Elie and Charbel Douna: Pioneering Affordable Housing Solutions in Wollongong and Illawarra

Wollongong, Australia is a region grappling with a housing shortage, two visionaries are stepping up to the challenge. Elie and Charbel Douna, the dynamic duo behind the Douna Group, are on a mission to make housing more affordable and accessible in the Wollongong and Illawarra region with the Douna Group of companies.

They plan to do this by building more affordable and accessible medium-density developments that are close to critical infrastructure and lessening the burden on new families, students and workers who have migrated to the region.

The Founders

Elie and Charbel Douna, the directors and founders of the Douna Group, are no strangers to the real estate industry. With years of experience and a passion for community development, they have positioned themselves as leaders in the field. They have developed tens of millions of dollars worth of projects and hundreds of housing units.

Elie Douna, reflecting on their journey, said, “Our goal has always been to create opportunities for families to have a place they can call home. The housing crisis in our region is real, and we’re committed to being part of the solution.”

Charbel Douna echoed his brother’s sentiments, stating, “We believe in building not just houses, but communities. Our developments are designed with people in mind, and we’re excited to contribute to the growth and prosperity of Wollongong and Illawarra.”

The Bigger Picture: Illawarra’s Housing Crisis

Anglicare Sydney’s Rental Affordability Snapshot showed that less than 1% of rental properties were affordable for people on low incomes in the Illawarra. Out of 1,051 properties, only 16 were affordable and appropriate for households on Government income support. Susan King from Anglicare emphasizes the need for changes across the housing spectrum, including an increase in social housing and tighter regulation on rental increases.

The new Labor government is taking action, with the 2023 federal budget shedding light on assistance programs like the Home Guarantee Scheme and the Commonwealth Rent Assistance program. Eligible renters could receive up to $31 a fortnight in assistance payments. But with median monthly mortgage repayments at $2,056 and median weekly rent at $400, many residents are still struggling.

According to Realestate.com.au, there were only 218 rental properties and 157 properties for sale in Wollongong last month. Interest rates have increased by 0.75 per cent per annum in 2023, impacting households with variable rate mortgages. The high cost and shortage of rentals, along with the unaffordability of buying and owning a home, are characterizing the housing crisis in the Illawarra.

Shelter NSW’s report highlights the housing need in Wollongong and Shellharbour, with both areas experiencing significant growth in the elderly population, posing challenges in terms of housing accessibility and affordability. There are also large proportions of low-income households experiencing mortgage and rental stress. The Confront the Crisis Summit in Wollongong called for collaboration and multi-level government leadership to tackle the housing crisis.

Addressing the Housing Shortage

It is no secret that there is a drastic shortage of housing in the Illawarra region, with a 25.7% increase in average rents in the past three years. Property prices have similarly increased while in the last year alone property prices in the Illawarra have increased 14.5%.

The housing shortage in the Wollongong and Illawarra region is a complex issue that requires innovative solutions. The Douna Group’s approach is multifaceted, focusing on both quality and affordability while increasing density near established infrastructure.

They are also strong advocates for further infrastructure spending in the region, and offering residents alternatives to car-oriented suburban living with public transport options. Most of their projects in the pipeline now are based on medium-density developments that are walkable to town centers and within walking distance of public transport.

Examples of this include developments in the suburbs of Avondale and Dapto, two growing areas that are both within walking distance of a vibrant town center and with a higher density of development provide a sense of community.

“We’re not just building homes; we’re building futures,” Charbel explained. “By focusing on sustainable development and working closely with local authorities, we aim to create housing options that are both affordable and desirable.”

Elie added, “It’s about more than bricks and mortar. It’s about creating spaces where people can thrive and communities can grow. We’re excited to be at the forefront of this movement, and we’re just getting started.”

A Vision for the Future

The Douna Group’s commitment to affordable housing extends beyond their current projects. With a clear vision and a dedication to excellence, they are poised to make a lasting impact in the region.

“Our work is far from done,” Elie said with determination. “We see the potential in Wollongong and Illawarra, and we’re committed to unlocking it. It is a rapidly growing region with a dire need for more housing. Together, we can build a future where everyone has a place to call home.”

Charbel concluded, “This is more than a business for us; it’s a calling. We’re honored to be part of this community, and we look forward to continuing to serve it in the years to come.”

For more information about the Douna Group and their projects, visit dounagroup.com.

Samantha Rigby
Samantha Rigby
Samantha is the head of content, lifestyle and entrepreneurial columnist for Best in Australia. She is also a contributor to Forbes and SH. Prior to joining the Best in Au, she was a reporter and business journalist for local newspapers.
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