First Nations Foundation

hsh stephen charlene 2

From Social Housing to Home Ownership

Growing up in social housing, Stephen Woodlands, the founder of Head Start Homes, saw first-hand the barriers faced by his inspirational mother when she wanted to move out of social housing and buy a home for herself and her three children. Although she had a good job and could have afforded a home loan, she just couldn’t overcome the hurdle of having to save enough money for a deposit. After years of study, while raising her children, she was able to change careers and get a higher paying job as a social worker. However, instead of being closer to her dream of home ownership, her social housing rent was increased making saving even harder and creating a further disincentive to improve.    

These early experiences planted the seed of an idea for Stephen which years later would become Head Start Homes, a not-for-profit organisation with the vision of safe and stable homes for everyone with fair and practical pathways to home ownership.

Stephen explains that in Australia today there are more than 100,000 people who are homeless and the primary cause for this is social housing waitlists – around 194,000 households are waiting to get into a stable social housing dwelling. There are many people in social housing like Stephen’s mother who have the motivation and desire to move out of social housing and buy their own home but can’t overcome the barriers to home ownership. “All Australians share the dream of home ownership but currently for those families in social housing, they have next to no chance of ever achieving this, and meanwhile the waiting lists for social housing continue to grow.” 

This is where Head Start Home fits in. They help people in social and affordable housing become homeowners and move out of housing into their own homes, thereby freeing up a property for another family on a social or affordable housing waiting list to move into. This is what Head Start Homes see as the ripple effect for ending poverty. They achieve this by removing the first barrier to home ownership, a large deposit.  Head Start Homes provide a guarantee to the bank (like a parental guarantee) and the applicant no longer needs to save for years for a deposit while house prices continue to rise or to pay costly mortgage insurance. 

The second biggest barrier to moving out of social housing and into your own home is having the confidence and knowledge to be able to take the leap into home ownership.  Stephen explains, “The way you learn about home ownership is usually from your parents or from someone you know who’s done it before. And if no one in your family has ever done it before, it’s a scary and daunting task and you don’t even know where to begin.”  Head Start Homes provide Financial Empowerment Services for all their clients to help them become mortgage-ready including saving and budgeting and property coaching services.  They’ve seen some amazing results with their clients having an average increase in savings of 500%. Results which Stephen puts down to clients being incentivised once they realise home ownership is within their reach. 

This was the case with the first Head Start Guarantee recipient, Charlene, a single mother of three living near Port Macquarie. When Charlene’s application was accepted by Head Start Homes, she was then introduced to the Head Start Homes Empowerment Services to get her into a mortgage-ready position. Charlene’s newfound hope gave her the boost of confidence, motivation, and determination which led to her landing a promotion at work and increasing her savings by an incredible 1,000%. Last year Charlene became a proud homeowner and moved out of community housing into her own home. “I’ve accomplished something I never, ever thought I could,” Charlene says. “Just knowing that I’ve got this for my children, stability for my children, I don’t have to worry now, they’re set”.  Charlene’s newly vacated community housing property opened its doors to a previously homeless First Nations mum who was able to move into it and be reunited with her five children. This proves the Head Start Homes model works. One more family off the community housing waiting list. Watch Charlene’s journey here:

There has been a huge amount of support and interest in Head Start Homes and their unique approach to ending homelessness, with over 75 organisations lending their support ranging from grants to in-kind support. Westpac led the way by being the Founding Partner and continues to provide ongoing support. Supporters such as Sunsuper, the Wyatt Foundation, and the Aboriginal Housing Office have provided grants which directly contributed to helping Head Start Homes with their Pilot.  St George Bank and BankSA have worked with Head Start Homes to customise a lending product especially for Head Start Homes clients, while offering the best interest rates and low fees.

Head Start Homes has recently teamed with Mobile Monster to raise funds and recycle mobile phones for their Phones for Homes initiative. For each phone donated to Head Start Homes, Mobile Monster will rehome or recycle the phone and give 100% of the funds back to Head Start Homes. This has the dual impact of reducing electronic waste and opening doors to more safe and stable homes. Several companies have reached out to Head Start Homes to start campaigns in the workplace to recycle their phones.    

If you are interested in donating your old phone or tablet or starting a campaign in your workplace, check out: