Kris Daff is a developer with two companies. The first, Make Ventures is a more traditional development company, focused on urban infill. It’s the second that Kris is wildly passionate about, and that passion is wildly contagious. Assemble Communities, a developer and “community manager,” is offering a housing model that sets out to solve the very many problems that low to moderate income folks are confronted with when looking for a stable, permanent housing solutions in Australia. And Kris plans to do that at scale.
Assemble is building communities, not just housing units, with a unique housing model that allows you to lease a property, and after five years, choose whether or not to buy it. Not unlike car-leasing models. The idea is that prospective buyers can ‘sample’ a community before committing. And Assemble, as a community manager, provides assorted services like dog-walking, dry cleaning, cleaners, parcel pickup and arranges assorted community events like yoga or exercise groups, dinners and more. They even have a culture ‘magazine’ called Assemble Papers. Kris describes Assemble as “an organization that provides end-to-end property development and management services”.
“We buy development sites, build ‘multi-family’ (long-term rental) properties, and enable communities to develop within and around them.”
Kris is the Managing Director of Assemble and is also Managing Director of Make Ventures. Originally trained as an engineer, Kris is an experienced property professional and, on the weekends, he can be found cycling around the bay – or swimming in it with his family.
Insights and Inspirations
- “It’s not about being a megalomaniac,” says Kris. “It’s about saying this country [Australia] needs solutions at scale.”
- Kris has become disenchanted with the standard approach to selling housing which ignores the worker market. He’s developing an approach that provides housing opportunities for those who need it the most.
- Assemble’s model is a bit like leasing a car. Try your unit for a while and if you like it, you can buy it.
Information and Links
- Kris’s first project under the Assemble Model, 393 Macaulay Road, Kensington is a partner project of Homes for Homes.
- Kris is involved in Housing Hive by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.
- 15 Thompson Street, Kensington, is Assemble’s latest development project.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: [00:00:06] Hi there, thanks so much for joining me today for the latest episode of Impact Real Estate Investing.
Eve: [00:00:12] My guest today is Kris Daff, a fellow Australian. Kris is a developer with two companies. The first, Make Ventures, is a more traditional development company focused on urban infill. It’s the second, Assemble, that Kris is wildly passionate about, and that passion is wildly contagious. With Assemble Kris is building uniquely personal, affordable housing products and solving the very many problems that low to moderate income earners are confronted with when looking for a stable, permanent housing solution in Australia. And Kris plans to do that at scale.
Eve: [00:00:54] Be sure to go to rethinkrealestateforgood.co to find out more about Kris on the show notes page for this episode. And be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you can access information about impact real estate investing and get the latest news about the exciting projects on my crowdfunding platform, Small change.
Eve: [00:01:21] Hello, Kris, thanks so much for joining me today.
Kris: [00:01:24] Hi Eve, thanks so much for having me. Looking forward to having a chat.
Eve: [00:01:27] Nice to hear a similar accent. Anyway, so you’re a real estate developer and you have two companies Make Ventures and Assemble, which are both great names, by the way, and I’m wondering why you have those two companies and what each is focused on.
[00:01:46] Sure. So, I’ll start with Make, and Make’s a very traditional real estate development and investment company. I established Make about five or six years ago to focus on the acquisition of real estate for large scale urban renewal projects in Melbourne. And we were successful in that pursuit of those projects and they’ve sort of been the longer-term planning processes. And one of the things that came out of all of that was we ended up with a sort of forward pipeline of a lot of housing for that business, you know, sort of several thousand apartments across multiple locations.
Kris: [00:02:24] And one of the things that I’d sort of worked out for myself, personally, is I’ve become very disenfranchised with the traditional delivery mechanism of housing in this country, which is, housing which is delivered via an off-the-plan sales approach. So, and, so the typical approach is, you would go and set up a display suite, sales suite, appoint a real estate agent to come and do a whole bunch of marketing and spend a whole bunch of money on all of that and you’d get investors and essentially some owner occupiers and, sort of, whoever would turn up and pay a 10 percent down-payment and then sign a contract, would sort of have a, get a right to buy an apartment off you at the point at which the building was finished.
Kris: [00:03:11] And it was a very impersonal relationship between a developer and their clients, which then not the residents, because typically you would have all the investors, typically you’d have a real estate agent managing that transaction for you. And I could sort see, you know, that that sort of writing was on the wall a bit with that model. And I think that model will still be an important model moving forward in this country but it was obvious to me that with the emergence of our superannuation investment industry, so the fourth largest pension fund market in the world, so, a huge volume of capital available from those sources, that institutionally owned housing as we would typically see it in mainland Europe, North America and some other geographies internationally, would emerge as a very important asset class in Australia where it hadn’t really existed previously. And I think there’s a few reasons for that, is, one that, sort of, hadn’t needed to exist because whilst off-the-plan hadn’t been perfect as a delivery mechanism, it had done a reasonable job of keeping up the supply of housing this country needed.
Kris: [00:04:20] So what I then embarked on was a, sort of, international sort of approach, research thesis on saying how does housing get delivered internationally, and housing that’s of large scale but owned in one line then offered for, sort of, long term secure rental for residents for whom ownership may be difficult, what does that look like internationally? And I think the sort of lessons for me is, from North America I took commercial models and taxation settings and some other things that I think that market is super sophisticated in, and from Europe I took, and particularly locations in mainland Europe and particularly places like Netherlands and others, I took an approach to the development of long tenure housing, the development of community in that setting and, you know, the sort of housing co-operative type approach and the sort of self-curation of community by residents. There’s been, a sort, big lesson from that geography. So, all that got me to a point at which I understood the sort of secret sauce, if you like, to what is the approach to the management of large scale institutional housing projects, was really the key to their success and providing an infrastructure within a project in a future neighborhood to let your residents have a very good, productive, sort of wholesome life there.
Kris: [00:05:47] So, we basically acquired Assemble which was an existing development business that was doing a very good job of community occupant-centric type projects and transitioned that business and its approach to the development of contemporary and engaged neighborhoods to be our multi-family housing platform so, or will-to-rent platform, as we call it here. And now, you know, Assemble’s really the face of everything that we’re sort of doing and Assemble will be, sort of, partner, the housing partner for all our clients and future residents moving forward. So, it’s really exciting.
[00:06:27] So, we only do very low, low, and middle-income housing. So, we don’t do what I, sort of, call juiced-up multi-family, like I’ve, sort of, seen in New York. So, we don’t have a pools and gyms and indoor driving ranges and saunas, and we don’t have someone that will do the dry cleaning for you and put it back in the closet upstairs and all that sort of embellished life. I don’t believe in any of that, which is I guess, more that reference back to the, sort of, a more sort of simple life. The people get a much deeper level of support in one of our buildings than they will in a traditional Owners Corporation type arrangements.
Eve: [00:07:02] You know, what I’ve learned about Australia is that it’s really a for-sale market and most developers build housing products for sale, and yet they’re so expensive. I don’t know how someone gets into that market when they’re a civil servant or they can’t afford, as you said, that sort of embellished lifestyle.
Kris: [00:07:24] Yeah, they can’t. And I guess the systemic problem that comes with that. There are some better value options around but traditionally that’s been found in the far reaches of outer suburban Melbourne, which is a sort of systemic problem with our housing market where you’ve got the people that can least afford to be located 40 kilometres from the CBD or place of work, at a hospital or whatever else, all the people that make our city run get dislocated to these areas and they need to have two motor cars and, you know, they’ve got to have access to public transport and don’t get to see their families as often. So,
[00:07:59] That’s a very American problem, too. Definitely.
[00:08:02] Yeah, yeah. So, we sort of researched again, so, home ownership, given how expensive housing is in Australia for some people it’s just going to be very difficult, if not impossible. What we started researching then is saying: well, if you can provide ten-year certainty, so long-tenure housing, across the spectrum of incomes, how would that make people feel about their housing future? Because one of the things that we identified is the thing that people really crave in Australia is, and need is, sort of longer-tenure housing options.
[00:08:40] And the issue that a lot of Australians are facing who are likely to be long-term renters is that they are stuck in a year-to-year leasing cycle and the fact that they’re only getting twelve months lease at any one time doesn’t allow them to put down roots in a location in the same way that you would if you were in a position to be able to purchase a property. And that lack of, sort of, tenure certainty results in significant levels of housing anxiety. So, people are just nervous about what their housing future looks like. And the extension of that is just, well, if you’re stuck in a year-to-year leasing situation and the landlord’s got the potential to just sell the property or kick you out so they can move their kids in or whatever, who are at university age, for example, might be a good example. So, how does that make you, sort of, feel about your housing future? What’s your propensity to really engage in that neighborhood, in that community? Are you as likely to volunteer or join the local gardening group or, you know, do you get nervous about this warming relationship with your neighbours and other people in the community for the fear that your landlord might kick you out at the end of the year and you’ve got to move three suburbs over? So, what’s the point? So, how do you get your children into school and make sure they don’t have to move schools halfway through their primary school education, for example? All those things together create a lot of nervousness in our housing market for people that are struggling to access ownership place.
Kris: [00:10:10] What we’ve done is, Assemble’s delivering multiple options to the lower/middle income Australians one of which is we give people a five-year lease and then the option to purchase their property at the conclusion of that lease. They’re not obliged to do so. And we provide them with a supportive program of financial coaching and cost-of-living savings initiatives. So, we do a lot of bulk-buying, for example, of sort of household cycles in the like and try and bring down their cost of living to put them in a better position to save for a down-payment on the property at the end of the lease and to just get people sort of more familiar with the concept of ownership. And that’s been the very popular program. So, we’ve got 10 or 12,000 people registered their interest in being in one of our buildings now, And then, so, we’ve got about a thousand apartments in the pipeline for that part of the business in Melbourne.
Kris: [00:11:05] And then separate to that, we’ve got about 2800 apartments which will be delivered as wholly owned communities in a sort of multi-family approach. So, they’ll stock properties that are only available for rental, and never an opportunity to buy your individual apartment. But that’s catering to a different part of the market. And in those projects, we’ll be able to deliver about 20 percent of the housing to very low-income Australians. So that’s social housing type rentals who would qualify for Commonwealth assistance and the like for their rent.
Eve: [00:11:38] So does the government provide you with any assistance in building these out, or do you just, do the only provide assistance to the renters?
Kris: [00:11:47] In our circumstance we’re not getting any direct financial assistance from government. Quite interesting, actually, so I’ve spent a lot of time with our different layers of government. The, sort of, State Government and parts of the Federal Government and I’ve always premised all our commercial models and investment models on not requiring significant taxation change, and the like, to affect our project outcomes. So, I’ll go and have a discussion with, say, a State treasurer about what we’re doing and say: “You know we’re building this, and we don’t really need your help financially” and they’re always trying to find an angle in. They’d say: “this is really fantastic. This is the sort of housing that we want. Are you sure we can’t be involved?” So, I think that’s important for us. And to be honest government’s got some very important roles to play and for us, mainly, it’s about planning consent, and the like, that we would sort of seek to lean on them to maybe get that happening a bit quicker than it might traditionally. But I think getting deep financial support from governments to deliver our projects is something that we’ve always tried to avoid because having government in there is a sort of as a counterparty can add complexity to the, unnecessary complexity to the transactions. So, we’ve focused on our sort of partners that we have – our community housing sector partners, for example, who do some extremely good work in very low-income housing. And then partnerships with our biggest superannuation investors to provide the capital required to build and own these assets long term.
Eve: [00:13:21] So, you said something that you glossed over, but I thought was really interesting, in that you help these tenants who might eventually own, you kind of teach them how to become homeowners. I’d love you to elaborate on that.
Kris: [00:13:34] With the option where people have got their half-a-decade lease and then the option to purchase a property at the conclusion of the lease. So, we allow those future residents to enter into those agreements in advance of construction starting. So, typically it would take us about two years to build one of our buildings from the point at which we start on site. So, they’ve got two years of construction plus a five year lease, so seven years in total, to be able to get themselves organized into a sort of regular savings pattern, to be able to be in a position to purchase their property at the conclusion of the five year lease. And the reason that seven-year period is being selected is, we did a lot of work with a couple of our large retail banks here on saying, assuming someone’s sort of started from scratch, how long would it take them to save a deposit to be able to purchase a property, based on different income bands, and the like? And about seven years is about the period that we arrived at. But what we did realize is, it’s very hard to change behavior without support. So, we employed an in-house financial coaching team to work with the residents from the day they sign up with us, so in advance of construction starting. So, we’ve got a multi-stage program that they can participate in adopting. So, some people are very comfortable with numbers and they understand savings and they know how to do a household budget and all those things. And some people just find that a bit more challenging. But at the moment, we’ve got about and 80 percent participation rate from households from our, sort of, future residents in the program. And it’s not, sort of, financial planning. We’re not doing, recommending investment options for them and those type of things, it’s more about how do you form a household budget? Tips and tricks about setting up a separate account to direct deposit some money into each month so that you can’t, sort of, access via a debit card or something that’s just sort of savings account. How to get better value on energy, data, these types of things.
Eve: [00:15:33] This is spectacular, ‘cause all that stuff is pretty overwhelming if you’re tackling it for the first time.
Kris: [00:15:39] I sit through all the sessions and I’ve learned a lot myself. So, I’ve got some better habits.
Eve: [00:15:47] I get bombarded by energy, data, and it’s like, oh no, how am I going to figure this out?
Kris: [00:15:52] And we’ll offer that too, so, through our buildings where people aren’t even on that homeownership pathway model, for people that are just long-term tenants of ours then they’ll have access to that program as well. So, it’s not just about supporting people ultimately, sort of, buying the property from us at the end of the five-year lease. But with other buildings that we’re doing, which are just long-term rental, we’ll also give them access to that team because we think the sort of lessons and, sort of, financial skills and things that Sarah and her team can give to people, just applicable whether you’re working towards ownership or whether you just sort of want to save for your grand holiday that you’ve been wanting to do for your whole life and you haven’t been in a position to save enough money to do, so.
Eve: [00:16:40] What’s the ultimate big, hairy, audacious goal for Assemble then?
Kris: [00:16:45] I think where we’re positioning ourselves, in terms of the businesses, what the team’s working towards is to be the pre-eminent affordable housing developer in this country. And we’ve got a very large pipeline of projects, as I said, now. And it’s not about, sort of, being a megalomaniac, it’s about saying this country needs solutions at scale. So, for me to sort of be mucking around and sort of doing 20 apartments here and thirty apartments there was never really consequential enough for me. So, we’re doing large neighborhoods of significant scale – you know most of our projects are between 100 and 1000 apartments in a single location. We don’t do towers and things but we’ve got some large sites that have the neighborhood of maybe a dozen buildings of eighty apartments each, for example – is to be able to demonstrate to government and other stakeholders that more affordable housing solutions are possible in this country and that we can deliver returns to institutional investors that are efficient, to sort of get them off the bench in housing. And we think that’s really important work.
Kris: [00:17:54] But, ultimately for me, I like the fact that we’re aligned with our future residents. So, when someone can sort of hand the keys back and say “oh thanks, Kris, you know you sort of told me this was going to be a super place to live and it was going to be, you know, warm in winter and cool in summer but, you know, it’s sort of not performing as well as I’d hoped it would.” It’s a sort of different type of alignment with your future community compared to a traditional development approach. So, you know, the things that I’m finding really enjoyable about the organization here is, we get a lot of people who want to work with us and be part of the team who wouldn’t otherwise be interested in participating in a development company. So that’s sort of purposely.
Eve: [00:18:40] You said you’ve got a thousand apartments in the pipeline, and one of the goals is to make sure these assembled living spaces are close to jobs. How do you select sites and are your tenants able to manage without a car? Because, of course, that makes housing more affordable, etc.
Kris: [00:19:01] Yeah, we select sites on a bunch of sort of different metrics so, typically access to heavy rail connections, strong public transport connections, putting them in locations where there’s an existing high level of sort of community and urban infrastructure in place, you know, retail, supermarkets, parks, community based infrastructure, sort of, health care services, employment services, those types of things.
Kris: [00:19:27] In terms of personal transport, we have a significant over provision of bicycle storage in our buildings, for example. We do have car parking available, but at a very much reduced rate to what you would traditionally see in a project in Melbourne. And we provide that to people on a needs-basis. So, you’ve got mobility issues, or you’ve got a dedicated work vehicle, or you’ve got young children, all those types of things then you would qualify for a car park in one of our buildings. If you’re otherwise sort of fit and well and just can’t be bothered walking 400 metres to get your groceries, then you wouldn’t get a spot. You wouldn’t get allocated a bay. Because we’re not strata titling most of our projects, we design those spaces to be – ’cause we get that car use will change over time and it already has, and the way that people get around will change – is we design those spaces to be able to be retrofitted to perhaps, if the buildings has got 50 car bays, for example, and in 10 years’ time the community is only using 30 of them, turn 10 into a music room that we can install into the basement or another workshop space, for example, for the residents to do little projects. So we design in to the inherent flexibility and the re-use of that space because there’s a lot of big buildings in Melbourne built 10, 20 years ago in the Southbank area, for example, where the recent City of Melbourne carpark survey says only about .4 of the bays that exist in those buildings are actually getting used, and it’s all being broken up into little chunks of building in strata titling and things and it’s really impossible to do anything meaningful with that space long term.
Eve: [00:21:11] So, like, what are your occupancy rates like compared to other buildings like this, or are there no other buildings like this?
Kris: [00:21:18] So we’ve got our first project under construction. So, we don’t have occupants yet, but it’s been fully allocated to future residents. So, we’re fully committed for the next project we’re doing, which is in Kensington, in Melbourne, in Thompson Street. There’s two buildings of 100 apartments each there and I think we’ve had 7800 people register their interest in that building. So, we’ve got, you know, a lot of demand, so but, that’s sort of saying you’re really interested in this. What that translates into, people that actually formally want to commit and sort of, you know, it might be sort of 10 or 20 percent of that number, but still a significant over subscriptions. There’s a lot of demand, I think, for housing and I don’t think it’s so much, obviously the access to the housing model is there and more affordable and everything else is, is something that people are very interested in and focused on in Australia where they feel like perhaps the housing market is not with within front of mind. But what’s more important, I think, is our approach to the development of the neighborhood within our buildings is just as important, if not more important to most people that interested in being in an Assemble building in the future.
Eve: [00:22:41] So what is the approach to the development in the neighborhood?
Kris: [00:22:44] Pretty organic. So we’ll have full-time on site staff at each location, but they’ll be, so, in our hospitality space downstairs in each building, for example, like the cafeteria, the cafe space and grocer, is all the front-of-house staff there will be trained in our system so, you know, they’ll be able to log a maintenance request or let you know when the next yoga class is going to be happening in the communal spaces, but, is an approach to say, well we’ve got a much more personal interface with our staff. So, the stuff that I’ve seen in other locations internationally is very much like hotel type concierge services. So, there’s a few issues with that for me. Personally, I think that embellished lifestyle’s just not a particularly sort of Melbourne style of living.
Kris: [00:23:30] Then the second thing is that that’s an expensive way to sort of resource a building. That would put pressure on our ability to deliver affordable rents and prices. We have staff that provide a sort of infrastructure and an approach to living somewhere with organized walking groups, yoga classes, gardening groups. But the idea is that we’re more in the sort of European housing co-op style of living, trying to transition the residents to be more self-managers of their little neighborhood, their little communities. The idea, from my perspective is, I’d much rather give half a dozen residents 40 bucks a week off their rent each and they look after all our gardens, than paying some contract gardener to come and, Jim’s Gardening or whatever, to come and do the weeding and, you know, pick the vegies or whatever for me.
Kris: [00:24:22] So that approach is going to take a while to sort of transition into. And I think what we’ll find, in our neighborhoods of, say we’ve got a hundred homes, is there’ll be 20 homes of that are hyper-engaged in the building community and sort of wanting to sort of do everything with your neighbors and everything else. And then there’ll be 60 homes that are sort of in the middle somewhere who are happy to do it but they want to be doing the gardening every single Saturday morning with their neighbors, for example. And thern there’ll be 20 people, 20 homes that have residents that, you know, just want to sort of come home and sit on the couch and watch The Voice or something and aren’t that engaged. And that’s, each one of those groups is fine. That’s just society cross-section, right?
Eve: [00:25:05] Yeah, that is typical, yeah.
Kris: [00:25:07] So you don’t have to be a green thumb or be an expert in fixing bicycles or whatever else to sort of be in one of the buildings. So, we’re not trying to engineer a social outcome. You know, it’s a random ballot to get a spot and one of our buildings.
Eve: [00:25:20] Interesting. So, what’s your background and what path led you to all of this?
Kris: [00:25:26] So by trading I’m an engineer, a civil structural engineer and I’ve got a geology degree also. So, engineering and science background but moved out of that sort of consulting engineering space very early in my career into sort of project management and then into more traditional development businesses. So, delivering developments where, you know, section one of the report each month on how the project was performing was always about, sort of, how’s the profit looking? So, it was always about the shareholder return, our investor return, and never so much about the sort of long-term outcomes that we’re generating with our projects. So, working in a few businesses, and did some projects I’m still very proud of, in that part of my professional life but found myself, as I said earlier, checking out of that delivery mechanism for housing, you know, sort of four, five years because it bought up such a large portfolio of projects, started investigating other ways of deal with the housing that was more aligned with our residents.
Eve: [00:26:29] Interesting.
Kris: [00:26:31] Yeah, so look, I learned a lot of good skills and things over the journey that are definitely applicable to this space, but plenty I’m finding it a lot easier to sort of get out of bed and go to work in the morning.
Eve: [00:26:45] Well, that’s good. That’s important. So, are there any current trends in real estate development that interest you or you think are really important?
Kris: [00:26:54] In Australia, in housing, I think the biggest emerging trend is going to be in social affordable rental housing. And that’s institutionally owned whole residential real assets. So that’s buildings and of scale, buildings in between 100 or 200 and 300 apartments, of which a large proportion’s very low-income housing. So, social rental, and that’s analogous to the United States market of the low-income housing tax-credit type component within a mixed tenure, mixed socio-economic buildings. And I’ve seen some very good examples in L.A. and in New York of the sort of mixed tenure outcomes that you can generate. And there is a limit to the amount of ultra-low-income housing you can sort of integrate comfortably with a, within a sort of market scheme.
Kris: [00:27:41] But I think in Australia, that asset class, particularly focused at the affordable end is going to be a sort of huge focus for investors and developers by the lot. But we’re positioning ourselves, I guess, to be a bit of a leader in that space. And I think that’s…
Eve: [00:27:57] That’s exciting.
Kris: [00:27:58] …really important work because they’re the people that are finding housing the most difficult. We’re doing a project in Coburg where we’re going to do 50 homes for older women fleeing domestic crisis, for example, and it’s the fastest emerging group of homelessness. So, you know, there’s some pretty bad sort of societal issues and housing is at the front of a lot of that. And no one’s shying away from it. Everyone knows it’s a big issue and everyone knows we need industrial-scale solutions to housing, and we think we can’t do all that, but we think we’ve got a role to play in guiding industry on models that can deliver moderate returns for investors. And the upshot is they’re going to get on and deliver at scale some housing solutions for the people who are finding housing the most difficult.
Eve: [00:28:46] What is a moderate return for an investor in Australia? What are you shooting for there?
Kris: [00:28:50] So, for our long-term rental housing we’re in the sort of mid-single figures for an equity return. That’s a levered return. You know, up to maybe the sort of high single figures depending on the mix. And then for our homeownership part-way products, more sort of in the high single figures. In equity returns, you know, I’m very familiar with what sort of returns pension fund investors get in North America, sort of similar asset classes. And we think we outstrip any large industry sort of transitioning relatively rapidly to international return level expectations. But it’s very difficult for a Superannuation Fund investor who’s there to represent the interests of their members. So, we’ve got millions of working-class Australians who have charged them with the responsibility of managing their retirement savings. So, to move first in a new asset class that’s not established yet, and things, has a whole bunch of inherent riskiness. But I’ve been very proud of some of our Superannuation Fund partners in how brave they are being in capitalizing us, to allow us to deliver housing solutions that have not necessarily been included before in this country. Yeah, and that’s generally because they believe it’s important work. And, in a lot of cases to be fair, Industry funds, so union-based pension funds, is where it’s particularly applicable to their members who may be in that sort of lower middle income. Probably got good jobs, good stable employment, but just don’t earn lots of money.
Eve: [00:30:27] Right. So, what is the next five years look like for you?
Kris: [00:30:31] We’ve sort of been going for five years now and the next five years for us is really transitioning, starting from the first half of next year into a pretty flat-out delivery phase. So, next year, we’ll look to sites, so start construction of about fifteen hundred homes across around six locations. And, so the last sort of four or five years is been spent getting capital support, getting planning consents, piloting, doing a small project in Kensington, which is 73 apartments, which is under construction and due for completion in May next year, to a phase where we can start to move into that industrial sort of scale delivery phase where we’re delivering extremely large neighborhoods across multiple models and getting to the solutions that are at scale and projects that are at scale for our superannuation fund investors because they need this sort of certain level in scale to make a project investable for them.
Eve: [00:31:32] Right. Maybe thirty thousand units in the next five years? Fifty thousand units?
Kris: [00:31:38] Wow, I don’t know. I think we’re looking at a stabilized portfolio, at the end of five years, around five to six thousand units. I think it would be a sensible objective, to the extent it, sort of, grows beyond that then I’m not sure. My nervousness is, you know scales useful for the provision of housing solutions, at scales extremely useful for Australians, but who are sort of seeking that tenure-certain housing at affordable rents but how do you hold onto the DNA of our offer and how do we make sure that our neighborhoods, you know if we’ve got forty of 50 of them, are being managed in a way that are sort of true to where we started? And that’s a good challenge, I guess, if you sort of get to that point and we become a very desirable housing partner for Australians. And then I’m sure I’ll be able to sort of find solutions to be able to keep the offer what we want it to be.
Eve: [00:32:36] It’s totally impressive and I can’t wait to see the outcome next year and the next time I’m in Melbourne I really love a tour, if you’ll give me one. You yourself have really impressive goal.
Kris: [00:32:48] Thanks, no worries. It’s been good. Doing new things is always challenging, particularly new things that are expensive, so like building buildings. But I’ve got a really great team here, we’ve got about 30 office staff now, we’ve had six new starters during the shutdown.
Eve: [00:33:06] Wow.
Kris: [00:33:06] Which has been challenging, but I’ve been extremely proud of the whole team. It’s interesting, actually, it’s a fascinating sort of study on ways of working and probably the majority, actually, of the team, I think, have sort of upped production for the same worked hours compared to what they’re doing in the office. So, not having the sort of distraction of the sort of coffee machine or overhearing conversations and whatever else. In the office environment, for some people that sort of focused work time’s really useful. So that’s been quite interesting. But on the other hand, the whole team are desperate to get back to the office because they’re sort of craving human connection.
Eve: [00:33:43] Yeah, we all are. You’ve had an easier time of it in Australia than we have over here. Thank you very much, Chris. And I really can’t wait to see what comes of all of this.
Kris: [00:33:55] Thanks Eve.
Eve: [00:33:56] Thanks for your time. Bye.
Kris: [00:33:57] Good on you, bye.
Eve: [00:34:11] That was Kris Daff. Wow. Chris is tackling an enormous housing problem in Australia head on, and he wants to do it at scale. His company Assemble is gearing up to build affordable neighborhoods that solve many of the problems low to moderate income earners have in Australia. But first and foremost, Assemble offers a long term and secure housing solution for those who need it most. You can secure a home in an incredibly expensive housing market by buying a unit after five years if you want to and Assemble will offer you all the support you need along the way.
Eve: [00:34:53] You can find out more about impact real estate investing and access the show notes for today’s episode at my website rethinkrealestateforgood.co. While you’re there, sign up for my newsletter to find out more about how to make money in real estate while building better cities.
Eve: [00:35:10] Thank you so much for spending your time with me today. And thank you, Kris, for sharing your thoughts. We’ll talk again soon but for now, this is Eve Picker signing off to go make some change.
Image courtesy of Kris Daff, Assemble Communities