AHURI News

AHURI conference hears support for a national housing strategy

Durable bipartisan support essential for any housing supply strategy

6 June 2018

The recent AHURI national one-day conference ‘Ready for growth: affordable housing supply solutions’ brought together delegates from the government, urban development and community housing sectors to examine strategies for increasing the supply of social and affordable housing.

Delegates heard representatives from all levels of government and from different sides of the political spectrum. Ministerial speeches included federal representatives Michael Sukkar, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer; Senator Doug Cameron, Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness; and state and territory leaders Yvette Berry MLA, Minister for Housing and Suburban Development in the ACT; and NSW Minister for Social Housing Pru Goward. Each member detailed their respective party and department's housing strategy, with a focus on social and affordable housing measures.

Professor Nicole Gurran from University of Sydney presented the major findings from the AHURI Inquiry into affordable housing supply. The findings support a move towards a national housing strategy that would integrate the different financial and policy settings of the states and territories, and deliver affordable housing outcomes across the entire housing system. Professor Gurran also commended the inclusionary planning schemes that have led to large increases in affordable housing in the USA, UK and South Australia. Indeed, in the UK, developments are expected to include 30 per cent of new housing as affordable housing.

In the ‘Role of governments’ session, Professor Steven Rowley from Curtain University presented the findings from AHURI research which examined Australian state level strategies and programs for increasing affordable housing. The research found those programs that were successful worked because they were championed by strong and sustained political leadership and were based on consultation with a range of stakeholders including the private sector, community advocates and housing experts. After Professor Rowley’s presentation the panel shared their insights and challenges in delivering these affordable housing strategies and plans into the wider community, and discussed what is required to create an affordable housing industry. The panel included government department representatives from the ACT Government, WA Government, Commonwealth Treasury and Inner West Council, NSW.

In ‘The Role of the sector’ session, Professor Bill Randolph from University of NSW, discussed how affordable housing project costs, revenues and subsidies interact. Drawing on AHURI research that analysed six development case studies, Professor Randolph explained how current development practice tends to be piecemeal, relying more on ‘What funding have we got and what can we do with it’ rather than ‘Who do we need to house and where?’ The research shows that having a mix of tenures in the developments from social to affordable rental and shared ownership helps the financial viability of projects.

A key message emerging from all sessions was that durable bipartisan support is essential for any housing supply strategy that will bring benefits to community, and that there is a real need for strong leadership to bring the Commonwealth and the states and territories together in creating solutions to the supply of affordable and social housing.

Professor Randolph also described the interactive modelling tool that was developed in the research, the ‘Affordable Housing Assessment Tool’ (AHAT). This was designed to help governments and community housing providers (CHPs) work out what subsidies, land costs and mixture of tenures is needed to include in a development in order to provide housing targeted at those who need it over a long time frame (up to 30 years).

A panel discussion then followed with representatives from community housing organisations CHC, Evolve Housing and Common Equity Housing. Speakers agreed that developers and CHPs were able to be great partners in increasing affordable housing supply, with each sector bringing skills and economic advantages to building new housing for lower income households. However there was recognition that CHPs are not going to be able to supply housing and support services for very low-income households without ongoing government subsidies or without the building of more mixed tenure developments that provide housing for subsidised rent to low-income households as well as for sale or market rent housing to more well off households.

Indeed, Mr Brad Hosking from Common Equity Housing colourfully described the situation where a state government has offered funding to CHPs but insisted that 75 per cent of tenants must be very low-income tenants as a ‘carrot that has arsenic in it’, in that while it is great to get money to build social housing, the ongoing rental subsidies for such a large number of low-income tenants reduces cashflow, making the economic future of the CHP uncertain.

The ‘Examining integration’ session presented panel members who have been involved in a successful partnership developing a range of affordable housing for the Ivanhoe redevelopment in Sydney. Speakers from the NSW Land and Housing Corporation,  Frasers Property Australia and Mission Australia outlined how the great success of this project is based on collaboration, community engagement, appropriate mixed tenure and rigorous evaluation. Indeed, Mr Richard McLachlan from Frasers Property Australia affirmed that without this collaboration with Mission Australia the project would not have been possible. He also encouraged developers and CHPs to seek each other out and ‘Find good development partners who get it; don’t wait around for the silver bullet’.

A key message emerging from all sessions was that durable bipartisan support is essential for any housing supply strategy that will bring benefits to community, and that there is a real need for strong leadership to bring the Commonwealth and the states and territories together in creating solutions to the supply of affordable and social housing.

The video and audio recordings of the speakers and panel discussions from the conference are available on the AHURI website.