate this.

This will be a different model to the current shared equity schemes out there and needs further research and financial modelling to come up with a product that is viable. WPI is keen to progress this and currently has submissions lodged for funding to research this further.

How long have you been working in the NFP Sector?

My first position after leaving university was working for a very grassroots organisation that was assisting young unemployed people – so a few years ago – 35 + if I have to say. After working in the NFP sector for seven years, I then worked for the state government in the Department of Community Services for over five years.

I have also been a sessional teacher in a range of tertiary institutions, returning to the NFP sector in 1996 and have been working in this sector ever since.

What was your first job in the NFP Sector?

Working for the Preston Employment Action Group, a Community Youth Support Scheme (CYSS) assisting disadvantaged young unemployed people. We operated from a Nissan Hut by a railway line and our Committee of Management was made up of very dedicated local residents and workers.

It opened my eyes to the impact and importance of stable housing, education , employment and much more. It also gave me an insight to the devastating impact of domestic violence for young women and their feeling of powerlessness of having no where else to go, returning to violent homes to keep a roof over their heads.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

There are many rewarding parts of my job.

Seeing the women and children we house move on with their lives and their improved feelings of safety, security, connectedness with their community, their school and their families. Their improved physical and emotional health, seeing the women access part time employment and/or return to study and the children improve their academic performance. This is amazingly rewarding.

However, it is also rewarding to engage the fantastic pro bono support we receive from so many generous individuals and companies. WPI would not have progressed or achieved nearly as much as we have without this support.

Finally, but certainly not least, the wonderful philanthropic contributions from many Trusts and Foundations who recognise the value and outcomes of the work of WPI and have partnered with us to ensure our work continues.

What has been the most challenging part of your work? And how do you overcome that?

Accessing ongoing funding has always been the most challenging part of my work in the NFP sector. When you know and can see a program having a positive impact on the lives of people who are disadvantaged in our society, but the funding isn’t available to provide this program to the many people who need it, it is very challenging.

One example of this is an excellent program that was provided to women with a mental health issue who had secure housing provided, excellent support for themselves and their family, including a plan of where their children would be housed and how they would be supported if the woman needed to be readmitted to a mental health facility for a period of time if they became unwell. The impact of this program for the women was fantastic. This was because they knew their children would be safe and looked after if they became unwell and the women themselves had made decisions in relation to this when they were well. They also knew they had secure housing they would return to when coming out of hospital .Their mental health improved significantly and their re -admittance to mental health institutions decreased significantly.

Attempts to have this program expanded despite these clear positive outcomes were fruitless – amazingly challenging when the financial and social costs to society are so evident in not expanding such a program. This is the same in relation to the provision of affordable, safe, secure housing for women and children. It is very challenging that the funding is not flowing for something that underpins and is a springboard for people building a productive future.

Celebrating and highlighting the successes we do have is very important. It also hopefully results in more funding being provided in the future.

What do you like best about working in your current organisation?

I am surrounded by committed, intelligent women with skills and expertise that they are prepared to share and use to achieve the mission of the organisation. This includes the Board, the staff and the pro bonos (some who are also men). The Board and staff are in for the ‘long haul’ and their preparedness to stick in their to build more housing for women and children in need and take the well-considered risks to do this is inspiring and energising. I feel immensely privileged to work in this organisation.

Through your work, what is your ultimate dream?

  • That women and children in need will be able to easily access affordable, safe, secure housing. That WPI will have enough housing stock to meet the need throughout Victoria.
  • The partnerships WPI will have with support organisations will ensure that the women and children are provided with the support they need to sustain long term tenancies and maximise the benefits of being in their safe, good quality homes.
  • That some of the women progress to the stage where they can purchase their home and the proceeds are used by WPI to buy another home.  
  • That WPI continues to be innovative and developing new options for women in need of housing such as the shared equity project proposed for older women who have a small amount of equity, but not enough to purchase a property.
  • That WPI is financially self sustainable with revenue streams coming from their rental income and their Social Enterprise Real Estate Agency.

What does a typical day for you involve?

There is no typical day for me, which is what make the job so interesting and energising. My days can involve meetings with staff, Board, developers, philanthropic organisations, the Housing Registrar (our regulator), government personnel, government, ministers, tenants, our partner organisations, architects, auditors, pro bono experts, financial modellers, owners corporations, council officers etc.

These meetings range from undertaking performance appraisals, discussing projects in the pipeline, presenting the outcomes of the work we do, working out the best way to assist a particular tenant, developing our strategic planning process for the year, determining the financial viability of a project, responding to queries re a project and finances of the organisation, reviewing policies and procedures or governance documents, preparing a presentation and actually presenting the presentation.

Submission writing, responding and sending emails, writing up draft policies and procedures, preparing reporting documents for the Housing Registrar, preparing Board reports and papers, preparing and reviewing the Business Plan for the organisation are all part of what may happen in a day.

I feel I have a lot to contribute at all these levels, but I have also learnt and continue to learn an enormous amount through my work, which is wonderful and such a bonus.  Very few days could be described as ‘mundane’ and most have enormous variety. Some are more challenging than others as issues arise as they do in all organisations. Sometimes I start at 7 in the morning and finish at 9.00 in the evening, on other days I start at 7.45 am and finish around 5.45pm.

A typical day – what’s that?

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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