Co-Ownership: A Home of One’s Own

We’ve begun to focus on ways to facilitate more 55+year old lesbians into home ownership to give them housing security into old age. It began when Anneke and a couple of interested Matrix members had initial meetings with WPI about co-ownership options for older lesbians with insufficient assets and income to purchase property in their own right. WPI has since secured funding and completed Stage 1 of this project, investigating the need in the community, interviewing 8 women and researching similar programs around the world. They now have funding for Stage 2 which will involve them building a set of three units. Interested women over the age of 55 will be able to buy part of a unit and would pay rent on the portion they didn’t own at social housing rates. As a part owner of the property, you would have secure housing. Instead of spending your capital on rent and living expenses, this project would enable you to preserve your lump sum, so that you could Will it, or use it to buy something else in the future or convert it into a bond for Aged Care. This project might suit you if you have a nest egg of at least $100,000, (but not enough to buy property outright); and you are on a pension or low income and therefore can’t get a loan. Or you might have your $100,000+ in equity in a low value rural property that you want to sell because the location is too isolated. If you’d like to discuss this in more depth, please call Anneke on 0427 482 976. (If calling mobiles is too expensive, just text her and she’ll call you back).

It seems like the lesbian cluster idea that Matrix used for “Heather’s Flats” in Brunswick is spreading. About 12 lesbians have purchased apartments in a Northcote (Melbourne) development called Bouliste on the corner of Separation and Victoria streets.  It’s exciting that a lot is happening in lesbian housing.

Housing In Brunswick 
Click here to view details of the Brunswick Apartments

View Progress of the Brunswick Apartments in Photo Gallery
Click here for the photo gallery of the Brunswick Apartments

The Bequest

Heather Chapple, a lesbian feminist who loved animals, to dance, to bird watch and to coax vegetable seedlings from the soil, was also an accomplished poet and carpenter. When she died, Heather left $300,000 to Matrix for the purpose of providing affordable rental housing for older, financially disadvantaged lesbians. The Matrix Real Estate Task Group (RETG) formed and began looking for a unit or flat to buy with Heather’s bequest towards the end of 2008.

Heather Chapple – born 10 November 1944 and died 5 October 2007 – provided the first bequest received by Matrix. Her money has allowed Matrix to house 3 elderly, financially disadvantaged lesbians

The Social Housing Funding

Then the federal government announced an unprecedented amount of money would be available for social housing as part of its economic stimulus package. This money would largely be spent via Registered Housing Providers (RHP’s). The RHP needed to provide 25% of the finance and then the Office of Housing (OoH) would foot 75% of the purchase price of newly built accommodation.

The Partnership

Beginning in March 2009, Matrix has partnered with a RHP called the Victorian Women’s Housing Association (VWHA) to access some of this social housing money. VWHA is a feminist, non-profit organisation, set up to provide low cost housing options for women who experience disadvantage. It is run by a voluntary board of skilled women, with several employees and supported by a lot of other women who provide free professional services such as legal, accounting, project management and graphic work. (see www.vwha.org.au) . They have values and policies that mesh well with those of the Matrix Guild.

Matrix has provided the seeding finance, enabling the VWHA to access the remainder of funds from the OoH. This has allowed Matrix to house three times as many lesbians as Heather’s bequest on its own could have done. VWHA holds the titles, but Matrix will always select the lesbian tenants. In the unlikely event that the VWHA decides to sell these properties, and no suitable substitute property is available, then the Matrix bequest (as a percentage of the sale price) will be refunded. Matrix would then benefit from the growth in the property value. Matrix is very grateful to Jennifer Feeney for her thoughtful, pro bono legal advice.

On 11th September 2009 we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) – and on the 30th October 2009 a partnering agreement was sealed with the VWHA to buy three apartments in a new complex in Brunswick.

Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with the VWHA
Front Row L to R: Sara Elkas (Public and Financial Officer of Matrix), Anneke Deutsch (Matrix RETG Convenor). Back Row L to R: Jennifer Feeney (Matrix’s Solicitor), Jeanette Large (VWHA’s CEO), Carmel McCormack (Chair of VWHA’s Board)

The Apartments
Click here to view details of the Brunswick Apartments

The Opening

On Wednesday 8th June 2010 the apartments were officially opened at a launch party at the Brunswick Town Hall.  The first tenants joined about a hundred other guests (lesbians and our supporters), including Jane Garrett, the State member for Brunswick and Colleen Hartland, a Greens MLC, to celebrate the occasion. This is the first such affordable housing in Australia for older lesbians.  We hope it will be the beginning of many more housing projects.

Anneke Deutsch, Housing Convenor of Matrix (left) and Jeanette Large, CEO of the VWHA opened the housing

Sue Leigh (left) and Anneke Deutsch at the front doors

Consider Matrix in Your Will

Just as Heather has done, you too could make a difference to some of your lesbian sisters who are elderly, perhaps living with a disability and are in a poor financial position. Lesbians who aren’t homeowners, find it almost impossible to afford market rent on the aged or disability pension.

Please remember Matrix and her work in providing affordable, secure housing when you make your will. You can stipulate exactly how you’d like the money spent. For bequests, please identify Matrix as: Matrix Guild of Victoria Incorporated; ABN: 13 869 266 126; ACN: A00 260 57B.

If lesbians don’t bequest and donate money to Matrix’s housing projects, who will?

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