Low-cost housing for struggling families loses rates bid

A COMPANY providing low-cost accommodation to struggling families along the North Coast has lost a legal bid to gain exemption from council rates for being a charitable organisation.

Community Housing Limited is described on its website as a "not-for-profit" company delivering rental housing at less than three-quarters of the market rate to disadvantaged people.

It holds a portfolio of more than 4300 properties in Australia as well as others in India, East Timor and Chile.

It argued in the New South Wales Land and Environment Court it was a charitable organisation and should therefore be exempt from all rates other than water supply and sewerage.

The company took six NSW councils to court over its claim - Clarence Valley, Parramatta, Port Macquarie Hastings, Nambucca, Gosford and Coffs Harbour - but to no avail.

It claimed it existed to "shelter persons in crisis" and, as it did not make any profit, should be considered a charity.

However, a clause in its submission that it also provided training, job, education and employment opportunities caused an issue.

Justice Ian Harrison said the clause's wording did not convince him the organisation was charitable, effectively cancelling out any chance Community Housing Limited had to gain exemption from rates.

He also found that, because not all the properties were tenanted - some were vacant blocks of land - it could not be argued they served a charitable function.

Community Housing Limited was ordered to pay all of the councils' court costs and the case was dismissed.