One of the early impacts of COVID-19 was the forced cancellation of our planned combined housing conference, Housing Aspirations. It was to be our first two-day conference, a collaboration with CHIA National. However, postponing our conference until April 2021 soon seemed like a small inconvenience compared to the huge body of work that needed to be done to support our members to address issues and mitigate risks for tenants and staff, including the development and distribution of resources, such as a coronavirus checklist for CHOs, sample maintenance procedures and how to manage the first 24-hours after an outbreak.
CHIA Vic was soon involved in regular briefings with the Victorian Government and we set up a Coronavirus Sector Group with representatives from our member organisations to share information and resources and guide our work in creating further resources and seeking government support.
Through a password-protected portal on our website, our members were able to access vital information, including assistance with business continuity, human resources, and tenancy management.
Importantly, CHIA Vic also began work to support the roll out of the Victorian Government’s $500m investment in building and upgrading social housing via its Building Works package, including developing a shovel-ready survey of development projects, and added to calls for social housing to be included in the Commonwealth Government’s stimulus package.
From an organisational point of view, a major concern was COVID-19’s impact on our face-to-face training program. Training is not only an essential service to our membership, but it is one of CHIA Vic’s main sources of income so having to cancel our face-to-face training sessions was a blow. However, our training guru, Holly Mullaney, quickly swung into action. Within 10 days she had organised 16 online courses for April, most of them running for the first time.
Not only was much of the content new, but the trainers had to quickly adapt their information and delivery to suit the online format. Luckily our trainers were extremely adaptable and responsive, and any teething problems were soon overcome.
As a silver lining, response to the online training has been extremely positive, with attendee numbers more than double the same time last year. As a result, the online format will continue to be offered even once the crisis is over.
COVID-19 also impacted on our RTA/VCAT Helpline. Usage of this service, which is always well-utilised by members, increased by more than a third as a result of the emergency COVID provisions of the RTA.
Of course, not all work during the financial year was related to COVID-19. Other key projects included collaborating with the other housing peaks on an update to Making Social Housing Work, and a project with CHIA National to create compelling and consistent messaging around community housing and its value proposition.