A partnership between Homelessness NSW,
Domestic Violence NSW and Yfoundations

Program - Sydney Women’s Homelessness Alliance (SWHA) Older Women’s Studio Development Project

Excellence in Ending Homelessness - Adults Nominee

Program - Sydney Women’s Homelessness Alliance (SWHA) Older Women’s Studio Development Project

SWHA established a specific working group to focus on this issue with representatives from Homelessness NSW, the Haymarket Foundation, the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre Boarding House Outreach Project and the Women's Housing Company. The working group received funding from The Mercy Foundation and Homelessness NSW for the project.

Please give your reasons for nominating this program.

 Project was born out of concerns about the number of older women experiencing homelessness for the first time and the appropriateness of boarding houses to house older women as well as the lack of evidence about the appropriateness of studio accommodation or new generation boarding houses for older women.
 The aim of the project was to explore whether the model of smaller accommodation was suitable for housing homeless older women in the inner and middle ring communities of Sydney. It was designed to be carried out in two stages. Stage 1 engaged older women in co-designing smaller spaces that would work for them as long-term homes. Stage 2 costed the types of design that the older women developed to provide guidance to organisations considering delivering this form of housing.
 SWHA utilised the services of Gillian McFee and Associates working alongside two final year Architecture students from the University of Sydney to bring together a group of women with a lived experience of homelessness to co-design suitable accommodation for older women living in the inner city. The insights that emerged from these women were founded on their reflections of the fear and insecurity that came from not being treated with respect. These experiences greatly influenced how the women viewed having to share their housing with others. Their overwhelming preference was to have their own place and for this to be permanent and safe so they would not face being homeless again and could be supported appropriately as they age without having to move. Over two workshops, a sense of community developed between these diverse women. Their attitudes evolved so that by the end of the project, they articulated very clearly what it meant to share their housing and the pre-conditions for doing this well.
During the course of the project the older women involved also identified a multiple share option as being one  way to allow for support providers or carers to live alongside women who were ageing and in need of a growing level of a support.

What outcomes were delivered as a result of this program?

 SWHA used the women's insights from the project to develop performance outcomes and design guidelines to inform wider policy discourse and understanding about how the provisions made for studio apartments and in particular, the New Generation Boarding House (NGBH), in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009 (AHSEPP) could be appropriately applied to women in their circumstances.
 SWHA charted new territory with this project because we could not find any specific planning guidelines or policy guidance about what it meant to house single older homeless women well in small studios under the AHSEPP and in a NGBH.
 The project has produced two preferred design concepts and supporting guidelines to inform how to design appropriate small studio and shared housing for single and older women who have been homeless or at risk of homelessness.
 The project demonstrates the value of the co-designing methodology in tailoring guidelines for housing specific population groups.
 The costed models delivered in Stage 2 of the program illustrate how big a gap there is for anyone developing housing for older women and that this gap can only be met by other contributors such a government, housing providers and the support of the philanthropic sector.
 The Social and Affordable Housing Fund - Premier has ensured that applications should target/include older women as part of the target cohort.
 A paper about the project was presented at the NSW Federation of Housing Associations National Housing Conference.
 SWHA charted new territory with this project because we could not find any specific planning guidelines or policy guidance about what it meant to house single older homeless women well in small studios under the AHSEPP and in a NGBH.

Reference statement:

Deborah Georgiou

The Older Women’s Studio Development Project is the only project that has asked older women what they want from smaller accommodation. It grew out of people’s concerns about the growing rate of older women’s homelessness, and about the unsafe conditions for older women living in boarding houses. A group of older women worked with architecture students from Sydney University to design what would work for them as a small home. Over two workshops they thought about what mattered to them about their home – safety, security of tenure, good management and privacy - and how their preferences could be delivered in good design. The project also costed the development of the older women’s preferred options, identifying and quantifying the subsidy required and trying to build a case for community housing and government to consider. SWHA did an amazing job at guiding the work which was led by Gillian McFee, and the Report has received a lot of attention since being launched at a breakfast on International Women’s day March 2017. It was presented to the Federation Exchange in May 2017, and then showcased at the National Housing Conference in November 2017.