HomeGround Real Estate is a social enterprise agency established by Launch Housing in 2014. It provides premium property management services for property owners and renters in Melbourne while creating impact through reinvesting 100% of the profits back into Launch Housing.
Through HomeGround, property owners have the option to rent out their properties at either full market rent or below market rent as an additional way to increase affordable housing stock in Melbourne. In the last financial year HomeGround experienced significant growth as more property owners chose an ethical path for their property management.
Property owner Beth Phillips has leased properties through HomeGround since 2015 and says this offers a new path for those already thinking about creating impact through their investment.
Why the Phillips family chose HomeGround Real Estate
Beth and her husband Andrew became aware of HomeGround Real Estate in 2015 when the ATO made a tax ruling specific to HomeGround. The ruling provided property owners with deductions for leasing properties at below market rents – an arrangement offering strong incentives to personally make a difference and increase affordable housing in the market.
“We started off just by renting out a couple of apartments – not a significant number of properties at that point.”
But in recent years, Beth and Andrew have been able to significantly increase the number properties leased through HomeGround at both full market and social rents. This was made possible after the sale of their successful business, which made a substantial impact on their circumstances.
“It was like a TattsLotto winning moment. And for about two months it felt great until we realised what our values really were.
“To be living in a country where there are so many super wealthy people and to think that there are people who don’t have the basic right of shelter is really sad. If we can’t enable people of all different circumstances and backgrounds to live in a country of such prolific wealth like Australia, then where do we end up?”
The issue of housing stability and affordability is personal to Beth who grew up in foster care and children’s homes. Having experienced the extreme ends of wealth and poverty, her perspective on inequality is unique.
“When I was a child, I was viewed as being at the bottom of the pile. People would gawk at me because I was a ward of the state and lived in government care, I was ‘the problem.’ Now I’m seen completely differently because my financial and family circumstances have improved but I’m the exact same person.
“I don’t see someone’s personal financial situation or the circumstances in the moment as an indicator of who they are. It’s just a stage of life they’re in and everyone has potential. Everyone has so much potential.”
Choosing an ethical path for the investment of their wealth helped the Phillips align their investments with their core values. This is also something the Phillips family achieves through their business uncommon folk, driving social and environmental change.
The Phillips’ Impact
The Phillips family’s aim is to create a sustainable property management model where 50% of the properties in their portfolio are leased at a social rental rate. Profits from their full market rented properties will go into maintenance, ensuring properties are kept at a high standard for all renters. The Phillips are already leasing several properties at a social rate which are prioritised for people experiencing homelessness or escaping family and domestic violence.
“We figure that if we can set this up as its own sustainable entity, so we are not drawing on the limited philanthropic funds available, then this can become something that runs itself and provide for people who are at risk of homelessness.”
HomeGround Real Estate Manager Samantha Gatherum-Goss says the Phillips are creating meaningful impact.
“The Phillips are enabling people to move into safe and secure, and well-maintained properties who may not otherwise have the capacity to afford those properties.
“These are people who may be leaving a domestic violence situation or people who are vulnerable for whatever reason. The Phillips are providing an opportunity for them to have secure housing. A lot of our rental providers do the same thing and they’re just incredible.”
The combination of social and full market rental properties in the Phillips portfolio enables a threefold impact says Samantha.
“You’ve got the income from their properties feeding into Launch Housing’s mission, there’s impact for people they’re directly helping, and it’s also taking people off the Victorian Housing Register,” she said.
Another important factor for Beth is breaking down our siloed communities through the provision of housing in otherwise unaffordable areas.
“The housing we lease provides that – everyone’s in different circumstances in these apartments. They’re in different areas where people have a lot of different circumstances financially and probably socially. It’s got benefits on a whole range of levels.”
A simple switch to give back
Whether motivated by personal values or creating financial security, Beth believes investing in people and the environment is critical to our future.
“HomeGround is providing people the opportunity to really invest in impact. I know that there’s been a massive period of growth for HomeGround and I think that is a reflection on the fact that they’re doing a great job, but also that the people are waking up to the fact that life isn’t just about money, that there is other things that are of more value than how many zeros there are on the page on your bank balance.”
For people considering making the switch to HomeGround Real Estate for their property management needs, Beth says there is no difference on an administrative level, the difference is in the quality of service.
“The people I’ve dealt with at HomeGround are working for something they believe in which enables them to do the job that much better than anyone else I’ve dealt with. They are invigorated and empowered by the contribution they’re making.
“If you wanna just dip your toe in the water, just dip your toe in the water, just let HomeGround manage your property at full rent. See how that feels and then work towards your goal of having impact through your property. There’s no pressure to start out at a social tenancy.”