Building for Better Lives: The National Housing Conference

The 2017 National Housing Conference (NHC) – the 10th instalment of this flagship affordable housing event, held in Sydney at the International Conference Centre from Wednesday 29th November to Friday 1st December – was an outstanding success. The AHURI team gives us a recap of the Conference highlights.

Convened by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) in partnership with the NSW Department of Family and Community Services, the 2017 National Housing Conference brought together over 1,100 delegates, all sharing ideas and progressing Australia’s housing system forward.

The theme for this year’s National Housing Conference, ‘Building for Better Lives’, recognised the foundational role of housing in the wellbeing of households, the building of communities and in making cities tick, which was further explored through a comprehensive program featuring over 40 sessions across the three days. High on the agenda was the critical assessment of opportunities and concerns for Australia, as the nation faces interconnected crises around housing affordability, urban planning and homelessness.

The program brought together leading researchers, politicians developers, funders, not-for-pro ts and policymakers for a cross-sector conversation.

The program brought together leading researchers, politicians developers, funders, not-for-profits and policymakers for a cross-sector conversation, and supported Australia’s ‘full spectrum’ housing policy debate – from homelessness, through social and affordable housing, responses to the housing market, land supply, land use planning and city deals, as well as Indigenous housing, and domestic and family violence.

The opening day saw delegates appreciate the international insight of Evan Siddall, CEO of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, as he gave insights into creating Canada’s newly announced National Housing Strategy, which has promised $40 billion over 10 years for affordable housing solutions.

Gail Gilman, enlightened the audience on how the US is approaching homelessness support.

Later that afternoon, award-winning journalist George Megalogenis mapped out Australia’s ever-changing political landscape and identified opportunities for policymakers to seize and deliver politically contentious housing reform.

Delegates heard from more international perspectives on the Conference’s second day, as Gail Gilman, Chief Executive Officer of Community Housing Partnership in San Francisco (USA), enlightened the audience on how the US is approaching homelessness support. Gail spoke of shifting success measurements and outcomes in supportive housing and, ultimately, moving towards a housing equity framework.

From the UK, Mr Piers Williamson, Chief Executive of The Housing Finance Corporation, featured on a panel of experts examining what Australia needs to do to optimise the new National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) so as to successfully jump-start the supply of more affordable housing.

The third day of the conference was marked by major announcements by the Hon. Michael Sukkar MP, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer.

The third day of the conference was marked by major announcements by the Hon. Michael Sukkar MP, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer. He announced key design features of the new NHFIC, including that it will have an independent board with responsibility for making all investment decisions; all registered community housing providers will be able to apply to the affordable housing bond aggregator for finance; and the Commonwealth will guarantee the issued bonds.

The Hon. Angus Taylor provided the latest updates on the Federal Government’s City Deals agenda, and the panel discussion that followed examined what role these City Deals can play in creating affordable housing in our established and emerging cities.

Outside of the major plenary sessions, the Conference explored a range of fascinating topics that unpicked housing, homelessness and urban issues from every angle. Highlights included:

  • Australia vs England: tenant choice and voice – a feisty debate that weighed up which country better engages tenants in the provision of housing by, importantly, featuring the voices of social housing tenants;
  • Scalpels and sledgehammers: breaking the tax deadlock – underpinned by brand new research, this panel debated how to navigate through the current political challenges and enable meaningful housing tax reform;
  • Locally made: affordable housing and local government – with local governments dealing with the realities of housing challenges in their jurisdictions, this panel featured case studies of how local governments are taking a leading role in developing affordable housing solutions.

This year’s Conference provided an opportunity to showcase the talents of many of the individuals for whom the Conference strives to help.

Outside the formal program, this year’s Conference provided an opportunity to showcase the talents of many of the individuals for whom the Conference strives to help. The Sydney Street Choir and the Chinese Tenant Choir – comprising a community of senior tenants living in the Riverwood Development run by SGCH – entertained the crowd with stirring performances during plenary sessions. In addition, the artistic talents of a group of tenants living in Bridge Housing were on display in a special art exhibition in the NHC 2017 Exhibition Precinct.

This Conference was the last for Dr Ian Winter, the retiring Executive Director of AHURI.

“I’ve been involved in all 10 National Housing Conferences to date, and this one marked significant progress in our national housing policy conversation,” said Ian. “For the first time, there was no longer a pre-occupation with establishing the size and nature of Australia’s housing affordability crisis. Instead, the Conference focussed on how to address it, marked by Minister Sukkar’s announcement of a Federal Government guarantee for the new National Housing Finance Investment Corporation.”

Click here to download the full program from the National Housing Conference 2017.  

The next National Housing Conference will be held at the Darwin Convention Centre, Wednesday 28th August to Friday 30th August in 2019.