FIVE townhouses are being built in Bendigo to help women and children experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
YWCA National Housing expects to be inundated with applications for the properties, which are expected to be built by June.
Women and children who have experienced family violence will be prioritised as tenants. However, YWCA National Housing's Jan Berriman said the townhouses would not be crisis accommodation.
"It's long-term affordable housing," she said.
The three-bedroom townhouses will be rented out at 75 per cent of the market rate.
"Many women in the Greater Bendigo area face serious barriers to affordable housing, particularly those who have experienced family violence," Ms Berriman said.
"One-third of working women in Bendigo earn less than $400 a week and more than half of women of working age in the region are not in the labour force.
"The crisis is set to worsen with the region's population forecast to rise to 156,000 by 2036, requiring an additional 900 homes per year."
The Bendigo East project is the national women's housing provider's first built-to-rent initiative.
Long-term residents will have the option of buying their homes.
Ms Berriman said Bendigo was selected because of the high need within the community.
"I think that's mainly around the affordability issues for people coming from the city and purchasing into Bendigo, which is a bit of a new phenomenon and the growth for the regional city focus," she said.
Residents would be selected based on a needs study analysis.
Ms Berriman said YWCA would be keen to keep a list of interested applicants so it could demonstrate the demand for affordable housing for women and their children to government.
She said women were the fastest growing group of people at risk of homelessness in Australia because they were often unable to afford the private rental market, and demand for affordable rental properties outstripped supply.
"Bendigo is a stark example of this tragic reality," Ms Berriman said.
She said YWCA would love to build more projects in Bendigo like the built-to-rent initiative.
However, there would need to consider how it would be financed.
"We have self-funded this project through YWCA National Housing," Ms Berriman said.
The initiative is worth $2.2-million.
GJ Gardner is partnering with YWCA on the project.
"We felt it was a really good project to be involved in," GJ Gardner's Danny Breen said.
"It's obviously a need Bendigo has. We sort of felt that it was really intertwined with our business models and ethics and we're really glad to be behind it all."
He said creating affordable housing took a bit of work.
"We obviously worked with the guys pretty hard to try and work in different materials and make the cost of it affordable for both the client and for their needs as well," Mr Breen said.
The initiative was well received by Bendigo-based housing and specialist women's services.
Annie North chief executive Julie Oberin said targeted affordable housing for women and children was "really good".
Haven; Home, Safe's Trudi Ray said there were so many financial and structural barriers that placed women at housing risk.
"The only way to combat the housing crisis is with more housing," she said.
Haven believes extra savings from a new loan arrangement could contribute to the creation of 90 houses that are in the pipeline and assist with plans for up to 900 homes, over time.
The homes would be distributed throughout the state.
A $65-million National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation loan was last month announced for Haven.
The new loan replaced a more expensive commercial finance deal.
Haven chief executive Ken Marchingo expected the arrangement to result in savings of $1m a year every year for the next 10 years.
Speaking about challenges in the rental market in Bendigo earlier this year, Centre for Non-Violence chief executive Margaret Augerinos said family violence had been the leading contributor to families and individuals seeking support from housing and homelessness agencies for many years.
She said agencies were seeing an increase in the number of older single women.
"They're thrust onto a single person's Newstart allowance... we know the issues with Newstart," Ms Augerinos said.
In terms of a social housing response, she said there was very little available for single people at all, let alone single women.
A lack of supports mean some women had had to leave their communities and move elsewhere, which Ms Augerinos said caused other issues.
"Unless we invest in this unfortunately we're just going to create a bigger pool of people experiencing housing stress," she said.
"We need to be working on a range of strategies."
The prevention of violence against women and their children was among the work Ms Augerinos said needed to be done.
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