Why keeping pace of disruptive technology is crucial to housing practitioners and policy makers

Can Australia harness digital disruption for better housing outcomes?

4 October 2018

Why is AHURI’s next national one-day conference ‘Disrupting the housing market’ so critical for policy makers and practitioners across the government and non-government sectors? Because it’s about understanding the future that may contest everything we know about how housing works. New technologies, ideas and processes that are more efficient, cheaper to run and quicker will tend to replace those that came before; in essence they disrupt the previous state of affairs.

The impact on government policy and services

Government plays a crucial role in Australia’s housing market—from providing housing assistance and support to those low-incomes, to regulating the private rental market, to planning interventions aimed at increasing developments and improving new supply. New technologies are disrupting, or have the potential to disrupt so many functions of housing policy makers:

  • the digitisation of social housing tenancy management processes
  • state and local government’s adoption of geographical information systems for urban planning
  • translating legislation or policy documents into computer based decision flow charts to automate the provision of housing services and assistance
  • The opening up property data assets across governments and the impact on data standards, data sharing and privacy
  • creating digital platforms to facilitate swaps and transfers in public housing

The impact on community and affordable housing providers

The community and affordable housing sector will also be affected by disruption. The sector delivers housing and support to those on low-incomes and provides both rental housing and different forms of purchase whereby low income households can buy a home. New technologies are disrupting, or have the potential to disrupt so many functions the sector provides:

  • social housing tenant welfare benefit and service needs data accessed by different service providers in order to increase efficiency and effectiveness, with consequent questions on maintaining privacy
  • access to high quality, currently restricted government data that could empower better governance and long term planning
  • the automation of housing tenancy management processes to reduce maintenance costs and better match tenants to properties
  • artificial intelligence to increase accessibility or enable faster information processing of clients, thereby reducing wait times
  • blockchain protocols that could allow tenants to own a share in the property they live in

The impact on the private housing industry and on its support services

The private market is the major supplier of rental and for-purchase housing in Australia. The market comprises a wide range of businesses from property developers, investors, builders and real estate agents, to those that supply services such as maintenance and management software. The new disruptive technologies include:

  • large unified datasets for urban analytics across Australia’s cities and regions, including sales data, council rate valuations, household incomes, employment projections etc. (for e.g. to better understand the incentives and potential revenues from infrastructure investment)
  • blockchain protocols that could allow investors to own tradeable shares in property (currently happening in the US)
  • smart contracts using blockchain to reduce or eliminate transactions costs and fees associated with purchasing property
  • improving transparency in property development and management costs leading to lower costs for property owners
  • ‘smart tenancy products’ that can hold bonds in escrow, automate rental payments, and manage maintenance workflows

But before any disruptive technology is fully embraced should it be assessed against the measure of does it improve circumstances for the greater number of people? Can Australia’s housing systems—including the public, community and private systems—use the power of disruption to provide more affordable housing, an outcome that benefits everyone across our cities and regions?

The AHURI Conference will tackle these questions and your involvement is critical to ensuring the sector is ready to adapt to the changes.

For more information, and to register, visit the event page on the AHURI website.