Affordable housing challenge

Increasing the supply of quality affordable housing by encouraging the development of underutilised land.
Grants made within the Affordable Housing Challenge Initiative up to and including the 2019/2020 financial year
Total: $2.56 million
Grants made within the Affordable Housing Challenge Initiative up to and including the 2019/2020 financial year
Total: $2.56 million


The Challenge is the Foundation’s contribution to developing an innovative model of affordable housing, which demonstrates how land holders can contribute to affordable housing supply using underutilised land, strata or buildings.

The Foundation wanted to use its grant of $1 million, and the potential for impact investment, to unlock land at no cost for affordable housing. We wanted to involve cross sector partnerships and we decided to start with local government.

The Affordable Housing Challenge is an initiative of Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation that encourages cross-sector collaboration in response to Greater Melbourne’s homelessness and affordable housing issues.

The Challenge was initially designed through the Foundation’s partnership with Transforming Housing, based at The University of Melbourne, and with the help of international expertise provided by David Rosen who had previously advised the MacArthur Foundation.

In 2017, the Foundation sought local government land partners who could make suitable land available at no cost (by title transfer or 49-year lease). The Foundation applied site selection criteria to identify the best located site close to amenities such as public transport, work opportunities, medical services and schools.

Through the site selection process, the City of Darebin was selected to partner with the Foundation, providing a council owned car park close to amenities in Preston, as a potential site for affordable housing. Working in partnership, the Foundation and the City of Darebin called for suitable community housing providers to develop and lease the site. The Foundation and the City of Darebin worked through all the due diligence processes required by both philanthropy and local government and learned a lot about working together.

Ultimately Housing Choices Australia was selected as the community housing developer, based on a concept that provides 40 affordable housing units and also incorporates public and private communal space. The five-storey development will be rented to tenants who have very-low or low incomes and residents will be supported to create pathways to employment and community connection. New Housing Choices properties incorporate environmentally sustainable design features and maximise energy efficiency.

The outcomes and learnings from the first challenge will be promoted widely, allowing other local councils to partner with community housing providers to produce affordable housing for its community.

Following our first Affordable Housing Challenge, the next Challenge will focus on eligible not-for-profits, including faith-based organisations, who wish to use their land holding, including vacant land, strata or redevelopment of existing buildings, to increase the supply of affordable housing in Melbourne.

The Foundation will continue to use its grants to model these innovative projects and provide toolkits to allow landholders the means to offer affordable housing on their land.

The Affordable Housing Challenge is a Foundation initiative which demonstrates a scalable and replicable solution to providing affordable rental housing.

The Foundation was honoured to win Philanthropy Australia’s 2020 Better Philanthropy Award for the Affordable Housing Challenge.

Our Affordable housing challenge Initiative aligns with:

1. No Poverty 5. Gender Equality 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities

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What we're working towards

  1. Increased supply of quality affordable housing.

We're working with
Brotherhood of St Laurence
Community Housing Federation of Victoria Inc
Housing Choices Australia Limited
McAuley Community Services for Women
Northern Community CareWorks
Unison Housing
Uniting (Victoria and Tasmania) 
YWCA Housing



Initiative updates and outcomes
Case study video: 2020 Australian Philanthropy Awards
28 June 2021

After being recognised with the Philanthropy Australia 2020 Better Philanthropy Award, the Affordable Houisng Challenge has been featured in this case study video:
Affordable Housing Challenge recognised with 2020 Better Philanthropy Award
17 November 2020
Recipients announced for the 2020 Affordable Housing Challenge
09 October 2020

The Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2020 Affordable Housing Challenge.
A combined total of $700,000 has been granted; $500,00 will see McAuley Community Services for Women construct 12 self-contained apartments via a peppercorn lease on land held by the Sisters of Mercy, while Brotherhood of St Laurence, Northern Community CareWorks, Unison Housing and Uniting (Victoria and Tasmania) will each receive a grant of $50,000 to conduct feasibility studies for housing developments.
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Collaboration with City of Melbourne
21 August 2020

Make Room, is a joint initiative of the City of Melbourne and the Foundation which has the primary objective of addressing homelessness by boosting access to safe, secure accommodation for people experiencing homelessness. An Initiative grant from the Foundation will support Unison Housing to refurbish a council-owned building to provide secure accommodation for up to 60 households who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Affordable Housing Challenge Make Room

Unison Housing Ltd

Homelessness & Affordable Housing | Healthy & Resilient Communities | Environment & Sustainability

Active grant
Affordable housing challenge
Grant Amount
Grant Type

2020 Affordable Housing Challenge Launched
01 July 2020

The Foundation is pleased to announce that the 2020 Affordable Housing Challenge has opened. Applications close 20 July 2020.

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Collaborate with us

Does your organisation's work align with the Affordable housing challenge Initiative? Speak to:
Erin Dolan
Program Manager - Homelessness & Affordable Housing