VOX POPS: What does the concept of better housing look like in Australasia?

Lisa Roberts || Housing and Property Team Leader @ Housing Choices Australia

“I think better housing for Australasia should include the notion of community. People invest in communities if they are safe, well-serviced and well-located, and I believe the greater the investment then the more a community will flourish.”

“Housing must be linked to the needs of people to achieve happy and healthy community environments – this should include green recreational spaces, flexible housing design and passive privacy innovations. Housing design should be flexible enough to meet the needs of changing demographics, physical abilities and achieve an age-in-place approach.”

“New housing estate developments should be mandated to include affordable and social housing. Luxury housing developments built on government-owned land should also provide a quota of affordable housing.”

“For me, better housing looks like more than just houses. I think it is the responsibility of all levels of government, developers and the broader community to ensure housing is part of the solution to building sustainable communities; reimagining and realigning social policy that will compel all stakeholders to think beyond the bricks and mortar.”

Nicholas Loder || Director @ Centre for Universal Design Australia

“Cities need to examine how they place housing as a driver for participation. Singapore has done a tremendous job in ensuring accessibility and participation for all new redevelopments lately, as has Barcelona’s holistic housing model of the Superilla.”

“Traf c within the Superilla is kept to 10 kilometres per hour (including the bicycles) allowing the spaces to become activated with engaged residents. Freight, delivery and commuting, plus public transport, is kept to an outside peripheral road system. Right in the heart of the city, residential accommodation and commercial spaces rarely breaking a five to six- floor height limit.”

“Lately, housing here in Australia has become less about the ‘street where we meet’ and more about wealth creation, infrastructure favouring incumbent ‘winners’ and a marked ‘Red Rooster Line’ delineating those with, and those without, good access to good paying jobs, the arts, good schools, public transport and services.”

If we are paying exorbitant rents or mortgages, have insecure jobs and little access to social goods and drive for hours to get to work, we are in effect ‘outcasts.’ Housing should not be pulling us apart, preventing all of us from engaging on the streets; it should be a concept based on citizenship and equal access to the city for all.”

Jamie Muchall || Chief Operations Offficer @ Horizon Housing

“Better housing would be housing that manages to be affordable, sustainable and accessible – affordable to both clients and to CHPs as developers; sustainable for the environment but also for tenants through case coordination and support service provision; and accessible, in both design and in location.”

“These ‘better homes’ would be developed by community housing providers to create mixed tenure communities that meet
the needs of a diverse broader society, without the need for capital funding from governments. In addition to the social value to the communities in which they are developed, these homes would also add aesthetic value, inspiring and uplifting their residents and neighbours.”

“Finally, better homes would be dynamic; they would evolve to meet the changing needs of their residents and communities, responding to individuals aging in place, and to communities whose needs and aspirations change over time.”

Greg Budworth || Group Managing Director @ Compass Housing Services

“For almost 40 years, federal governments in the developed world have accepted little responsibility for housing policy or supply. Instead, they have placed the burden for providing social and affordable housing on state and provincial governments, where they exist. However, the Canadian Government last month broke from this longstanding tradition with the release of  a national housing strategy called A Place to Call Home. It’s a move that could have significant ramifications for housing policy here in Australia and New Zealand.”

“The return of the Canadian federal government to the housing policy, supply and funding arena is a landmark moment internationally. It represents the first time in many years that a national government has acknowledged market forces alone will not solve a housing crisis. With the release of A Place to Call Home, the Canadian Government has recognised that meeting housing need for lower income families requires federal intervention and, most critically, federal subsidy.”

“Canada’s 10-year strategy will cost $40 billion (Canadian dollars) and has key targets that will make it the envy of many nations struggling with the crisis of housing affordability including Australia. These targets include the construction of 100,000 new dwellings, the repairs of 300,00 dwellings and the extension of a new housing bene t to around 300,000 families.”

“The question for our region is what precedent this now sets. Australia’s housing crisis is arguably worse than Canada’s, yet Australia does not have a national housing plan, targets, milestones, monitoring agency or minister dedicated to this serious issue. In recent decades, calls for a national housing strategy in Australia have generally been met with the reply that housing is a state responsibility and the federal government cannot intervene.”

“Canada has shown that it can. As a signatory to the 1948 Convention on Human Rights and, more recently, Agenda 2030 and the United Nations New Urban Agenda – which include, among other elements, the promotion of adequate housing being a human right, not simply a human need or human bene t – the Australian Government will now likely come under increasing national and international pressure to deliver the human right to adequate housing.”

“Like Canada, Australia’s major population centres routinely feature in lists of the least affordable housing markets in the world, and younger generations are increasingly locked out of home ownership. Both countries have also failed to maintain social housing supply at levels commensurate with population growth.”

“As ‘liberal welfare’ nations, there are also clear historical similarities between the Australian and Canadian social housing systems. In both nations, home ownership stands at 65 to 70 percent, private rental at approximately 25 percent, and social housing between 4.5 to 5.5 percent. In both instances, the early post-war commitment to social housing was weakened in subsequent years.”

“Both countries allowed the supply of social housing to decline, alongside a deterioration in the condition and amenity of what remained. The consequence has been similar patterns of housing stress, insufficient social and affordable housing to meet demand, and rising levels of homelessness. The fundamental difference between the two nations, at this point in time, is the willingness of the respective federal governments to do something about it.”

“However, Canada is not the only comparable country to Australia taking bold action on housing. The recently elected New Zealand Government has also announced major reforms to the housing sector, which includes the construction
of 100,000 new and affordable dwellings under the auspices of a new Housing Commission, the removal of negative gearing tax breaks for property investors, and the introduction of minimum standards for rental properties. In New Zealand, there is a housing minister and what looks like the development of a national plan.”

“The Canadian and New Zealand governments have demonstrated it is possible for a national government to
make a meaningful contribution to housing policy and supply. In Australia, a coalition of housing and homelessness peak bodies has launched a national campaign – Everybody’s Home – calling on the federal government to implement measures similar to those underway in Canada and New Zealand. Among other things, Everybody’s Home is seeking the construction of 500,000 social and affordable housing dwellings over 10 years, a review of current tax arrangements to promote home ownership opportunities for first home buyers, changes to tenancy laws to provide greater security of tenure for renters, and a review of Commonwealth Rent Assistance and other bene ts to ensure incomes support rental affordability.”

“In federal parliamentary systems, national governments have an important role in setting the taxation and welfare environment in which state governments operate. The good news is there are signs the Australian Government is starting to come around. The recent confirmation the Commonwealth will guarantee loans made under its bond aggregation model, tax bene ts for rst home buyers and downsizing elderly households are all great steps in the right direction, and perhaps a sign that government is once again recognising it has a responsibility to help deliver adequate housing for its citizens.”

“Housing is a critical area where a national strategy can unify all levels of government in addressing a challenging social problem. We can hope the Canadian and New Zealand examples will encourage further progress towards a coordinated and national housing strategy that meets the needs of every Australian as well.”