The effective and appropriate provision of social housing, as an integral part of the housing continuum, is increasingly difficult in light of current fiscal constraints and changing and increasing housing need. In 2016, there were around 400,000 households living in social housing in Australia, with around 200,000 on social housing wait lists (Productivity Commission 2016). It is vital that an economically and socially sustainable framework for the provision of social housing is achieved. To meet this challenge, many innovative models are being explored both in Australia and internationally, including partnerships and financing arrangements involving a mix of public, private and not for profit agencies. Contextualisation of the need for better access to social housing is critical in addressing this demand. Given current fiscal limitations on governments across Australia, it is unlikely that significant funds will become available to address the considerable waiting lists for social housing. It is most likely then that government provision of social housing will continue to be targeted at those in severe need, while at the same time, further avenues for affordable housing will be addressed. It is necessary to build an evidence base which supports investment across both housing and non-housing outcomes. This evidence base, which aims to strengthen the policy environment for housing, as an essential piece of social and economic infrastructure, should address:
- the return on investment from a broader economic, social and individual perspective;
- engagement with the narratives, identifying how safe and secure housing changes the ability of people to engage in education and employment, improving (productivity) outcomes, some benefits of which may not be seen for 5 to 10 years, or in the next generation;
- improved access to appropriate and useful data to inform decision making (requiring better use of existing data and better collection of more targeted data).
This research builds on that undertaken in the previous Sustainable Built Environment National Research Centre (SBEnrc) Rethinking Social Housing project. A central element of the approach established in that research is productivity for both the individual and for society more broadly. This present study identified a broad range of housing and non-housing outcomes which can be attributed to having safe and stable housing, for example, improved resident well-being, better employment outcomes, stronger community ties and a sense of safety within a neighbourhood. This has benefits across stakeholders and agencies, from the tenant to the housing provider, and to the local, state and commonwealth governments.
Valuing Social Housing has delivered:
- Strategic Evaluation Framework – a methodology for building the evidence base for justifying further investment in social (and affordable) housing.
- Domain Tables - across the 9 domains, including 53 outcomes and over 180 indicators: detailing over 60 academic references in support of the links between housing and non-housing outcomes; return on investment information across SROI, WVA and narratives; and details of over 40 relevant Australian datasets.
- Data Summary Tables – expanding on the information provided in the Domain Tables.
- Composite Return on Investment (CROI) – methodology for addressing the broad based potential for ROI when building the case for investment, for example with state-based Treasury.
- Summary of findings: data and social housing – from a roundtable which bought together partner agencies and content experts to explore issues and opportunities for improving data access, gathering and application.