Looking beyond housing to create a system for home
15 June 2021 at 8:32 am
Advocates say the NFP sector has a key role to play in shifting the national debate around housing
Australia needs to look beyond issues of supply and affordability to create a new housing system that puts people at its centre, according to a new report.
The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) has recently released a book, entitled The Future of Home, which explores the importance of home in providing the critical foundations needed for a person to thrive.
This book – the culmination of seven years of research from TACSI – says Australia’s current housing system is too focused on supply, affordability, and meeting the needs of vulnerable groups.
While these factors are important, the book says they are only symptoms of greater issues within the housing system that won’t be fixed without systemic change.
TACSI believes we need a new housing system that works for everyone. But first, there needs to be a shift in thinking about what good housing looks like, to consider how the homes we live in set us up to reach our potential in all areas of life.
How would a new system look?
Researchers have developed a framework that sets out three critical functions of home – agency, connection and identity – which are vital to creating a new system.
Agency is about having control over where and when you move; identity involves connecting with others around you and having access to support services and amenities; and connection gives you security and the freedom to do the routines and hobbies that make you who you are.
Brugh O’Brien, the principal of Future of Home at TACSI, told Pro Bono News these elements must be enabled to help people live their best life.
“The three critical functions of home are important because we really see that as the outcome we need to be producing for people regardless of where they exist in our home and housing systems,” O’Brien said.
“All parts of the home and housing system should be working towards enabling these three critical functions for everyone.
“It’s basically how we’re likely able to get ahead in life, both individually, but also collectively as a nation.”
The book says to achieve these functions, a “system for home”, where houses and neighbourhoods are shaped by the people who live in them is needed. Also vital is having easy access to other services, including health services, wrapped around the home.
O’Brien said a system for home would offer a greater diversity of options when it comes to buildings, finance and ownership.
“Rental and ownership are the two key mechanisms in which people have a place to live in the market context. And then in the social context, it’s still very much a rental model, whether that’s public housing or social housing.
“We have an incredibly diverse population, and the diversity of our population is not reflected in our home and housing system.”
The neighbourhood of 2040
The book contains a section on the “neighbourhood of 2040” which shows examples of a more diverse housing mix.
In this neighbourhood, long-term rental agreements are the norm, so renters can become part of their communities over time.
A citizens’ assembly plans and decides what gets built in the community, not the local council.
Co-housing options with shared spaces allow greater flexibility for people as they age, and adaptable home design – with features such as moveable walls – means people can stay in their home as their needs change over time.
O’Brien said this kind of neighbourhood was definitely achievable within the next 20 years.
“We think it’s absolutely realistic. These [innovations] already exist, but they exist on the fringes and there’s already people working in those areas,” he said.
“We need to focus on how we can make these things more part of the mainstream, so we can scale it and make it more accessible to people in Australia.
“It’s about giving people access to the right kinds of homes and thinking about how we’re actually setting people up to get the most out of life.”
The NFP sector’s role
Creating a new housing system requires work from many different stakeholders, from local councils, to financial service organisations and policy makers.
O’Brien said the social sector also had a key role to play in this.
He said while the sector pushes hard for greater housing supply and affordability, it needs to shift the debate beyond these issues.
“We think the not-for-profit sector is one of the biggest players in this debate. And it can really be on the forefront in shifting what this debate looks like at a state level and nationally,” he said.
“We need to take into account the circumstances we’re expecting people to live under, in addition to those issues of supply and affordability.
“How can we get people into homes that act as a social asset in their lives, which they can actively and intentionally leverage to reach their potential?”
You can take a look at The Future of Home here.