On this page
A not-for-profit community housing organisation, Women’s Property Initiatives, teamed up with Sustainability Victoria and Melbourne home builder, SJD Homes, to design and build 6 energy-efficient townhouses for vulnerable women in Melbourne’s east.
Women’s Property Initiatives is a 21-year-old not-for-profit, community housing organisation that creates new beginnings for women facing homelessness by providing permanent and affordable homes, access to support networks and ongoing advocacy.
“When you’re running a not-for-profit, every dollar counts,” explained Jeanette Large, CEO at Women’s Property Initiatives. “It’s been exciting to work on this project and find out that we can provide affordable and energy efficient social housing at relatively little extra cost. It’s a win for us, our tenants and the environment.”
In 2020, Sustainability Victoria and SJD agreed to include 6 homes for the Women’s Property Initiatives in the Zero Net Carbon Homes program to show that social housing can be designed and built to be more energy-efficient, yet remain affordable.
Social housing is short and long-term rental housing that is owned and run by the government or not-for-profit agencies. It is for people on low incomes who need housing, especially those who have recently experienced homelessness, family violence or have other special needs.
The 6 homes were designed, built, and tested for energy efficiency and comfort. They offer better thermal comfort all year round and are healthier to live in.
The homes were designed to produce more energy than they use. This makes them affordable to live in and reduces the greenhouse gas emissions they create.
Renewable energy is generated onsite by north-facing 5 kW solar PV systems on each home. The average energy cost for the homes varies between $593 and $868 per year. That’s $50 to $72 per month for electricity.
Homelessness is a growing issue in Victoria. The Victorian Government recently announced an initiative to address this, by committing to building new social housing.
According to a 2019 inquiry by Infrastructure Victoria into homelessness in Victoria for those vulnerable to homelessness, social housing has a statistically significant positive impact in reducing the likelihood of becoming homeless.
Sustainability Victoria’s research into the health impacts of climate change (2020) shows that most healthcare professionals identify poor quality housing for the most vulnerable people as an issue in relation to climate change health impacts.
Almost half (45%) of public housing survey participants have left their home at some stage to go to a local shopping centre as it was either too hot or too cold to stay at home. More than half reported that their home was either too hot last summer (65%) or too cold last winter (61%).
For more information, read Linking climate change and health impacts research snapshot (pdf, 1.3 mB), (docx, 1.8mB).
“Everyone is entitled to a safe and secure home. Investing in energy efficient social housing is a substantive and enduring way for government to provide better quality homes that achieve our zero net emissions target by 2050.
Thanks to the Zero Net Carbon Homes program, social housing providers can now access a wealth of information to design and build high quality energy efficient homes for our more vulnerable members of society.”
Claire Ferres Miles, CEO at Sustainability Victoria.
The project showed that it is possible to build a great quality and energy-efficient home for our more vulnerable members of society – and at an affordable cost.
The new homes were rated 6.6 to 6.9 stars under the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS). The star rating varied due to the difference in layout between the homes.
The current minimum rating under the National Construction Code is 6 stars, although there is currently a consultation out from the Australian Building Codes Board to consider 7 stars in the future.
“This is a great example of social and sustainable housing,” said Jeanette Large, CEO at Women’s Property Initiatives. “It is a wonderful outcome for our community, a comfortable home and reduced energy costs.”