43-year-old Jason Cubit has turned his entrepreneurial spirit into a mission to alleviate housing stress for low-income earners in Queensland.
What’s the name of your company, more about it and what do you do?
Horizon Housing (Horizon) is a not-for-profit charity formed for the specific purpose of alleviating housing stress among homeowners and tenants on or below average income levels. We support the community by providing a variety of social and affordable housing programs and products such as community housing, clinic affordable rental housing and development, sickness and key worker housing in regional communities. Currently, approximately 60 percent of Horizon’s business is Affordable Housing and around 40 percent is Social Housing.
How long have you been in business?
Horizon has been operating in its current form since 2007, but our roots trace back over 20 years, with the foundation of the Gold Coast Community Housing Association.
What were you doing before you started this business?
I commenced with Horizon in 2007 just after the formation of the company. Prior to this, I have moved around between the private, community, and government sectors. My early career started in road design with Main Roads in Tasmania and moved into the engineering industry working for many years with a number of local firms and including a number of years with SKM. My Career then branched into Facilities Management in NSW overseeing a number of large-scale schools and housing portfolios. This later resulted in working for the state department of Housing in Tasmania and then establishing a Community Housing entity in Tasmania. I then held a short-term contract with ISS Facilities Services prior to commencing with Horizon.
How did the idea for your business come about?
Horizon Housing Company was formed from the vision of providing affordable and innovative housing solutions. In 2006, the Queensland Government was looking to support the growth of the community and affordable housing on the Gold Coast, and a group of community-minded professionals got together to support the amalgamation of Gold Coast Vision Housing and Gold Coast Community Housing Association in order to provide a strong organization to support people in need of housing on the Gold Coast.
What has been the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome?
Handling the significant growth of the company, along with delivering the increasing sophistication required, has been a major challenge for Horizon, but it’s one that we’re rising to. We recently implemented a new Enterprise Management System, took on a Chief Operations Officer, and more closely aligned our management structure to ensure that we can work more effectively. Throughout, we’ve never lost sight of our core business; delivering innovative affordable housing for those in need. Another significant challenge has been balancing the objectives of the community sector with driving a business model to ensure long-term viability.
What has been the most effective form of advertising for your business?
Horizon has built a reputation amongst the government and the housing sector for delivering innovative and high-quality housing solutions. We manage to balance the core community aspect of our business with professional service, and our owners, funders, and partners appreciate that. We’ve also had success with awards, winning the UDIA Qld Awards for excellence three years running. The main avenue for marketing is to draw attention to these successes and the great outcomes for our clients.
How important is social media to your business?
Horizon has approached social media cautiously. The privacy of our clients is incredibly important to us, and so we need to be careful how we connect with them in the online environment. That said, we’re launching our social media platforms in the next few months. We think if managed carefully, it will provide us with a great two-way connection with our clients.
What do you think the Federal or State Government could do to help make it easier for small businesses?
More funding and programs to assist in increasing the affordability of housing will push down the cost of living pressures, helping renters and homeowners put more money into other areas of the economy, as well as reducing pressures on wages.
The reduction of red tape and removing the multitude of compliance and reporting requirements will also help, as these requirements impose significant costs on small businesses. Whilst compliance and conformity with regulations are crucial, we spend significant time reporting similar information to multiple entities.
What are your plans to expand the business?
The community housing sector is growing rapidly across the country, as governments switch from direct provision of social housing to procurement. The Queensland Government is looking to transfer the management of over 50,000 properties to not-for-profit providers like us, and we hope to secure a good proportion of that. We’re also working on developing more affordable housing through partnerships with the private sector.
Horizon currently has approximately 2400 properties under management with our strategic objectives to take our portfolio to 6500 by 2015.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It’s going to be an exciting few years for Horizon Housing, and we’re looking forward to the challenges! Our organization employs 70 staff and hopes to expand that to over 100 in the next 12 months, along with rolling out numerous new affordable housing developments and properties under management.