The past decade has seen the emergence of partnership formations between government, private and not-for-profit sectors in the delivery of services and infrastructure in Australia.
A diverse range of models and frameworks are being developed which encourage collaboration in long-term partnerships on the grounds of mutual benefit. Advocates point to improved efficiencies as government liabilities are taken off the balance sheet and risk/reward profiles are transferred. Collaboration provides a basis for innovation, skills transfer and transformation of traditional structures and frameworks for implementation. However, issues of governance, accountability, flexibility and ensuring community interests are best served ensure that policy’s enrolment of partnership models is both challenging and contentious.
Although partnership arrangements in the design and delivery of policy are longstanding, current interest in partnership working within housing and related urban programs is being shaped by a number of imperatives. In part, it represents a case of ‘catch up’ on the part of housing policy interests, particularly when compared with delivery models seen across other built environment and urban infrastructure fields in recent years. Second, insight and experience emerging from the early application of models such as Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) within housing-led urban renewal programs are also starting to come through, enabling initial lessons to be identified. Third, new policy directions, associated initiatives and expenditure have placed the need for partnership working and improved coordination centre stage, including the following:
- A commitment to partnership working underpins new directions within government, through both the operation of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA).
- Many housing reform directions—for example encouraging diversity and growth among community housing providers—encourage, and are in large part dependent upon, ensuring partnership working across public, private and non- profit sectors.
- Recent Commonwealth-initiated programs, notably the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) are also predicated on partnership working, drawing upon the distinct skills of each sector to establish models that can operate to mutual benefit.
Authors: Simon Pinnegar, Ilan Wiesel, Edgar Liu, Tony Gilmour, Martin Loosemore and Bruce Judd