Public Interactive Learning Lab Highlights Housing Policy

In a public discussion of the changes in housing markets and development in Melbourne suburbs, four University of Melbourne researchers Professor Piyush Tiwari, Kate Raynor, Dr Andy Krause and Professor Kate Shaw worked with an interested audience of public participants to understand the pros and cons of our housing market and what the alternative futures could be.

Those futures included housing designed for single individuals as Prof Piyush Tiwari indicated that this a significant growth area of housing need, with the number of single person households expected to exceed three million by 2020. Most single occupancy households will be young adults from the ‘millenial’ generation or older people looking to stay in their local communities while downsizing.

The idea of ‘appropriate’ housing flowed through the discussion as Prof Kate Shaw showed international housing developments that are economically viable and put social and community needs at the centre of development. Prof Shaw’s research has indicated that more social housing would be made available if land released to developers included up front caveats on the inclusion of social housing.

Dr Andy Krause discussed the ‘rules’ of the housing market in terms of public and private ‘good’. Housing sits in area where home buyers need protections – it is a high value purchase and with generally not many available in the market at any time. On the other hand house owners often benefit disproportionately from public expenditure on social goods such as transport, roads and parks.

The advantage extends even more so to those who live in the inner city, as Kate Raynor explained. Households on lower incomes tend to find more affordable housing in the outer suburbs but at the same time they then lack access to good public transport, jobs and other services that are centralised rather than dispersed. This makes accessing jobs and services more expensive in both time and fuel, creating further disadvantage.

There is a second demographic shift happening at the same time, according Dr Piyush Tiwari, as more Australians are looking for rental opportunities rather than buying their own houses. This change in housing preferences leads to a need for the market to move to longer term leases and more effective caps on rent increases in order to maintain a reasonable level of housing equity.

Professor Shaw suggested that Australia is now well positioned to change the way that we approach social housing. Following the lead of Canada and Berlin we can look to new types of cooperative housing models, housing associations and other mixed market solutions. Investments required to make this work in Australia could include legislative change to ensure that superannuation funds invest ~1% of funds to low return social housing models. Funding new housing in this way would nudge innovations in property development and create benefits through secure (if low) returns on investment to all of us.

Videos of the Housing Policy Public Interactive Learning Lab here:

HOUSING – 1. PROPERTY MARKETS, PUBLIC POLICY AND (BIG) DATA

HOUSING – 2. THE TWO-TIER CITY AND THE MISSING MIDDLE

HOUSING – 3. RETHINKING THE BIG AUSTRALIAN DREAM

HOUSING – 4. WHAT ARE WE BUILDING AND FOR WHOM?