Four outdated assumptions prevent progress on affordable housing – to everyone’s cost

Housing influences everything from productivity and employment through to intergenerational poverty and childhood education. Yet outdated concepts and thinking are shaping Australia’s troubled housing system.

My recent research – involving in-depth interviews with leaders across government, NGOs, the private sector and academia – identified four misguided assumptions about affordable housing.

These key assumptions are about:

  • the difference between housing affordability and affordable housing;
  • home ownership versus renting;
  • stereotypes about those in need of affordable housing; and
  • voters not valuing affordable housing.

Tackling these assumptions could help change how Australians think about their housing system.

Housing affordability versus affordable housing

The cost of home ownership has long been of concern for governments and people. These discussions largely relate to “housing affordability”, as it applies to those who live in – or aspire to live in – their own home.

There are two other categories in the housing market, which are less glamorous and well publicised. These are those in the private rental market (with or without government assistance), and those who cannot access the private rental market (and thus require access to social housing).

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