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New Research Calls For National Housing Strategy

29 May 2018 at 5:05 pm
Luke Michael
A unified national housing strategy is crucial to addressing Australia's shortfall of more than 200,000 affordable properties, according to new research.

Luke Michael | 29 May 2018 at 5:05 pm


New Research Calls For National Housing Strategy
29 May 2018 at 5:05 pm

A unified national housing strategy is crucial to addressing Australia’s shortfall of more than 200,000 affordable properties, according to new research.

The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) released a new report on Tuesday, examining evidence-based principles and strategies to increase Australia’s affordable housing supply.

It found that a national strategy would help integrate the financial and policy settings of different states and territories to deliver affordable housing outcomes across the entire housing system, from affordable rentals and home ownership to social housing.

Researchers from the University of Sydney, Curtin University and the University of New South Wales investigated strategies governments have used to increase the supply of affordable housing, and found them to be constrained by funding issues and an increasingly market driven environment.

They noted that current affordable housing projects often relied on one-off funding arrangements that were largely non-replicable, which is ineffective compared to having a clear long-term strategy to generate production and management efficiencies.

Lead researcher Professor Nicole Gurran said government support for affordable housing was vital.

“In places where they’ve been undertaken, innovative affordable housing strategies and programs rely on strong political leaders who take a whole of housing industry approach to consultation and implementation, and who communicate objectives effectively to all stakeholders,” Gurran said.

“We also determined that a strategy or program must be resilient, with clear targets and measurable outcomes, and must be able to survive a change of government.”

Gurran told Pro Bono News that an effective national housing strategy needed to be “holistic”.

“The strategy needs to combine an overarching vision and policy that is system-wide and then it needs to combine its policies, levers and programs around an integrated approach to the whole system,” she said.

“We call in our report also for the revival of an independent advisory board at a national level, able to assess the evidence and provide independent advice to government on housing needs and options to address that need.”

The research found that all levels of government needed to have their own housing strategies, to come under the umbrella of an overarching strategy.

“All levels of government can contribute within a national framework, common vision and purpose, with specific strategies developed and implemented by state/territorial and local governments to address their different housing pressures,” the report said.

The report identified potential for Australia’s not-for-profit housing sector to substantially grow.

The researchers believed these organisations could help preserve long-term affordable housing and provide essential services at a local level.

“The primary supply challenge appears to be maintaining supply levels when house prices are soft and when interest rates are increasing,” the report said.

“Greater reliance on the NFP sector to deliver supply, when the for-profit sector is restricted by a softening of demand, is an important supply strategy.”

Gurran said the NFP housing sector had a vital role in addressing the affordable housing shortage.

“The not-for-profit housing sector at the moment in public and community housing is about 4 per cent of Australia’s housing system. But in the UK for instance, you’re looking at more like 17 to 20 per cent,” she said.

“In Australia we are entirely dependent on the private market to meet all of our housing needs. We have 1.3 million Australians and growing who are unable to meet their needs in that private market without government assistance. And yet we don’t have [adequate] levers in place to support them.

“So we need to grow this sector of the housing system, so it can operate in response to housing needs… it gives us a stronger basis for addressing housing need rather than being entirely dependent on the property cycle.”

Canadian community housing expert Derek Ballantyne told Pro Bono News in April that Australia could learn from Canada’s success implementing a National Housing Strategy.

Gurran agreed that Canada’s approach was something Australia should model itself on.  

“Canada has developed a national housing strategy that is very impressive. They have put a very serious funding commitment behind it. It is absolutely comprehensive,” she said.

“It looks at the continuum of need, which recognises that people with the highest needs will need the most funding. That said, it still introduces a lot of different levers that work on different aspects of the housing system all the way through to assisted home ownership.

“So it is a model we can learn from in Australia, given its comprehensive approach to looking at all the different elements of the housing system and the different policies, subsidies and levers available to governments to make the system better.”

The research report was launched on Tuesday at an AHURI conference in Canberra, where Labor’s shadow housing and homelessness minister Doug Cameron gave a speech.

He said the development of a national housing strategy was critically important.

“The Commonwealth cannot continue to blame state and territory governments and local councils for lack of supply of suitable and affordable housing,” Cameron said.

“A concerted effort to develop a national housing strategy that includes all levels of government, business, the finance sector and the superannuation industry is fundamental to addressing what for many are the [insurmountable] challenges in accessing an affordable roof over their head.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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