2018 BANKSIA FOUNDATION AWARD SUBMISSION
Imagine a place where people know their neighbours and interact with them. A place where people share their skills and tools for the better of the community, living in energy efficient houses. Where you learn what holistic sustainability feels like while you actually living it. A place that promotes self-sufficiency and provides a social network for times when you need it. Veggie patches, lush gardens and rooftops invite the tenants to socialise and relax while sharing stories and a meal together. Everybody is welcome, but you have your own private space at the same time. People of different ages and cultural backgrounds live together and learn from each other. A place people feel proud to call home.
This is my vision for Community Homes (CH), but the reality here in Logan Qld, my current neighbourhood, is seen as a low-profile Australian suburb. The community has been neglected for too long. People are approached for loose change, there is a high crime rate, drug issues, endless rubbish dumping on the streets, unemployment and no real perspective. In short, it is a place where dreams of a better life die at a young age.
Having lived here myself for the last eight years, I have experienced it all first hand and had my own ups and downs. Besides all the negatives, I am still here. Why? Because I saw the positive side – people who have amazing practical skills and outstanding knowledge. People who live truly sustainably and who care for each other. There is a lot of magnificence in my neighbourhood and from experience it’s mainly because of the people, the community.
It made me realize we all have a story to tell, but some people never get the chance to have their story heard. Most of the time this is due to social judgements so I decided to give these people a voice and find a way to tell their stories. This is how the idea of CH was born.
I could have chosen to write a book about it and market their stories all over the internet, but that was not my intention. I want to create something that has a real impact and is holistically sustainable. I want to provide a genuine perspective to the people and create a new pride and identity within the community.
Instead of going out to look for grants or other funding opportunities to make it happen, I used my own money to buy two properties in the area and turned the idea into reality. After putting the hard yards in over the last years, I am now proud to say that we have found the right network of locals and professional collaborators to get the first project off the ground by mid-2019. Together we set up a “help to help yourself” model which provides contemporary designed, energy efficient shelter (with a flexible rent to buy system) along with access to a network for guidance and quality education to everybody involved.
My long-term goal is to achieve a new holistic lifestyle and to address as many Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) as possible with our work.
2) the DRIVERS
There are many reasons that motivate me to do what I am doing. However, if you ask me what is my single most important driver, I would have to say it’s the people of Logan. I have been through some rough times myself due to a serious workplace injury leading to bullying, harassment and consequently loss of job and relationship. As a result, I faced financial hardship, depression and setback for a duration of 8 years. What helped me to get back on my feet was the help I received by the many people I met during my journey. It was an absolute inspiration and motivated me to keep fighting to overcome the harsh times. The local people have contributed a lot to Community Homes already, just by sharing their stories and being at my side when I needed it most. Another important motivator for me results out of the collaboration with likeminded professionals and the support gained from the local community. They also had their influence on CH in different ways. Knowing to have a support network of reliable and creative people around is essentially the support needed in pursuing my vision. All this has resulted in my drive to pay it forward and to change the public’s perception of Logan and its community.
3) the GOALS
CH’s initial goal is to show people on the lower social end of Australian society the advantages of living a holistic, sustainable lifestyle and to improve the dynamics of lower social economic areas in general. The bigger goal with CH is to establish a “help to help yourself” network providing a guidance for placemaking and a perspective for a better life to the people involved.
By designing and building energy efficient, affordable homes, we establish a starting point and centre for the development of sustainable communities, which will become an inspiring example for other communities creating individual identities.
4) the RESULTS
Before registering the business name Community Homes in 2017, I bought two properties in Logan, investing my own money. Before commencing with the actual development on site, I focused on building the essential networks, both in the local community as well as within the sustainable industry. At the time, I also started renting out my properties to local people in need, whom I usually met on the streets of Logan. Together we started working on small scale projects around the two sites, which helped me to identify positives and potential issues. It was a bit chaotic at times, but overall a valuable time for me and the further development of Community Homes.
After gaining experience in small scale, CH was ready to upscale. In collaboration with my now established network, we started working on a flexible rent to buy model for CH and progressed with an architectural design for the first development, which will get off the ground by mid-2019. We have recently received council approvals for the proposed design of four units and also create an online presence to be able to raise more awareness on our visionary project.
The societal gap between the privileged and less fortunate is widening in Australia and worldwide. The potential of CH is therefore limitless as it presents endless opportunities for providing a perspective to a more sustainable future. Existing issues are very similar in many other small towns and suburbs around Australia and CH could be integrated as a solution.
After completion of our first project we aim to establish more places in other low-profile social areas around the country. CH would share its flagship experience, embark on similar projects, repeat the process with modifications depending on individual circumstances and continue its mission to inspire and create a positive impact to individuals and the community.
The current and future challenges we are facing in society are too complex to be solved by one person. Therefore, CH has established an open network of individuals and organisations providing solutions. We will continue to grow our network and collaborate to be able to help more people to reach a self-sufficient and sustainable future.
CH is proud to be seen as an organisation which stands up for the deprived and neglected of our society, providing impactful “help to help yourself” solutions.
CH is unique especially due to three main facts:
- Our main focus is on the people, not profit.
- We provide individual solutions in areas where its most needed, not where it’s easiest.
- It’s all privately financed, due to personal belief and passion.
The uniqueness of CH is based on its people with the main focus not being on monetary gains but on achieving long term goals of holistic sustainability for people involved as well as the greater community. We set our focus on individuals and their stories and value skills more than profit. Each project will have its own identity and only one thing in common: With each project, we treat sustainability as a given, never as an add on.