Katherine Leong of National Australia Bank
Who are you? Curious explorer, passionate foodie, lover of environmental documentaries and a chartered accountant.
What three issues are you most passionate about? Equality, environment (specifically climate change and the subsequent biodiversity loss), ending homelessness in Australia.
What is the name of your project that you are working on? Reimagining the Great Australian Dream.
What is the problem you’re trying to solve? Australian capital cities have a housing affordability crisis. This puts pressure on all forms of housing, including the rental market, social and affordable housing. Housing is a complex problem but the way we have financed the sector and Australians consider housing an investment asset class has led to the situation that is seeing the number of homeless rise rapidly and home ownership for people aged between 18-24 decline dramatically.
What is your intervention? NAB’s approach to this systems challenge is to work in collaboration with others to find solutions that work and then scale them. In one instance, we work with an NFP to scale up their program to break the cycle of chronic homelessness for 100 people in the city of Melbourne through a government-funded social impact bond. In another example, we have solved a funding challenge for a group called Nightingale Housing who are disrupting the residential housing market by offering environmentally sustainable, community-focused and more affordable housing to first home buyers and key workers (such as teachers and police officers).
What impact have you had to date? It is very early days for this initiative as we lost a key sponsor and therefore momentum. We have contributed to funding research the sector needs to understand the impact and financial risk and opportunity, we have used our philanthropy to educate and fund conferences and we have spent many hours advocating for better government policy and building partnerships in this sector.
What do you need to get the project to the next level? To scale this we need to change the way we have always done things and this cultural shift is taking time. We could always use more research into the link between impact risk and opportunity and the financial risk and reward, more hands to partner better with the people at the frontline of this housing challenge and a clear narrative (and marketing budget) that will help more people understand that a house is not an asset but shelter and a basic human right.
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