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Neighbourhood Facilities Policy

Last published 06 Jul 2010

1. Background

FACS Housing recognises that accessible and appropriate community services support FACS Housing’s objective for successful tenancies and communities. FACS Housing values the contribution of community organisations in providing important services to tenants.

FACS Housing currently leases a small proportion of dwelling stock and other land and buildings for neighbourhood facilities. Given the high demand for housing, dwellings for new facilities can only be made available in limited circumstances. New facilities can be established as part of a Community Renewal Strategy, and/or where there are high concentrations of public housing, and where there is a demonstrated benefit to the public housing tenants living in the local community.

The provision of essential community services is primarily the responsibility of other agencies. In limited circumstances, FACS Housing dwellings can be made available as community facilities to ensure provision of community services to public housing tenants particularly in community renewal areas.

FACS Housing is involved in the consideration of neighbourhood facilities in the following ways:

  • Where a community organisation requests the use of a FACS Housing facility to provide a specified purpose;
  • Where a community organisation currently leases a FACS Housing facility which is based in a residential dwelling;
  • Where a community organisation is leasing a purpose built facility or non-residential facility.

2. Scope

This policy applies to the use of FACS Housing dwelling stock and other land and buildings for neighbourhood facilities.

3. Policy statement

FACS Housing currently leases a small proportion of dwelling stock and other land and buildings for neighbourhood facilities.

In determining whether scarce resources will be used for neighbourhood facilities, FACS Housing will consider its objectives including:

  • Assisting those with priority need;
  • Building successful tenancies and communities;
  • Creating viable and efficient services.

When considering requests for new facilities, FACS Housing will weigh up the needs of public housing applicants against the benefits of the proposed service.

In relation to rental for FACS Housing dwellings used as Neighbourhood Facilities, NSW Government agencies are required to have regard to the Treasurer’s direction which states that market rent should be established on lease of Government assets. There is however capacity to vary this according to the contribution of the service to achievement of agency objectives and realistic capacity to pay. FACS Housing will aim to set a rent which covers at least its main outgoings including maintenance, water and council rates, and an administrative cost.

FACS Housing wishes to ensure retention of the value of its assets by ensuring that adequate maintenance and upgrading for FACS Housing dwellings is carried out.

Neighbourhood facilities leases will specify the respective responsibilities of FACS Housing and the organisation for matters such as council and water rates, maintenance etc. The aims of the service, target group and roles and responsibilities of the parties will also be set out in a service agreement between the service provider and FACS Housing, which will form part of the lease.

When a lease expires FACS Housing may agree to enter into a further lease for either the same or a different property. FACS Housing is not under any obligation to enter into a new lease after an existing lease and its renewal options have expired.

Entitlement

The service provider can expect FACS Housing to:

  • Undertake its roles and responsibilities as outlined in the lease and service agreement in a timely fashion;
  • Undertake an annual client service visit and a three yearly review of the service;
  • Assist the service in ensuring that it is accessible to FACS Housing tenants.

FACS Housing will expect the service provider to:

  • Undertake its roles and responsibilities as outlined in the lease and service agreement in a timely fashion;
  • Provide information as required in the annual client service visit and triennial review to support the ongoing operation of the facility;
  • Ensure that the service remains relevant and accessible to public housing tenants living in the local community.

Business rules

New applications

Given the high demand for public housing there will only be minimal expansion of neighbourhood facilities. Approval for new facilities can be given where establishment of the service is part of a Community Renewal Strategy, and/or where there are high concentrations of public housing, and where there is a demonstrated benefit to the public housing tenants living in the local community.

When considering requests for new facilities, FACS Housing needs to weigh up the needs of public housing applicants against the benefits of the proposed service.

Issues for consideration in assessing requests include:

  • Extent to which the service is accessible to and of direct benefit to FACS Housing tenants;
  • Level of demand for public housing in the allocation zone; availability of and type of dwelling that the service provider is seeking (is the dwelling in a high demand area, or does it have characteristics which are in very limited supply -such as modification for wheelchair access, level block very well located in terms of shops/facilities etc). Generally any new facilities will not be in high demand areas where the waiting time for allocation is extremely long;
  • Type of accommodation occupied by the service provider prior to the request to lease from FACS Housing being made, and availability of alternative accommodation. Where groups have funding for rent, have been leasing accommodation on the private market or have other appropriate accommodation options, FACS Housing stock will generally not be made available.

Community support services that can be considered for allocation of a dwelling for a neighbourhood facility are generally community based activities provided for the benefit of a community and may include:

  • Target group specific activities and services e.g. children, youth, the elderly, women, families at risk etc;
  • Cultural activities and services;
  • Information provision;
  • Issues based activities such as tenant participation, employment, transport, homelessness etc.

Neighbourhood facilities will generally be provided in residential dwellings unless existing purpose built facilities become vacant. It is not anticipated that FACS Housing would construct new purpose built facilities.

Eligibility

To be eligible to lease a property from FACS Housing as a neighbourhood facility, an organisation must be able to demonstrate that it:

  • is a non profit legal entity, such as an incorporated association, a company limited by guarantee, a cooperative, or local council;
  • has the necessary funds and expertise to manage and operate the service for the duration of the proposed lease;
  • will be community managed and/or have a high level of community input to its establishment and ongoing management.

To assist FACS Housing assess applications FACS Housing staff (with permission from the provider) may seek advice from relevant funding, licensing or accreditation agencies regarding purpose and period of funding and any evaluations conducted by the funding agency.

Application and approval process for new neighbourhood facilities

Applications for public housing to provide dwellings for neighbourhood facilities to other organisations will be made on a standard form. Applications may be submitted at any time. Applications may not always be assessed immediately but considered as part of FACS Housing’s divisional planning processes.

Leases

There will be a standard lease for all neighbourhood facilities that will be prepared by FACS Housing’s Legal Services Branch.

The lease will also describe all aspects of the agreement including the roles and responsibilities of the parties, the nature and scope of the service that the organisation will provide to the community from the facility and the target group for the service.

Rent setting and payment

In relation to rental for FACS Housing dwellings used as neighbourhood facilities, NSW Government agencies are required to have regard to the Treasurer’s direction which states that market rent should be established on lease of Government assets. There is however capacity to vary this according to the contribution of the service to achievement of agency objectives and realistic capacity to pay. FACS Housing will aim to set a rent which covers at least its main outgoings including maintenance and water and council rates and an administrative cost (a cost recovery rent).

Market rent will be charged where the organisation receives funding to cover market rent or where it can be established that the organisation has capacity to pay market rent. In these circumstances, FACS Housing would only lease a FACS Housing dwelling to the service if there were no other accommodation options.

Rent that results in at least cost recovery will be charged unless there are exceptional circumstances.

FACS Housing will only enter into rental arrangements that do not result in at least cost recovery where the community organisation is clearly unable to pay and where:

  • The community organisation leasing the facility will be providing a necessary service to public housing tenants which assists in building successful tenancies and communities;
  • The community organisation does not receive funding for rent;
  • The service has been identified as lacking in the local community, is an essential part of a CRS and FACS Housing has worked with agencies/providers to attract them to establish a presence in a community.

Upgrade and maintenance

Prior to commencement of a lease for a neighbourhood facility upgrading and/or maintenance work will be carried out on the property as agreed between FACS Housing and the organisation. Generally this will be limited to work that is essential to ensure that the property is safe and habitable.

Consistent with the cost recovery formula day to day maintenance and upgrading will be the responsibility of FACS Housing. FACS Housing will be responsible for structural repairs.

Rates and insurance and council approvals

Generally the organisation will be responsible for:

  • Outgoings including utility charges (gas and electricity), taxes, etc associated with the services that are provided by the organisations;
  • Taking out insurance coverage for contents, public liability, workers compensation;
  • Cleaning of the premises and maintenance of the grounds (eg lawn mowing);
  • Damage to the property where the organisation or its clients are at fault.

The service provider can undertake alterations (at its own expense) with the approval of FACS Housing's Divisional Office.

It is the responsibility of the service provider to obtain any necessary local government consents for the operation of the service or alterations to the dwelling.

The community organisation must negotiate with the FACS Housing Division prior to the submission of a development application. Costs associated with an application, including costs needed for community consultation purposes, will generally be borne by the community organisation. In some circumstances, FACS Housing may decide to contribute to costs.

Duration of leases

Leases will generally be for 3 years with a three year option. Divisions may enter into a lease which is for a period less than 3 years, for instance, in cases where funding is not guaranteed to the community organisation for a 3 year period.

GST

Any new Community leases where the property is being used for non-residential purposes will also be subject to GST.

Monitoring and review

FACS Housing will:

  • conduct annual visits to neighbourhood facilities to ensure that the basic requirement of the lease and service agreement are being met and from time to time undertake condition assessments to facilitate planning for maintenance and upgrading;
  • undertake a review /evaluation of arrangements and service outcomes at three yearly intervals.

Client service visits and triennial reviews will be undertaken at mutually agreed times. Where relevant the funding organisation can participate in the triennial review.

Termination of a lease

FACS Housing may terminate a current lease when the organisation breaches a condition of the lease or associated service agreement.

FACS Housing will advise the organisation as soon as possible after it becomes aware that breach has occurred and will request that the organisation take appropriate action to comply with terms and conditions of the lease and service agreement.

Where the breach continues or where the alleged breach is disputed by the organisation, FACS Housing will seek to resolve the situation through mediation and then if necessary through legal action and termination of the lease.

FACS Housing will advise relevant funding agencies when an organisation does not act upon a request to take appropriate action to comply with the terms and conditions of the lease or service agreement.

FACS Housing will inform relevant funding agencies when termination of a lease is identified as the only course of action left.

4. Legislation and compliance

This policy is consistent with the NSW Government Policy 'Provision of Government Accommodation for Community Purposes'.

5. Further information

Appeals and decisions

Decisions regarding approval of new facilities or leases for existing facilities cannot be appealed.

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