Social Impact

At Urban Villager, we believe in triple bottom line impact. We deliver financial returns for impact investors, and we have strong environmental credentials. We also have positive social outcomes.

Our ethos stems from community resiliency. Strong community makes for resilient and happy individuals.

However, the cost of housing in Australia, coupled with urban sprawl, has meant to a large degree that many people can’t afford to live within their established communities. This problem occurs at all ages; young people can’t afford to live close to their families, young families can’t access suitable options, and downsizers, and especially women over 55, don’t have the housing diversity and affordability to stay close to their established networks. Retirees who have a family home often can’t downsize into an affordable local option because there are none.

This proximity issue creates loneliness, disconnection, a break in familial support (where relevant) and the weakening of community. Not only do we have a real housing affordability crisis in Australia, have a real housing diversity crisis where our housing supply (mainly houses, and mainly suburbia) doesn’t match our demand for location and affordability. All too often, a single focus on ‘affordable’ translates to sub-par locations, away from loved ones, employment, services and recreation, meaning that although housing may be cheap, the cost of living, financially, practically and mentally, is not.

As a social enterprise, we have been awarded a grant from Impact Investing Australia to produce a Theory of Change to explore our impact academically. We were supported by Social Outcomes and the Social Impact Hub to do this work. The reports were produced by Social Outcomes in August 2020.

Impact Investing Australia
Social Outcomes
Social Impact Hub

As a triple-bottom-line social enterprise, we balance the competing forces of financial returns, sustainability (in construction, lifestyle and location), and social impact. We operate using a build-to-rent model, where not only is rent more affordable, but the cost of living is also more affordable. By creating more shared spaces, we increase community connection, provide a more sustainable building, and we’re able to build in locations that minimise or eradicate the need for private car ownership (or long public transport commutes). Our goal is to make commutes shorter, to have day-to-day services within walking distances, and to make the cost of living more affordable with better design and services (like the use of solar, natural ventilation, passive design, rainwater and community gardens). Our designs include options for smaller and shared spaces. We’re big believers in co-living: many people of all ages who aren’t part of traditional relationships or families would prefer to live with others than  to live alone. We aim to make that possible.

Crucially, in build-to-rent, we also act as both developer and long-term manager. That allows us to lock in our impact; we have control over the design, construction and operation.

Our focus is on supporting key workers, frontline workers, and single women over 55 (the fastest growing group of people experiencing homelessness) to become more resilient by providing long-term, secure, rental accommodation that is both affordable to rent and affordable to live in. These groups provide vital services for the community but often live highly vulnerably. These groups include our nurses, paramedics, baristas, supermarket workers, delivery truck drivers, childcare workers and many others; people absolutely essential to our communities who, without a better system or more support, are often displaced, living pay-check to pay-check, unable to save, and at the mercy of private landlords.

In this era of COVID, we especially want to support frontline workers in health to live securely and affordably close to their place of work; a simple goal out of reach for many. Many frontline health workers have faced discrimination as the fear of the global pandemic took hold, despite providing an essential service. Together with the impact community, we can change this reality.