A group of investors is using self-managed super funds to develop a social housing project in Melbourne at Passive House standards and at cost parity with conventional social housing.

Grün Consulting director Clare Parry and social entrepreneur Nick Lane have teamed up for the project at Melbourne’s north western middle ring suburb of Heidelberg West.

Parry says that after reading numerous reports about the link between health, economic leverage and the quality of social housing, she decided the time had come to do something about it, co-founding Passive Place Ethical Housing to develop the project.

Burkhard Hansen, founder of prefab home builder CarbonLITE, has also joined the delivery team.

Left to right: Clare Parry, Grün Consulting; Burkhard Hansen, CarbonLITE; social entrepreneur Nick Lane (image by Tiann Bon).

Parry says the site is a standard home block for the area, but the development will see three prefabricated Passive House detached dwellings replace one existing dwelling. The development application is currently being finalised.

The plan is to deliver the completed homes to a social housing or crisis accommodation provider initially on a rental basis and hopefully in the long run on a sale basis.

“What we will actually do is lease it out for a social housing provider, and we’re happy to receive lower than market rent.”

Parry says the investors are also happy to receive a lower than conventional return on sale but “the worst case scenario is a standard investment development”.

She says the investors, who used their self-managed super funds for the project, are “not overly wealthy”.

“They were simply interested to use their funds for something good.”

Her own contribution is on a pro-bono basis for the current prototype and on a not-for-profit basis for future projects.

Parry says the appalling standard of many houses in the low-income housing sector needs to be addressed.

“As the effects of climate change become more prominent, this sector will be hit first and hardest.”

The demonstration project houses will all be three bedroom, 1.5 bathroom homes with a flexible garage or storage space.

The footprint of each house has been designed to occupy 6 x 15 square metres, with two storeys. The design has been inspired by Row on 25th in Houston, Texas, an affordable multi-home project by green builder Shade House Developments.

Parry is providing the eco-design and Passive House design services for the project. She says the aim is for the homes to achieve a NatHERS rating of at least 8.5 to 9 stars.

They will also be “solar ready”.

“The vision is for them to be able to operate at net zero for energy,” Parry says.

“The main things we are targeting are health and low running costs for economic leverage.”

Full lightweight timber construction will be used.

“Using natural materials means they will be low carbon as well,” Parry says.

She says the company’s long-term goal is to undertake more projects like this one for the social and community housing sector.

“Private investors have taken a leap of faith on the first development in Heidelberg West, but we hope to forge partnerships with social housing providers for future projects.”

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  1. Looks like a fascinating project and I too look forward to the outcomes.

    “Parry says the appalling standard of many houses in the low-income housing sector needs to be addressed” – yes – and a lot are owned by slum landlords not interested in undertaking maintenance/energy upgrades due to current tax legislation. I think The Fifth Estate ran an article on just this aspect late last year.