Iain Shields, HomeHub
Iain Shields, founder of HomeHub. Photo – The Property Tribune
  • HomeHub was established in 2019, in Perth
  • It describes itself as 'an affordable rental housing marketplace'
  • Upswell in demand since the ending of JobKeeper/moratorium

Amid all the clamour of a nationwide property boom, there are hundreds and thousands of people being left behind.

Add to this, the ending of the JobKeeper and JobSeeker stimulus packages and the year-long rental moratorium at the end of March, and pressure on the private rental market has been almost unprecedented.

Many would-be tenants have voted with their feet. Rent prices have risen 40% in some cases, and they have had to take themselves off the market, not being able to afford the increases.

Some have moved back in with family or friends, or found other solutions, as best they could.

A moment in time

If ever a solution was around at the right time, then the WA-based ‘affordable rental marketplace’ HomeHub might be it.

Founder and operator Iain Shields has lived experience. He grew up in the UK, and knows firsthand what it’s like to live in social housing.

After completing degrees in history and politics, he also worked in a social housing charity for five years. He managed 800 houses, and, in his own words, “fell in love with social housing.”

He saw how important it was to get people into housing. It was so often the first rung of dignity to a better life.

After travelling, he ended up in Perth and worked for a nationwide community housing organisation. Frustrated with the bureaucracy required to get people into houses (“it seems like they were happy for places to lay empty, while long waiting lists grew”), he established HomeHub in 2019.

“We started out as a place to get homeless people into property,” he told The Property Tribune, “including those living with a disability, or recovering from domestic violence or mental health issues.

“We still do this, but now we are more about making the real estate market more efficient. At the moment, there’s no marketplace where you can go to look for available houses or rooms, if you are suddenly out of luck, through an event such as a bushfire, or have a sudden housing need.”

Iain Shields, HomeHub

At the same time, he is creating a dataset of people looking for property. Often, they are in jobs, and can sustain paying a weekly rental of $300 to $500 a week, but there is simply nothing on the market at this price.

“Why can’t we turn things around, and ask the community: if there are hundreds of people that can pay $300 to $500 a week, what housing solutions can we provide for them?” he said.

Bring the community together

Mr Shields wants to hold community events, through local councils, to try and come up with solutions.

At the moment, the HomeHub service is charmingly manual, for good reason. People register saying what they want, and other people list properties or rooms that are available. The HomeHub team then take time to screen and match people to properties.

This has to be a deliberate, careful process. Vulnerable people need protecting.

The service is live nationally, but is based and working in WA for the moment. Through grants, sponsorship and listing fees the organisation has cashflow, and employs two staff. They have 30 to 35 homes on the platform.

“Over the past year we received 650 applications, but in the first three weeks of April we had more than 200,” he said.

“We need more rooms, more houses.”

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