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Meet Daniel and his pet dog, Ginger. Daniel is partnered with Hannah, and they both serve as dedicated officers in the New South Wales Police Force. Earlier this year, they faced a growing challenge – rising rent. This challenge not only threatened their family’s stability but also raised doubts about their commitment to their careers. Fortunately, HOPE’s innovative shared-equity solution came to their rescue, enabling them to purchase a home located near their workplace.

This has not only provided them with room to expand their family in the future but will also enable Hannah to fulfill her lifelong dream of being a police dog handler. Their story sheds light on the critical housing situation that many police officers in Sydney face and underscores the vital role that homeownership plays in ensuring the stability and security of law enforcement families amid recruitment shortages and an increasing exodus from the force.

The ownership challenge is real

After a decade of unwavering service, Daniel found himself renting a house on Sydney’s North Shore, close to the police station where he worked, his children’s schools, and his ex-wife with whom he shares custody of their two kids.

Renting had been a manageable solution for Daniel and Hannah until the relentless surge in rental costs began to take a toll. They were forced into doing a lot of overtime just to make ends meet. Daniel explained, “The rent just kept going up and up, and I thought, ‘Wow, we’ve really got to get out of this situation. But it felt like we have no options; we simply couldn’t afford to buy anything but an apartment in the area.'”

What made the situation even more challenging was Daniel’s concern about the impact a move would have on his daughters, aged 15 and 11. He said, “My kids are settled in school and have life set up around here. I can’t move away, it would seriously impact their life.”

Adding to their housing dilemma was Hannah’s lifelong dream to be a handler in the Dog Squad. As police dogs live and work with their handler, they needed a property with a decent backyard to accommodate her aspirations. Daniel emphasized, “Hannah has had the desire since she was a kid to be a dog handler. So, we couldn’t really consider an apartment because it wouldn’t allow her to fulfill her ambitions.”

Their search for affordable options nearby proved fruitless. Daniel noted, “We could have afforded to buy an hour’s drive away, but that would significantly impact the kids, especially getting to school. We’d forever be driving back and forth.”

Just when it seemed all HOPE was lost

Their situation took a positive turn when they heard about HOPE from another police officer who had been helped by the organisation. After some time on the waitlist, Daniel and Hannah received news that HOPE was able to assist them in buying a home through their shared-equity model. With HOPE’s guidance, they quickly found a perfect property in Allambie Heights, boasting a spacious yard perfect for dogs and enough room for the family. HOPE approved the property, set a purchase limit and Daniel and Hannah made an offer, which was accepted.

Their mortgage payments have turned out to be lower than what they had been paying in rent, significantly alleviating their financial stress. Daniel, who had advanced from being a general duties officer to working as a detective investigating homicides, can now concentrate on his complex cases with greater peace of mind. He admitted, “What’s great about achieving housing security is that I can now focus all my energies into my work and being the best dad and partner I can be.”

Reflecting on their journey, Daniel credited HOPE for their transformed circumstances, saying, “If it wasn’t for the fact that we can live close to work and the kids, I don’t know if I could continue being a police officer.”

It’s a big problem for the Force

The dire housing situation for police officers in Sydney is a widespread issue. According to the Police Association of NSW(PANSW), there are almost no affordable housing options for most members of the NSW Police. As a result, many officers now live far from their workplaces, enduring long and tiring commutes. Pat Gooley, Secretary of the PANSW, witnesses the challenge affecting the Force firsthand, stating, “Police don’t get paid enough money to live where they work, and they are leaving in their droves right now. We have a massive understrength issue, and housing is one of the factors contributing to it.”

Reports indicate that police officers across Australia are resigning in record numbers. Coupled with low recruitment figures, this has created a shortage of police personnel, placing additional pressure on those who remain. In response, the NSW Government announced plans in October to address the critical shortfall in police numbers by providing financial support to student police officers while they study at the Goulburn Police Academy. “While this represents a positive step, there remains a need for further measures to support the growing demands on our police force,” Pat Gooley says. “Solutions offering housing security for our officers are crucial, but this requires support and investment from corporate Australia – superfunds and the like.”

Solving the housing crisis

Homeownership, for Daniel and his family, has provided not only security but also the opportunity to build wealth for their retirement. It has brought some significant changes to their life. Daniel shared, “A small change is the kids have been asking for years, ‘When can I stick a poster up on my wall?’ And now, they can do whatever they want with their walls. A bigger change is now we have room to grow our family.”

Daniel plans to further invest in his home, aiming to install solar panels and batteries to make their property more sustainable. HOPE’s shared-equity solution has not only transformed this family’s life but has been pivotal in enabling NSW Police to retain two dedicated, well-trained officers in roles that are essential for our community’s safety.