Research Summary

This study identified five Australian housing markets that could be made more efficient using online technology to match highly specific ‘buyers’ and ‘sellers’. The five markets considered are: swaps in public housing; disability accessible housing; low-cost private rental housing brokerage; apartment presales for low/mid income earners; and precinct-level urban redevelopment. The research also proposed solutions to how the matching markets could best operate.

Research Outcomes

This research proposes ways policy makers might consider the digital platform revolution in relation to housing markets. Platforms such as Airbnb and Uber replaced existing matching market managers. Their very substantial improvement in performance has been made possible by technology—more powerful computer chips; the Internet; the World Wide Web; broadband communication, and programming and operating systems that have dramatically reduced the search and transaction costs that previously meant many matching markets did not function well.

The housing system is comprised of numerous matching markets. This research identifies five suboptimal matching markets in housing, and proposes solutions: 

  1. swaps and transfers in public housing—we outline how social housing tenant mobility and stock utilisation can be improved by the use of an algorithm to facilitate chain-letting.
  2. accessible housing—a reiteration of the Victorian-based Housing Hub would improve the discoverability of accessible properties and matching to people living with disability.
  3. low-cost private rental housing—some low-cost private rental housing, currently occupied by higher income households can be matched to lowerincome households using a headlease program.
  4. apartment supply for low/mid income earners—development of apartments can be de-risked by a focus on owner-occupiers, quality and design, which addresses settlement risk, reduces the profit margins required, thus improves affordability, and better matches supply and demand.
  5. precinct-level urban development—coordination is a problem impeding the redevelopment of greyfield suburbs. A citywide platform is proposed, which can enrol landowners and others at any time, permitting them to indicate their interest in participating in potential redevelopment projects.

The Australian Housing and Research Institute (AHURI) Inquiry into the Potential of New Technologies to Disrupt Housing Policy

This research is part of a wider Australian Housing and Research Institute (AHURI) Inquiry into the Potential of new technologies to disrupt housing policy. The study is unusual for AHURI in that it is concerned with new knowledge derived from applying conceptual understandings of market design to housing markets and housing assistance, rather than being an empirical investigation. The intention is exploratory, with the outputs a series of propositions. The purpose of the propositions is not to provide proof of concept but to be a stimulus for reflection and debate. Further research is necessary to test the potential policy and practice applications.

A transdisciplinary research team of academics, policy experts and practitioners explored housing and housing assistance provision through two reiterative workshops aimed at answering the following question and sub-questions:

How could technology-enabled market ‘redesign’ drive innovation in housing policy and housing assistance to deliver efficiency gains and improve social and economic outcomes?

  • How could social and economic outcomes for tenants and landlords in the PRS be improved by redesigning the market, and how could housing assistance be used to drive such innovation?
  • Could social housing allocations be improved by new mechanism design(s), and what are the opportunities and barriers to realising successful implementation
  • What potential is there for market design to contribute to improved housing affordability?
Publication Details


License type:
AHURI Final Report 307