Eliminating most homelessness is achievable. It starts with prevention and ‘housing first’


Angela Spinney, Swinburne University of Technology

The stereotype of a homeless person – those living in tents or sleeping in parks or doorways – is just the visible tip of the much larger crisis of homelessness in Australia.

For every one of about 8,000 “rough sleepers” there about 14 others staying in temporary accommodation or with others in severely crowded dwellings. That’s a total of more than 116,000 homeless Australians, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics census data.

About 60% are under the age of 35, though the number of homeless aged 55 and older has been steadily increasing. About a quarter are women and children fleeing domestic violence.



CC BY-SA

The causes of homelessness are complex. The sterotype is that it involves mental illness and substance addiction. But the more common denominators are poverty, unemployment and a lack of affordable adequate housing.

Whatever the cause, research by myself and colleagues for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute proposes a path forward to reduce, and even eliminate, homelessness in Australia.

To do so requires moving away from treating the problem in an uncoordinated manner at the point of crisis and investing in an integrated system that prioritises prevention, fast rehousing and an adequate supply of affordable long-term housing.




Read more:
Homelessness soars in our biggest cities, driven by rising inequality since 2001


A historical legacy

Australia’s existing approach to dealing with homelessness is the legacy of a response originating in the 19th century, long before the advent of the modern welfare state, relying on charitable institutions to pick up the pieces of an economic system failing to care for the most vulnerable.

This has resulted in a somewhat chaotic system of small-scale and often disconnected services that are funded to only put a band-aid on the problem. It is mainly oriented towards crisis responses, with limited resources devoted to responding to homelessness once it has occurred, often only providing temporary relief from homelessness.

Federal, state and territory governments provide about A$250 million a year in funding to the 1,500 not-for-profit “specialist homelessness services” – organisations such as Launch Housing and Vincent Care – to provide support services and short-term accommodation in refuges, hostels, motels and caravan parks.

But this is insufficient to achieve the aim of even providing temporary accommodation to all those in need. Homeless services turn away almost 60% of those who ask for help. People instead have to rely on the kindness of family and friends, or sleep in their cars or on the street, while they wait to receive assistance. There is no statutory duty to provide assistance to homeless people in Australia.

The status quo is an expensive and unsatisfactory approach. We can do much better.




Read more:
If we realised the true cost of homelessness, we’d fix it overnight


Housing comes first

An emerging trend internationally is to reorient homelessness service systems away from a largely crisis response and towards prevention and long-term solutions.

The key is a “Housing First” approach, investing resources into first getting people into long-term accommodation, and then providing support to address the reasons they found themselves homeless in the first place.

Once housing is secured, relevant support workers can then support clients with particular needs, from preparing for employment, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, negotiating the legal system arising from domestic and family violence, and psychiatric or psychological counselling.

Evidence to the superiority of the “Housing First” approach comes from Norway. Over the past 12 years the number of homeless Norwegians has fallen by more than 35%. This compares with Australia’s approach, which in the past 20 years has managed to only marginally reduce the number of rough sleepers while other categories of homelessness have continued to rise.

We need an integrated strategy

A clear deficiency in Australia’s approach to homelessness has been the lack of any integrated national strategy and leadership. This means funding arrangements in states and territories are piecemeal and inadequate.

The first step in moving to a “Housing First” approach is coordinated federal and state funding for an adequate supply of affordable and social housing.


Chart showing number of social housing dwellings completed each year in Australia from 1969-2018

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Author provided

As we outline in our new report Ending homelessness in Australia: A redesigned homelessness service system, an integrated national strategy would also include an enhanced role for universal welfare services such as primary health services, schools and colleges to assist people at risk of homelessness.

They would have a duty to prevent homelessness when possible, assisting clients to maintain their existing housing or to access new housing. Where this is not possible, they would refer clients to specialist housing services for assistance finding crisis accommodation, and then long-term housing.

In this system, providing crisis accommodation would be the solution of last resort.

That affordable housing is the first step in solving homelessness may seem startlingly obvious. But, counterintuitively, that’s not the premise of how the current system works.




Read more:
Victoria’s $5.4bn Big Housing Build: it is big, but the social housing challenge is even bigger


We cannot stress enough how much an adequate planned supply of long-term affordable and social housing that is appropriate, secure and safe is vital to any successful attempt to end homelessness.The Conversation

Angela Spinney, Lecturer/Research Fellow in Housing and Urban Studies, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What did COVID do to rental markets? Rents fell as owners switched from Airbnb


Caitlin Buckle, University of Sydney; Nicole Gurran, University of Sydney; Patrick Harris, UNSW; Peter Phibbs, University of Sydney; Rashi Shrivastava, University of Sydney, and Tess Lea, University of Sydney

COVID-related travel restrictions and the sudden drop in tourism provided an ideal natural experiment to examine the impact of shifts in the supply of short-term rental accommodation. Our research, released today, found even modest reductions in Airbnb listings, as owners switched to longer-term rentals, increased supply of these properties. The result was lower local rents.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused various upheavals, with obvious impacts on health and employment, as well as a big drop in international migration. The impacts of these changes on rental markets are extremely difficult to track, particularly the impacts on people on the margins of the rental housing system. We investigated these impacts by analysing online listings on common online platforms for share/low-rent housing and short-stay accommodation.




Read more:
As coronavirus hits holiday lettings, a shift to longer rentals could help many of us


Listings data show images, prices and descriptions of rental housing. These data provide an insight into this largely hidden sector of the housing market.

Of particular concern are people who:

What happened to these rentals?

Online platforms have transformed the ways in which people search for and advertise housing, so offer unique insights into the market.

We looked at listings of share housing and lower-cost rentals on Flatmates.com.au, Gumtree.com.au and Realestate.com.au between April and May 2020. We also looked at short-stay rentals on Airbnb.

Our primary focus was on Sydney, where Australia’s rental affordability pressures are most extreme.

We found demand for, and supply of, risky rental accommodation in Sydney continued during the pandemic.

In snapshots taken during lockdown restrictions in Sydney in April and May 2020, there were:

  • 402 advertisements for rooms or granny flats on Gumtree.com.au in May

  • 4,731 share accommodation listings on Flatmates.com.au in April

  • 2,923 people seeking accommodation via Flatmates.com.au in April.

Screenshot from Flatmates website
Demand for and supply of shared accommodation on online platforms like Flatmates continued during the pandemic.
Flatmates



Read more:
COVID spurred action on rough sleepers but greater homelessness challenges lie ahead


Which renters are most at risk?

Of additional concern are older people in risky rentals who are more at risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms. More than 6,400 renters over the age of 60 lived in share (“group”) households in Sydney at the time of the 2016 census. It was estimated over 4,600 were homeless.

People working in public-facing roles such as healthcare workers, and in food and accommodation services are also at risk of virus transmission. Many of them live in unsuitable rental housing due to the low-paid and transient nature of their work.

According to the 2016 census, over 8,400 healthcare and social assistance workers were living in rented group households in Sydney. Over 1,800 were estimated to be homeless. One Flatmates.com listing clearly expressed the difficulties healthcare workers’ face when seeking a share rental during the pandemic:

For those who think I might have COVID just because I’m a nurse, I can assure you that I don’t have COVID!!! 😛 (Flatmates “person” listing, April 2020)

The difficulties lower-income renters face in Australia’s major cities reflect a chronic undersupply of social and affordable housing. Pre-pandemic studies suggested the rise of short-term accommodation platforms such as Airbnb added to these pressures by draining properties from the permanent rental supply.




Read more:
As demand for crisis housing soars, surely we can tap into COVID-19 vacancies


What happened to short-term rental housing?

We looked at Airbnb listings in Sydney and Hobart between March and April 2020. Using Inside Airbnb data, we found the number of whole homes listed on Airbnb for more than 60 days a year decreased by 22% in Hobart and 14% in Sydney in that time.

Airbnb home page for Sydney
There were significant falls in home listings on Airbnb in Sydney and Hobart after the pandemic hit.
Airbnb

Vacancy rates, rental bonds data and Flatmates.com.au listings suggest these decreases occurred because Airbnb owners converted their properties into permanent rentals.

This translated to better outcomes for local renters. Even modest reductions in Airbnb listings were associated with increased permanent rental supply and lower local rents.

Median rents decreased in the June quarter in nine selected Sydney local government areas (LGAs) and Hobart’s four main LGAs. Rents fell by 2-9% in both cities.

Hobart was a particularly interesting case study because of its large penetration of Airbnb. The Airbnb market in Hobart City LGA is about 11% of the total private rental market. It experienced a much smaller drop in rental demand than Sydney because of its smaller number of temporary overseas migrants.

The drop in rents was directly proportional to the size of the Airbnb market in each LGA. Hobart City with an Airbnb density of 11% had a decrease in median rents of 9%. Glenorchy with an Airbnb density of 1% had only a 2% decrease in median rents.




Read more:
Ever wondered how many Airbnbs Australia has and where they all are? We have the answers


How to improve life for renters on the margins

Our study contributes to a growing body of evidence on ways to improve the housing circumstances of lower-income renters and people at risk of homelessness.

Government action, such as increased JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments during the pandemic, has helped people to continue to pay rent and avoid resorting to precarious rental situations. However, even with these increases low-income renters can struggle to pay rent in unaffordable markets.

Obviously, increasing the supply of social and affordable housing would reduce dependence on the precarious and marginal rental market.

Similarly, a permanent increase in income-support payments such as JobSeeker and/or Commonwealth Rent Assistance would enable more households to get adequate housing without extreme financial stress.




Read more:
$1 billion per year (or less) could halve rental housing stress


Higher regulation of the private rental sector would increase security for tenants and improve accommodation standards. We could look to New Zealand’s “healthy homes” framework for inspiration.

Finally, to preserve permanent housing supply in high-demand markets, states should impose controls on short-term Airbnb-style rentals.

These steps are critical to provide safe and secure accommodation for those on the margins of housing markets as part of Australia’s post-pandemic recovery.The Conversation

Caitlin Buckle, Research Associate in Housing Studies, University of Sydney; Nicole Gurran, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Sydney; Patrick Harris, Senior Research Fellow, (Acting) Deputy Director, CHETRE, UNSW; Peter Phibbs, Director, Henry Halloran Trust, University of Sydney; Rashi Shrivastava, Research Assistant, University of Sydney, and Tess Lea, Associate Professor, Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Victoria’s $5.4bn Big Housing Build: it is big, but the social housing challenge is even bigger



Shutterstock

Katrina Raynor, University of Melbourne

The Victorian government has announced the big social housing investment for which housing advocates, industry groups, academics and social service providers have been clamouring for decades.

The A$5.4 billion “Big Housing Build” aims to create over 12,000 homes in four years. Of these, 9,300 will be social housing. The rest will be affordable or market-rate housing. The program will replace 1,100 old public housing units.




Read more:
Why the focus of stimulus plans has to be construction that puts social housing first


The headline programs include:

  • $532 million to build on public land, including six “fast start” sites, resulting in 500 social housing homes and 540 affordable and market homes

  • $948 million to spot-purchase homes, projects in progress or ready-to-build dwellings from the private sector, adding 1,600 social housing and 200 affordable homes

  • $1.38 billion for community housing projects to build up to 4,200 homes

  • $2.14 billion for “new opportunities” with private sector and community housing providers, producing up to 5,200 homes.

Chart showing numbers of homes to be built over four years
The Big Housing Build time frame.
Homes Victoria/Victorian government, CC BY

Up to $1.25 billion will go into regional Victoria, which is welcome.

In addition, $498 million was announced in May to refurbish and build public housing.

Just how big is the Big Housing Build?

A target of 9,300 new social housing units over four years is definitely “big” by recent Victorian standards. The state’s social housing stock grew by just 12,500 dwellings over the past 15 years – about 830 dwellings a year.

The only comparable investment in Australia in the past two decades was the Commonwealth’s $5.6 billion Social Housing Initiative in 2009. This post-GFC stimulus program built around 19,700 social housing dwellings and repaired 12,000.

Chart showing number of social housing dwellings completed each year in Australia from 1969-2018

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Author provided

Is it enough?

No. It will take a long time and continued commitments of a similar scale to overcome the massive shortages in Victoria and Australia.

Victoria has a history of spending less on social housing per person than the rest of Australia.

Chart showing net recurrent spending per head of population for states and territories

Productivity Commission, Author provided

University of Melbourne research estimated a 164,000 shortfall in social and affordable housing in Victoria in 2018. The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute estimated an extra 166,000 social units would be needed by 2036.




Read more:
Australia needs to triple its social housing by 2036. This is the best way to do it


The Big Housing Build aims to increase social housing dwellings in Victoria from 80,500 to about 89,000 – about 3.5% of all housing. That’s still less than the Australian average of 4.2% and the OECD average of 6%.

Chart showing social housing stock as percentage of total housing in Victoria and OECD countries.

OECD (data from 2018 or more current available), Author provided

What the scheme gets right

This program leans heavily on the use of state and local land to reduce the cost of the new housing. My colleagues and I have previously pointed out the large swathes of “lazy” government land across Victoria that could be used for this.




Read more:
Put unused and ‘lazy’ land to work to ease the affordable housing crisis


Offering $1.38 billion in competitive capital grants for community housing providers is also substantially more cost-effective for government than models that rely on private finance and provide an operating subsidy to providers. It appears the entire amount will be spent on supporting construction, rather than on creating a seed fund that drip-feeds investment returns into the not-for-profit sector like the Social Housing Growth Fund does.

Victoria is also joining Canada and the state of California in spot-purchasing homes from the private sector in response to COVID-19. This will deliver social housing quickly. It will also support developers in a depressed market while capitalising on lower prices.

The focus on victim-survivors of domestic violence, Indigenous Australians and people living with mental health conditions is welcome too.




Read more:
Why more housing stimulus will be needed to sustain recovery


Remaining concerns

Privatisation of social housing

This announcement continues trends across Australia to shift social housing provision from a state responsibility (public housing) to a more partnership-based model led by community housing providers (community housing).

This approach can leverage substantial contributions from other sectors in the form of land, capital, skills and ideas, producing exemplary outcomes. An example is the Education First Youth Foyer partnership, which is changing how “at risk” young people access housing, education and other services.

However, complex arrangements between multiple partners, especially when using private finance, can be inefficient and costly. Such partnerships are often opportunistic rather than strategic, with priority given to commercial over social outcomes. Community housing residents have less tenancy rights than those in public housing and sometimes pay more of their income on rent.

An emphasis on mixed-tenure developments can lead to cherry-picking of “acceptable” tenants and destroy tightly knit communities. Previous public housing renewal programs based on private sector involvement left a legacy of poorly integrated communities and loss of public land for negligible gains in social housing. We cannot afford to make those mistakes again.

private garden area at Carlton housing estate redevelopment
Previous Victorian housing estate redevelopments have led to segregated areas of public and private housing.
Kate Shaw



Read more:
Social mix in housing? One size doesn’t fit all, as new projects show


Lack of a strategic plan

The program comes with a new government agency, Homes Victoria, and the promise of a ten-year policy and funding framework. This level of strategic leadership has been lacking in Victoria and will require bipartisan support. Strong partnerships with local councils will also be needed.

Good policy depends on many elements, including:

  • research
  • housing targets with geographical and population-group breakdowns
  • transparent decision-making
  • clearly identified funding streams and responsible agencies
  • shared definitions
  • monitoring and evaluation mechanisms
  • clear time frames
  • integration with other policy areas and levels of government.

These elements appear to still be a work in progress for the Big Housing Build. The risk is that this announcement will follow Australia’s pattern of “lumpy” funding and inconsistent policy on social and affordable housing.

Without long-term funding streams, providers find it hard to to scale up, make strategic decisions, invest in internal capacity and plan development pipelines. Without overarching strategy and monitoring, Victoria’s lacklustre history of social housing provision may continue.




Read more:
Ten lessons from cities that have risen to the affordable housing challenge


Reduced community engagement

Planning approvals for larger social housing developments will be streamlined. In many cases, the state will take over final decision-making from local government. This will reduce opportunities for community consultation and the state government will need to work hard to ensure high-quality design is integrated into developments.

Where to from here?

As COVID-19 has made clear, everyone needs a home and society benefits from caring for those in need. The speed with which governments moved to house rough sleepers, a seemingly intractable problem before COVID, shows homelessness and severe housing stress can be overcome.




Read more:
The need to house everyone has never been clearer. Here’s a 2-step strategy to get it done


The Big Housing Build is not perfect and will not solve Victoria’s huge housing challenges on its own. It must be the start of regular cycles of funding to sustain social housing in Victoria. It should also be tied to longitudinal evaluation of outputs and an aligned research agenda to shape best-practice outcomes.

And powers-that-be in Canberra, the list of partners in this program has a large federal-government-shaped gap. When are you going to come to the party?The Conversation

Katrina Raynor, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Hallmark Research Initiative for Affordable Housing, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Mould and damp health costs are about 3 times those of sugary drinks. We need a healthy housing agenda



Burdun Iliya/Shutterstock

Rebecca Bentley, University of Melbourne and Emma Baker

The World Health Organisation has always been interested in housing as one of the big “causes of the causes”, of the social determinants, of health. The WHO launched evidence-based guidelines for healthy housing policies in 2019.

Australia is behind the eight ball on healthy housing. Other governments, including in the United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand, acknowledge housing as an important contributor to the burden of disease. These countries have major policy initiatives focused on this agenda.

In Australia, however, we do housing and we do health, but they sit in different portfolios of government and aren’t together in the (policy) room often enough. Housing should be embedded in our National Preventive Health Strategy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink how we approach health and protect our populations. It has amplified social and economic vulnerability. The pandemic has almost certainly brought housing and health together in our minds.

Housing – its ability to provide shelter, its quality, location, warmth – has proven to be a key factor in the pandemic’s “syndemic” nature. That is, as well as shaping exposure to the virus itself, housing contributes to the social patterning of chronic diseases that increase COVID-19 risks.

Graphic showing interactions of COVID-19 with social determinants of health and non-communicable diseases
Interactions of COVID-19, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and the social determinants of health.
Bambra et al, The COVID-19 pandemic and health inequalities (2020), Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health



Read more:
Overcrowding and affordability stress: Melbourne’s COVID-19 hotspots are also housing crisis hotspots


Housing and health are intertwined

Housing affects health in many ways. At the broad scale, housing disadvantage, unaffordable housing and housing of poor quality have been the focus of much recent Australian research. More specific housing drivers of health, such as household mould, injury, overcrowding, noise, cold and damp, have received renewed global attention.

However, capturing the combined health effect of housing is difficult. It’s hard to measure and has many components, and everyone has slightly different housing (and health).

But epidemiologists can provide us with a useful way of estimating the “burden” of various risk factors for population health. Housing risk factors have rarely been examined in Australia, but our estimates flag that the increasing health burden of housing demands attention.

For example, we estimate the health cost (measured in disability-adjusted life years) due to respiratory and cardiovascular disease that can be attributed to mouldy or damp housing is about three times the cost attributable to sugary drinks in Australia. Damp, cold and mouldy housing generates a substantial health burden and could be an easy target for public health prevention strategies. These housing conditions stand alongside many of the classic risk factors such as diet, smoking and obesity.

This estimate of health burden does not even factor in the important role housing plays in mental health. Housing affordability, security, suitability, location and condition are all associated with good mental health.

With rates of eviction likely to increase once moratoriums are lifted across the country, the housing-related mental health burden will almost certainly increase too.

We have previously estimated more than 2.5 million Australians are living in unhealthy housing — and that this number is rising.

The Australian Index of Unhealthy Housing – a composite measure of housing affordability, security, quality, location and accessibility – shows increases in unhealthy housing from 2000 to 2016.
Adapted from Baker et al (2019), An Australian geography of unhealthy housing



Read more:
COVID spurred action on rough sleepers but greater homelessness challenges lie ahead


What housing actions will improve health?

Simple housing-focused interventions could reduce the sizeable health burden from housing-related problems. As the WHO advocates, this requires policy and research that have an eye on both health and housing.

In practical terms, a preventive health strategy would include:

  • minimum rental housing standards to protect occupants’ health, which would target structural factors related to damp and mould, ventilation, heating and cooling, injury hazards, maintenance and repair

  • good-quality public housing that is easy to access as a foundation for healthy lives

  • help with fixing problems, such as mould removal and servicing of heaters, for people in poor-quality housing

  • insulation to maintain indoor temperature and increase energy efficiency.

Sick woman sitting on couch with a blanket over her
Poorly insulated housing is a serious health issue in Australia.
fizkes/Shutterstock



Read more:
Chilly house? Mouldy rooms? Here’s how to improve low-income renters’ access to decent housing


COVID adds urgency to rethinking our approach

COVID has caused us to rapidly rethink public housing, nursing homes, share houses and small inner-city apartments. When choosing our current housing, few of us would have factored in the potential for isolation and loneliness, the need for separate working and study spaces, access to private green space, or the infection risk of shared lifts.

The experience of many Australians during the pandemic has almost certainly changed our view of the housing that we need, and what we consider to be healthy. It is time to harness this knowledge and learn from our COVID-19 experience.




Read more:
How might COVID-19 change what Australians want from their homes?


Many have lamented the missed opportunity to create economic stimulus in our nation’s COVID recovery plan by building more social housing. But social housing is only a small part of the story. Australia needs to embrace a future where good population health goes hand in hand with good-quality, affordable and secure housing – where health is at the forefront of housing policy and public preventive health strategies harness housing.

7 key questions for a healthy housing agenda

The time is right for Australia to put housing and health in the same room and develop a national healthy housing agenda. Our National Health and Medical Research Council-funded Centre for Research Excellence in Healthy Housing aims to lead and shape this agenda. In doing so, we pose the following questions to our governments, research community and stakeholders:

  1. How can we respond in a nationally co-ordinated way to the emerging challenges that COVID-19 presents to healthy housing?

  2. Who should be included in the conversation and in developing the agenda – and what is the role of the Commonwealth Department of Health?

  3. Where does responsibility for providing healthy housing lie?

  4. What is the “minimum standard” of housing that we want to provide to all Australians?

  5. What are the healthy housing priorities? Warmth? Mould? Tenure security? Affordability?

  6. What groups in our society demand immediate attention? Children? Renters? People with disabilities?

  7. How will an Australian healthy housing agenda fit within a national housing agenda (when one exists)?




Read more:
Coronavirus lays bare 5 big housing system flaws to be fixed


The Conversation


Rebecca Bentley, Professor of Social Epidemiology, Principal Research Fellow in Social Epidemiology and Director of the Centre for Research Excellence in Healthy Housing in Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne and Emma Baker, Professor of Housing Research and Deputy Director of the NHMRC Centre of Excellence for Healthy Housing

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COVID spurred action on rough sleepers but greater homelessness challenges lie ahead


Hal Pawson, UNSW and Cameron Parsell, The University of Queensland

COVID-19 triggered multimillion-dollar commitments by state governments to tackle homelessness. Our research for the Australian Homelessness Monitor 2020, released today, reveals at least 33,000 rough sleepers and other homeless people have been booked into hotels and other temporary accommodation during the crisis.

Beyond this, several states have pledged funds and support to move beyond this short-term fix and ensure former rough sleepers find long-term housing.




Read more:
If we realised the true cost of homelessness, we’d fix it overnight


These are commendable actions in a long-neglected policy area, even if largely inspired by public health anxieties rather than concern for the welfare of people without a home.

Still, our research also shows the burst of activity over the past six months builds on several years of stepped-up state government action to tackle street homelessness across Australia.

What prompted governments to act?

Three factors seem to have contributed:

  1. around 2016, rising inner-city rough sleeping apparently crossed a threshold of political embarrassment

  2. people experiencing homelessness challenged official complacency with direct action, including protest camps in Sydney’s Martin Place and outside Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station during the 2017 Australian Open tennis tournament

  3. a new level of activism, often inspired by developments overseas, led to initiatives such as the Everybody’s Home campaign, the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness, the Constellation Project and Adelaide Zero.




Read more:
Clearing homeless camps compounds the violation of human rights and entrenches the problem


In response, several state governments boosted efforts to reduce street homelessness. Measures included expanded outreach services and offers of housing assistance, increased spending on rental subsidies and personal support for former rough sleepers, and leasing of private rental properties as temporary social housing.

Some states even set specific targets to reduce homelessness. New South Wales, for example, pledged to cut rough sleeping on Sydney’s streets by a quarter between 2017 and 2020. Statewide, the aim is to halve street homelessness between 2019 and 2025.

Such targets are a welcome sign of ambition. They could even spur other states and territories to make similar commitments.

Rough sleepers are just the visibly homeless

As our report explains, though, these aspirations raise tricky issues of definition and measurement. And they focus narrowly on rough sleeping. Though highly visible, it’s just one of the forms of homelessness.

This approach risks airbrushing the wider, and much larger, homelessness problem. Of the 116,000 homeless people counted by the 2016 Census some 8,000 were rough sleepers. Homelessness also includes experiences such as as couch surfing and living in badly overcrowded dwellings and short-term, unsafe accommodation like rooming houses.




Read more:
Informal and illegal housing on the rise as our cities fail to offer affordable places to live


Crucially, homelessness cannot be overcome purely through better management and co-ordination of existing services. Nor can it be seriously tackled by state/territory governments without federal support.

New wave of homelessness is looming

The most immediate concern now is an imminent surge in homelessness. This is likely in coming months as a result of JobKeeper payments and JobSeeker Coronavirus Supplements being scaled back and bans on evictions lifted.

These protections staved off a new, recession-induced, homelessness crisis through the winter months. But, since mid-year, rough sleeper numbers have been on the rise once again in cities including Adelaide and Sydney. This is almost certainly a problem deferred, rather than a problem avoided.

We know, for example, that many tenants who lost incomes and sought reduced rent have only been granted deferrals. They are building up big arrears.




Read more:
Cutting JobSeeker payments will cause crippling rental stress in our cities


Rough sleeper packing up in Melbourne laneway
Sleeping rough is on the rise again in Australian cities.
Indigo Skies Photography/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

For their part, many landlords have lost rental income – by negotiation or otherwise. They represent about one-third of the more than 400,000 mortgage accounts on which banks have agreed to defer payments.

The extent of any surge in homelessness will depend on the public health situation, the timing and vitality of post-pandemic economic recovery, and on how quickly eviction bans and income-support measures are withdrawn. However, if unemployment hits 10% as predicted, homelessness could rise by 21% according to one projection for NSW.

For state governments, housing the mid-2020 rough-sleeper cohort has been enough of a challenge on its own. Even with stepped-up assistance programs, the states lack the capacity to cope with a surge of households newly evicted from private rental housing.

The main problem is a lack of homes at rents that low-income tenants can afford. A large part of the reason is decades of official inaction that effectively halved Australia’s supply of social housing since the 1990s. On top of that, the shortfall of private rental properties affordable for low-income tenants grew by 54% in the decade to 2016, as detailed in our report.

What needs to be done?

Lessons from Australia’s success in tackling street homelessness during the pandemic must be integrated with ongoing services. We have to reduce reliance on band-aid interventions that are costly and, at best, only lessen the harm. Homelessness is bad for health and for our society at all times, not just during pandemics.

Governments at all levels must recognise that the growing homelessness problem of the past two decades calls for a comprehensive housing policy rethink.




Read more:
Australia’s housing system needs a big shake-up: here’s how we can crack this


Yes, governments have partnered with community organisations to get people off the streets during the pandemic, which is something to celebrate. But these successes do not resolve the underlying structural problems.

The federal government has a critical role to play in both policy and funding. It must be far more active in owning and tackling the issue. Essential first steps are to permanently boost JobSeeker payments and the rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance. And the government should properly index these payments, as it does the Aged Pension.

Beyond this, the Commonwealth must use its greater budget capacity –
more than the combined resources of the states and territories – to invest in building new social housing at scale. For almost the entire period since 1996 we’ve been building only 2,000-3,000 social housing units per year. Just to keep pace with a growing population, that needs to be 15,000 a year. It’s essential not just as a stimulus for post-pandemic recovery as proposed, but as a routine national program long into the future.

Such action should be part of a comprehensive national housing strategy to design and phase-in the wide-ranging reforms of taxes and regulations needed to rebalance Australia’s housing system and tackle homelessness at its source.


The authors are very grateful to Peter Mares for his input into this article.The Conversation

Hal Pawson, Professor of Housing Research and Policy, and Associate Director, City Futures Research Centre, UNSW and Cameron Parsell, Associate Professor, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COVID impacts demand a change of plan: funding a shift from commuting to living locally



Conventional transport infrastructure planning has been based on wholesale commuting to and from the city centre.
Taras Vyshnya/Shutterstock

Benjamin Kaufman, Griffith University

Long-term planning has delivered mass transit systems to cater for high-patronage, hub-and-spoke transport systems. Unfortunately, this has left many city residents without basic access to public transport services. And we could never have planned for the impacts of COVID-19.

Our previous plans were based on the best available data at the time. Today, these plans must be critically reviewed using new data that properly represent the world and our transport needs as they are now.




Read more:
If more of us work from home after coronavirus we’ll need to rethink city planning


Important facts to keep in mind

1: Fewer people commute to work.

The work-from-home transition is well under way. Our current transport networks (except for roads, which have rebounded to traffic equal to or above pre-pandemic levels in some cities) are operating far below previous levels, even allowing for social distancing. This may not be the best time to break ground on major infrastructure projects planned under previous assumptions of population and demand growth.




Read more:
With management resistance overcome, working from home may be here to stay


2: Disadvantaged populations lack access to opportunities.

Public transport is key to enabling everyone in a population to be a productive member of society. Many disadvantaged groups cannot drive or afford car ownership. However, they also lack access to public transport, particularly in the outer suburbs.

Unfortunately, coronavirus impacts will hit the disadvantaged the hardest. If we want everyone to be able to participate in the economic recovery, we need to promote basic levels of access regardless of an individual’s circumstance.




Read more:
Why coronavirus will deepen the inequality of our suburbs


3: Population growth will not meet projections.

Migration bans will greatly reduce short-term growth. Current projections show a population up to 4% smaller in 2040 than it would have been in a non-COVID world. This will further decrease demand for urban transit services as well as demand across many sectors of our society. These trends are important because much of our planning is based around these population growth metrics.




Read more:
1.4 million less than projected: how coronavirus could hit Australia’s population in the next 20 years


However, our suburbs still lack basic public transport services. If we want to increase patronage, we need to bring services to more people by improving coverage of our sprawling, low-density cities.

Over 80% of the population of our biggest cities live in the outer and middle suburbs, yet this massive majority have limited to no basic public transport service. Across our five largest cities, Infrastructure Australia reports, “public transport disadvantage in outer suburbs is significant”.

Populations living in inner, middle and outer suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide
Estimated resident population by suburban classification, as count and proportion of city population.
Infrastructure Australia: Outer Urban Public Transport: Improving accessibility in lower-density areas

Households’ access to jobs and services gets much worse with increasing distance from the city centre. Development of suburban and regional mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) offerings could promote better access in these “harder to serve” areas.




Read more:
For Mobility as a Service (MaaS) to solve our transport woes, some things need to change


Moving the country forward

Job creation will be an important aspect of economic recovery. Yet too often we look to large construction projects as the answer. There is plenty of other job-creating work to be done in our communities.

We could, for example, increase the miserly funding for our piecemeal walking and cycling networks.

We could also expand on-demand services to suburban and rural residents who lack basic public transport access. On-demand transit does not follow fixed routes or timetables. Riders book a trip for a cost similar to a bus fare.

Passenger waiting to board a Bridj on-demand bus service.
Bridj is one of the operators that is expanding on-demand services in Sydney and other cities.
Bridj Transit Systems/Facebook



Read more:
1 million rides and counting: on-demand services bring public transport to the suburbs


These options will encourage local spending to support small businesses. These are an important piece of our social fabric and improve livability in our communities.

We need to look locally

A focus on localised investment in the many neglected communities across the country will deliver major benefits. Money already committed to large projects that are under way represents sunk costs that may be too deep to renegotiate. However, future plans using public funds must be re-examined.

Investments should target disadvantaged groups and broaden access to transport networks, encouraging new potential users. For many, assistance in gaining access to the necessities of life will be invaluable during the coming economic recovery. Guaranteed access to groceries, medical services, work opportunities and recreational activities must not be reserved for the elite.

We need better localised public transport and we need it for the majority of citizens, not just those who live in the inner suburbs of our capital cities. Most regional populations lack even rudimentary public transport coverage at reasonable frequency.

Increasing services in these areas will create valuable jobs that will stick around, unlike large one-off construction projects. The money will stay local, going into the pockets of operators who live and work in their own community.

While our long-term planning is not to blame for our current situation, we need to develop for the future, not the past. The financial costs of building and maintaining our current infrastructure are not going away. However, we can no longer refuse to invest in many of our underserved communities.

It is time to ensure everyone, regardless of their income or where they grow up, has the basic services they need to be a productive member of society.The Conversation

Benjamin Kaufman, PhD Candidate, Cities Research Institute, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Social housing was one hell of a missed budget opportunity, but there’s time



Yuttana Contributor Studio/Shutterstock

Hal Pawson, UNSW

Tonight Labor will deliver its alternative budget and promise that if it was in government it would be investing A$500 million in fast-tracking repairs to social housing, and urging state governments to match it dollar for dollar.

The federal budget itself, delivered on Tuesday, offered nothing extra for social housing, even though when polled by The Conversation and the Economic Society of Australia more of Australia’s leading economists wanted money spent on social housing than any other stimulus measure.

They are right to place it above investment allowances, wage subsidies and tax cuts as a sure-fire way to boost economic activity and employment.



Conversation Economic Society of Australia survey, September 2020

Unlike those other measures, it has a track record.

The Rudd government’s social housing initiative, introduced as part of the package that staved off recession during the global financial crisis, delivered 20,000 new units on time and on budget while creating 14,000 well-paying jobs.

It was the only Commonwealth public housing or community housing initiative of any size since the Howard government effectively ended routine public home building in 1996.

Pre-tested, pre-prepared

On a per capital basis, social housing supply has halved since then.

At the same time, private rental housing has moved upmarket, making it even harder for low-income Australians to find a suitable and affordable home.

The Community Housing Industry Association put forward a $7.7 billion Social Housing Acceleration and Renovation Program (SHARP) that would have delivered an extra 30,000 homes and renovated thousands more over four years.

Calculations by SGS Economics and Planning in June suggested it would have supported between 15,500 and 18,000 full-time equivalent jobs in each of those years.




Read more:
Australia’s housing system needs a big shake-up: here’s how we can crack this


Why, in the face of this analysis, did Treasurer Josh Frydenberg turn the option down?

It’s hard to say, but the omission of social housing is consistent with the budget’s lukewarm attitude towards infrastructure investment more broadly.

Adding up everything the government is planning to spend on infrastructure over the next four years, the budget comes up with a total of $6.7 billion, which is rather small beer compared with the four-year spending plan before the crisis, which was $4.5 billion.

Lukewarm on infrastructure generally

It’s also small when compared to the business tax and other incentives, which amount to $26.7 billion.

Kick-starting the recovery via social housing or other infrastructure would have been out of kilter with a strategy focused on creating “private sector-led growth”.

The strategy, spelled out formally in the budget papers, is to, wherever possible, support markets rather than act directly.

It’s thinking that allows the government to distinguish itself from the Rudd response to the global financial crisis in 2008.




Read more:
Coronavirus lays bare 5 big housing system flaws to be fixed


But – unlike direct action, such as through social housing investment – the favoured approach relies heavily on assumptions about how market players (firms and consumers) react to incentives.

Those reactions might help bring about the post-pandemic snapback the most optimistic forecasts envisage.

There’s time

If not, there’s an opportunity to try again, even reluctantly. SHARP is ready and pre-tested.

There’ll be an opportunity in the mid-year budget update, due in December (in two months’ time), and next year’s budget (due in seven months).

Regardless, resumption of a routine national social home-building program is seriously overdue.

Australia’s housing system has become increasingly unbalanced – not just in the past six months, but over the past 20 years and more.

The crisis provides an opportunity to fix it.The Conversation

Hal Pawson, Professor of Housing Research and Policy, and Associate Director, City Futures Research Centre, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Cutting JobSeeker payments will cause crippling rental stress in our cities



Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

Simone Casey, RMIT University and Liss Ralston, Swinburne University of Technology

As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic caused businesses to shut down, state governments acted to avoid evictions by introducing moratoriums, and the federal government introduced the Coronavirus Supplement of A$550 on top of the fortnightly JobSeeker payment. These measures were intended to enable 1.6 million Australians to ride out the pandemic-related business shutdowns.

This welcome but temporary support is being withdrawn. The JobSeeker supplement was reduced to A$250 a fortnight from September 26. It will end in January 2021.

Timeline of Coronavirus Supplement.

Our modelling for Victoria shows the tapering down and withdrawal of the JobSeeker supplement will cause crippling rental stress for unemployed and underemployed private renters. In Melbourne, we have found the unemployed will face the same problem of rental stress as those on the former Newstart allowance experienced before the pandemic. (Rental stress is defined as a low-income household spending more than 30% of its income on housing costs.)




Read more:
City share-house rents eat up most of Newstart, leaving less than $100 a week to live on


Before COVID, private rentals in nearly all capital cities were already unaffordable for unemployed and low-income renters even in typical share households. What makes the scenario worse than before COVID are the sheer numbers affected. Many of these people may have had incomes prior to the shock that enabled them to maintain higher rents.

To illustrate the extent of the rental stress crisis we modelled rental affordability for the typical low-income household types in Victoria. The first chart shows the effects of the withdrawal of the supplement on rent affordability for two and three sharers and lone-parent families. The second chart later in this article shows the effects across a range of household types.

Impacts of Coronavirus Supplement withdrawal on three household types. (Median rents calculated from Real Estate Institute of Australia June 2020 data. Income calculated to include Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) and lone-parent income includes Parenting Payment Single with Family Tax Benefit.)

The modelling shows the interim rate (A$250) of the Coronavirus Supplement will help for a limited number of household types, particularly in the outer part of Melbourne and regional towns like Ballarat. However, it will not help many households in the inner region of Melbourne where rentals will remain unaffordable. This pattern is worrying because that’s where many of the jobs will become available once economic recovery is under way.




Read more:
Why coronavirus will deepen the inequality of our suburbs


Households with more than one adult receiving the supplement will be better off than lone-parent households. That is because all the adults in those households receive the supplement, and lone-parent households generally need to rent properties with more than one bedroom.

Impacts of Coronavirus Supplement withdrawal on major rental household types. (Median rents calculated from Real Estate Institute of Australia June 2020 data. Income calculated to include Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) and lone-parent income includes Parenting Payment Single with Family Tax Benefit.)

The scenario here plays out across Australia, but is particularly bad for Victorians because the extended lockdown has deferred recovery.

COVID impacts have hit low-income households hardest

Is is important to note that the COVID economic shock has hit low-income households particularly hard. Those in precarious work, young adults and women have had the biggest hits to their incomes and jobs.

Map of JobSeeker increases indicating pandemic impacts on employment across Melbourne.




Read more:
Coronavirus puts casual workers at risk of homelessness unless they get more support


In Melbourne increases in unemployment are concentrated in inner-city suburbs like Brunswick and St Kilda. This reflects the loss of jobs for young people in hospitality and retail.

Job losses have also occurred in working-class areas such as Brimbank, Melton and Hume. These losses reflect the impact of shutdowns in the processing, manufacturing and transport sectors.

It is predicted it will take some time for earnings to return to pre-COVID levels. This means renters who have not been able to get jobs will once again be in dire rental stress in most capital cities when the Coronavirus Supplement cuts out in January 2021.

What about household savings?

The Finder Consumer Sentiment Tracker shows household savings have temporarily increased. But it is difficult to assess how much reserve people on JobSeeker payment have been able to lay down, relative to the loss of normal earnings. Any optimism on this count needs to be tempered by the observation that the Coronavirus Supplement did not start until late April and early May — five to six weeks after the job losses started.

Our modelling shows that even during the temporary tapering down of the supplement until January 2021, there will be a rental crisis in cities like Melbourne. These findings can be extrapolated to other capital cities and the scenario will be worse in Sydney.

Cutting the JobSeeker supplement is risky policy because the labour market has not “snapped back”. People who depend on unemployment payments will now face the same problem of rental stress as those on NewStart experienced before the pandemic. But this stress will be more widespread than before. This underscores the need to develop policy that counters the risk of rental stress.




Read more:
If we realised the true cost of homelessness, we’d fix it overnight


The Conversation


Simone Casey, Research Associate, Future Social Service Institute, RMIT University and Liss Ralston, Adjunct associate, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How might COVID-19 change what Australians want from their homes?



Shutterstock

Wendy M Stone, Swinburne University of Technology; Amity James, Curtin University; Sharon Parkinson, Swinburne University of Technology, and Steven Rowley, Curtin University

New research released today asked Australians how well current housing met their needs and their ideals, both in the short and longer-term.

We found safety and security was the main aspiration of householders across age groups. Given the turbulent year for many households, we wished to explore how the pandemic might change what people want from their homes.

What do people want from a home?

We surveyed more than 7,400 Australians in young, mid-life and older households, including Indigenous, non-Indigenous and widely diverse Australians, online or in interviews.

We asked what they want from housing, and the constraints that mean they haven’t been able to get there.

We found “safety and security” were fundamental to the housing aspirations of young, mid- and later life Australians. Some 75% of respondents indicated these basic characteristics were the key housing attributes they value. For a majority of Australians, these attributes were associated with home ownership.

The figure below shows four in five Australians are satisfied with their current housing in the short term, but when they consider their longer term needs these levels of satisfaction drop considerably. This is particularly so among renters, linked to a lack of security in the tenure.

How well current housing meets longer-term housing aspirations.
Original analysis of Australian Housing Aspirations Survey (2018) data, unweighted

The survey asked participants to choose their ideal housing in terms of location, tenure, dwelling type and number of bedrooms. The results showed there was a preference for owning a house with three or more bedrooms within the suburbs of capital cities, with a notable number also showing a preference for regional living.

But not all households believe they can attain this ideal with rising inequality also fuelling the housing aspirations gap. When we asked households what they need to achieve their ideal housing, results show targeted support is critical — such as assistance with up-front deposits, fees or bonds, and support to manage ongoing housing costs in the context of disruptions such as COVID.

What about post-COVID?

If anything, the pandemic has reinforced trends in housing aspirations.

First, housing security matters. The disruptions of 2020 have highlighted housing insecurity, particularly among those with precarious incomes. Government interventions including JobKeeper, JobSeeker, evictions moratoria and schemes such as the Victorian Rental Relief Grant have been necessary to keep renters in their homes, with banks having deferred mortgage payments for tens of thousands of additional households.




Read more:
400,000 women over 45 are at risk of homelessness in Australia


Second, walkable neighbourhoods are the way of the future. COVID-19 reaffirms the importance of local neighbourhoods as amenity centres. This includes local areas that include green space, local produce and a sense of community. Our findings show suburban living and regional towns are attractive options for households across all ages, including younger adults.

Third, adaptable living is key. Home has never been as important as a hub of both productivity and care. Working from home and online education have become the norm for many households in Australia and globally. This requires adequate space, quality digital connectivity and adaptable living areas that can accommodate the whole family and different activities.

Young adults have needed to relocate quickly in some cases, with households at mid-life finding themselves potentially housing both young adult children (and maybe grandchildren) as well as elderly parents. As fears rise about the safety of existing aged care residences, housing that supports home-based elder care also becomes critical.

Creating a better housing future

Our research shows safety and security is key to what people want from housing, so reducing entry costs to home ownership and delivering rent-buy models (that enable people to transition from renting to buying) are important policy directions.

Improving housing knowledge and housing market skills to enable households to explore options, make more informed housing decisions and plan for their housing futures are also key elements. Creating optimal housing requires collaborating with residents as experts, on what they value.




Read more:
‘Uprooting, no matter how small a plant you are, is a trauma’: older women renters are struggling


The Conversation


Wendy M Stone, Associate Professor, Centre for Urban Transitions and Director, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Swinburne Research Centre, Swinburne University of Technology; Amity James, Senior Lecturer, School of Economics, Finance and Property, Curtin University; Sharon Parkinson, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Urban Transitions, Swinburne University of Technology, and Steven Rowley, Professor; School of Economics, Finance and Property, Curtin University. Director, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Curtin Research Centre, Curtin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

After COVID, we’ll need a rethink to repair Australia’s housing system and the economy



Shutterstock

Hal Pawson, UNSW; Bill Randolph, UNSW; Chris Leishman, and Duncan Maclennan, University of Glasgow

A new report from the New South Wales Productivity Commission (NSWPC) announces that “[higher] housing costs […] impose broader economic costs”. That chimes with our own newly published research. The implication is that Australia’s heavily capitalised housing market will weigh down economic recovery from the shocks of the coronavirus pandemic.

A niche group of economists and epidemiologists had warned the world for decades that a pandemic would have devastating economic and social consequences. When it comes to Australia’s housing, though, the COVID-19 crisis has only served to highlight deep and long-standing faultlines.




Read more:
Coronavirus lays bare 5 big housing system flaws to be fixed


The housing system has produced triple crises of rising homelessness, growing queues for non-market, affordable housing and the pervasive affordability problems for middle- and lower-income households who depend on the private housing market. All these pressures were building well before the pandemic.

However, a particularly cruel COVID-19 effect has been the concentration of pandemic impacts on public-facing economic sectors and jobs. Younger people and female employees have been hit hardest. The fallout in the lower end of the labour market will only make existing pressures worse.

Australia is about to embark on an audacious economic and social experiment as it tries to wind back the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs temporarily protecting about 3.5 million people. Treasury projections envisage a gradual withdrawal. In reality, especially if any eviction moratoria are allowed to lapse, the start of this process will likely trigger huge immediate challenges in managing the housing and homelessness fallout.

Beyond that, the recession will drive home the need for political leaders to more fully appreciate the integral role of housing in the economy. The housing system plays key roles in shaping economic productivity, stability and inequality.

How on earth did we get here?

For many decades economics-leaning policymakers have assumed the housing market is largely a well-functioning system driven by helpful economic forces. Most famously personified in comments by former prime minister John Howard, and very much in tune with dominant media messaging, Australian governments have generally welcomed rising house prices as signifying consumer confidence. Even academic researchers and government analysts have cited house prices as a sign of the “success” of cities and regions.

More recently, ever-rising house prices have finally been recognised as a driver of wealth inequality. The problem is linked to rising mortgage debt and increasingly recognised as likely to add to instabilities in the macro economy and financial system.




Read more:
The housing boom propelled inequality, but a coronavirus housing bust will skyrocket it


There are also growing policy concerns that city living is becoming too expensive. This in turn harms economic productivity. [OECD data] show Australia is on a similar path to the US, with the metropolitan share of national GDP per capita falling in recent years.

Chart showing metropolitan GDP per capita as percentage of national value
Metropolitan GDP per capita has been declining in Australia and some other countries.
Data: OECD, Author provided

How has policy thinking become so blurred?

The NSWPC report recognises that the combination of excessive rents and insecure tenure can damage children’s educational attainment and prospects. Prices and rents are particularly unaffordable in Sydney, making it a more stressful place to live and work. Resulting migration to other parts of the country reduces employers’ access to the supply of willing and productive labour, thus damaging productivity.

But the NSWPC analysis of housing-to-economy interactions does not go anything like far enough. As our research shows, Australia’s dysfunctional housing system results in a battery of other economically harmful impacts. These include:

  • long-term policies that have diverted savings and investment into rising property and land prices, with minimal or no employment or productivity benefit

  • excessive rent and mortgage burdens diverting household spending from other consumption with greater productivity impacts

  • a dysfunctional housing system that reduces household savings for the longer term, as well as contributing to falling rates of home ownership and personal asset accumulation for future generations of older people.

Perhaps worst of all, the high private housing debt in Australia is among the worst in the world. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the OECD recognise this debt as a threat to financial and economic stability.




Read more:
Housing policy reset is overdue, and not only in Australia


Economics students are taught the “paradox of thrift”: when an individual saves, it benefits them in the long run. When too many people save, it harms economic growth.

In a similar way, rising housing prices benefit owners of houses and/or investments. But when we scale up to the level of a locality, city, state or economy, rising prices have a profound negative impact.

Young couple in kitchen looking at household bills
The impacts of high rents and mortgage debt on people’s behaviour have significant consequences for the economy.
Shutterstock

Setting a new agenda

With all this in mind, our report lays out a wide-ranging “housing and productivity” research agenda. The hope must be that the resulting evidence helps trigger the policy reboot needed to transform the housing system from being part of the problem to part of the solution.

Much more attention needs to be focused on how owners and renters adjust savings and spending as a result of excessive housing costs. Without knowing about these behavioural responses, it is impossible to design appropriate policies.

We must find ways to restore the housing prospects of younger and/or less affluent households. We must research the potential for schemes to help first home buyers with deposits, and assess how better credit scoring methods could reduce pressures on rental markets. This is particularly important because currently used credit scoring methods disproportionately reward access to wealth, and do not adequately capture important aspects of prospective borrowers’ consumption and saving behaviour.

Delayed home ownership entry or permanent exclusion have major long-term implications. Worryingly, the negative impacts on economic productivity and stability have been largely ignored to date.

The Grattan Institute estimates home-ownership rates for the over-65s will fall by 19% by 2056. The impacts on retirement incomes will be significant.




Read more:
Home ownership foundations are being shaken, and the impacts will be felt far and wide


Policymakers haven’t planned for the inevitable rise in need for social housing from impoverished older private renters. The present system has glaringly failed to provide housing affordable for more than half of Australia’s low income tenant population. Acting on the mounting economic imbalances caused by the housing crisis could, at the same time, generate a more productive and stable economy.

Australian housing research and policy urgently needs a new economic conversation.The Conversation

Hal Pawson, Professor of Housing Research and Policy, and Associate Director, City Futures Research Centre, UNSW; Bill Randolph, Director, City Futures Research Centre, Faculty of the Built Environment, UNSW; Chris Leishman, Professor of Housing Economics, and Duncan Maclennan, Professorial Research Fellow in Urban Economics, UNSW; Professor of Strategic Urban Management and Finance, University of St Andrews; Professor in Public Policy, University of Glasgow

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.