Habitat for Humanity launches bushfire recovery housing program

Habitat for Humanity Victoria (HFHV) are excited to announce the launch of Build Back – a Bushfire Recovery Housing program, the first of its kind for the organisation. Habitat for Humanity Victoria will be building temporary houses for bushfire-affected families so they have a safe and secure place to live whilst they rebuild their homes and their lives, too.

The Black Summer bushfires earlier this year were catastrophic, destroying 3094 homes, killing 33 people and burning over 17 million hectares of land . The impact has been devastating, and the affected communities are still suffering due to the health, economic and psychological impacts of COVID-19. Suitable temporary housing accommodation is critical to helping these communities recover, thrive and build back strength, stability and independence.

The Bushfire Recovery Housing pilot program will see Habitat for Humanity Victoria build three two-bedroom houses in the Towong Shire, made from shipping containers.

“Shipping containers offer a fantastic, cost-effective option for building temporary housing. They’re transportable, self-contained and meet specific temporary home regulations making them an extremely viable choice,” said Phil Wright, Habitat for Humanity Victoria’s Business Development Manager.

This pilot project would not be possible for Habitat for Humanity Victoria without the support from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, who have provided a grant of $180 000 to fully fund the project. The Foundation is committed to increasing the supply of affordable housing to prevent homelessness.

The Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Catherine Brown OAM said, “This was an important new opportunity to connect our experience supporting affordable housing with our disaster relief response during the bushfires.”

The Foundation’s Homelessness & Affordable Housing Manager Erin Dolan said “Losing a home in such devastating circumstances is unimaginable. These well-designed temporary houses will allow those people who have been through this major traumatic bushfire event to stay close to their communities, family and friends.”

“These houses will shelter affected families and give them time to rebuild and recover.”

Boral, Dulux, Bossini Kitchens and Universal fans have also generously contributed to this new program, providing goods in kind to complete the building of the temporary homes.

Collaboration is critical to the Build Back initiative and Habitat for Humanity have been working closely with Bushfire Recovery Victoria and local case managers to identify bushfire affected families in need of temporary housing. With their support, three families will be selected to receive temporary housing.

The Felthams, Madderns and Grahams – who lost their homes and more to the fires – are all looking forward to having a safe and secure place to live as they begin to rebuild their homes.

“Everything I owned was destroyed. The fire left the cows and the grass in the valley but my cottage, farm equipment, motorbikes and sheds were all gone. All my life in ashes,” says Robert (Bob) Maddern.

Bob was blocked at the road junction and was unable to visit his property for two days after the fires had ceased to check what was left remaining at this property, including his livestock and dogs.

Since the bushfires, Robert has been living on his property in a caravan with limited access to amenities. Robert’s friend and fellow Habitat home recipient, Dudley Graham, has been moved to another property until their temporary home is delivered.

“I’ve been lucky to have had a lot of help since the fires and I’m really looking forward to the temporary home being set up on-site. It will be good to have a base, somewhere we can both spread out that is comfortable and convenient … a home to live in,” says Bob.

The Habitat for Humanity temporary home will provide Bob and Dudley a safe and secure place to live whilst they rebuild. Though the home they will build won’t be filled with 76 years of treasures, it will be a home to create new memories on the property that he has nurtured for nearly thirty years.

“Habitat for Humanity has been heavily involved in disaster recovery work globally so we’re thrilled to be able to put our skills to use in Australia. We’re committed to providing shelter solutions and to provide bushfire-affected families with a safe and secure home whilst they begin to rebuild is a service we’re delighted to provide, and would love to continue providing this beyond the pilot program, as there are still families who need this housing and we want to be able to provide them with a safe, secure place to live,” said Mr. Wright.

Habitat for Humanity Victoria has begun the building process in August with the plans to have families in their new temporary homes before October, so they can start building back their homes and their future.

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