The following excerpt was written in 2014 by
Mrs Valerie Hope Marland, AM MBE – Matriarch, Board Member and Secretary of Karabar Housing from 1986-2014.
[Hope Marland died in June 2014 at age 92]
“The beginning of the Karabar Housing venture is now only known to two people – Father Michael Cockayne and me, Mrs Hope Marland, so this article is being written so that all may know of the enormous amount of time, hard work and the obstacles we have had to face over the twenty-eight years of our existence.
In 1983 Michael was Parish Priest of Christ Church, Queanbeyan, and Hope was a practising Public Accountant in Queanbeyan and the Senior Vice President of the Local Government Association of NSW, in which capacity she had close association with Mr Tom Uren, MP who was the Federal Minister for Housing. He was keen to encourage Local Governments to take a more active role in the provision of housing for disadvantaged people and introduced a programme named “The Local Government and Community Housing Programme”.
Michael was very interested in making use of a one-acre block of scrubland in Cooma Street, as the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn was thinking about sale, which would mean the loss of the land to the Parish of Queanbeyan. He sought suggestions from the parishioners, including Hope, who also was passionate about suitable housing, having lived through the difficulties of getting a home in Sydney post-war. They discussed the possibility of using NSW government money to build homes on the land, which they proposed to lease from the Church. A requirement of the NSW Department of Housing was that the properties be built on land leased for a period of 50 years.
All parties were cooperative and the lease was agreed in good faith [although the diocese requested a lease of 25 years, with a 25-year option, instead of a 50-year lease]. Michael and Hope proceeded with their plan.
To qualify for funds there were many requirements to be met, including being a legal entity, an objective not easy to achieve. Through the accounting practice, Marland and Marland, Hope and Ken [Marland] had managed many Cooperative Housing Societies which specialised in home ownership, and formed a friendship with David Horton who was a lawyer and Head of the NSW Department of Housing.
David had left the Department and moved to this area to take up a position with the Permanent Building Societies’ Association. Hope shared her dream with him, asking if he would help her to form a Rental Cooperative to house disadvantaged people so they could apply for funding from this new government programme. David took some time to agree, but finally they formed Karabar Housing Cooperative Ltd, and have been Chairman and Secretary respectively since its formation in 1986.
Queanbeyan was blessed with builder David Loft, who designed the homes we proposed to build, and lodged all documents required by Queanbeyan City Council. More importantly, he quoted and adhered to his pricing, something that the Sydney bureaucrats who controlled the programme said could not occur. Only Hope [could] tell of the frustration and heartache involved in getting finance approved by the Department of Housing on the security of a mortgage of the lease we have over the land. However, we were only approved for half of our request, so we pushed ahead with an amended plan to build six houses. The project progressed speedily and Karabar Village was officially opened with our first tenants installed within a year. So of course we were granted the balance of funding to complete our little project of 12 houses immediately.
While this was going on, the Church was in need of premises and also wanted to build a much-needed pre-school in the area. Our builder agreed to design and build the required buildings. So Hope and Ken set up a fund on trust from their friends to raise enough money to build these premises with interest-free loans. The means of repayment was also innovative – the Cooperative would pay the lease money to the Diocese, which would repay the Cooperative this money, which would be used to repay the interest-free loans.
Hope asked the Lord for at least ten years of lifetime to repay these loans, as all the money was interest-free and all the administrative work was done without cost by the Marlands. Needless to say, this was all achieved within the ten years and St. Matthews Church and Karabar Pre-School came into being.
These buildings have been added to Christ Church assets without costing the Parish one cent of money or one hour of work due to the vision of the founders of Karabar Housing. These buildings were officially blessed by Bishop Owen Dowling and the Community Rooms became the Parish Church of the Special District of St Matthews until it was joined with the Queanbeyan and District Anglican Church.
The Housing Cooperative was very successful as the Board of Directors does not accept fees and all administrative work was done by Marland & Marland until the Principals retired in 1994. Thereafter Hope, as Secretary, performed all the work involved in collecting the rents, attending to arrears, receiving details of all repairs and organising tradesmen, paying all accounts, lodging all necessary forms to comply with the Registry of Cooperatives, negotiating with the ATO for our concessions as a Charitable Institution (now a Registered Charity), preparing the Annual Financial Statements for Audit, and attending to all correspondence, etc. of an Incorporated Body.
Since 1995 the secretary has been paid a small remuneration for this work, which was completely voluntary whilst the Marlands were in practice, and has been done over the past 29 years.
With money on hand from the sale of land owned by the Marlands, and following the success of Cooma Street, Karabar repaid the loan of $628,000 from the Department of Housing,
Hope suggested that Karabar should expand its activities and lease a block of land owned by Christ Church Parish, Lot 6, Ernest Street, Queanbeyan, and build units there. At that time, one of Hope’s clients, John Snedden, was building a development of townhouses in Queanbeyan, and for whom she was doing all the administrative work. He offered to share his sub-contractors with her, so she proceeded to plan, secure approval and, as an owner-builder, to build the three units in Ernest Street. This lease was for ten years and when the option came up, the Parish Council agreed to allow it to run on to coincide with the renewal of our option on the lease of Cooma Street. This is still the case."
Addendum: The original leases have since been renewed to 2044 and Karabar Housing and the Queanbeyan District Anglican Church are united in their ministry of providing low-cost accommodation to people in need in the Queanbeyan area.