Considering eight case studies, this project examines the sustainability outcomes of new affordable housing projects and showed how limited public funding was used to leverage desirable financial, environmental and social outcomes.
Governments across Australia are increasingly turning to not-for-profit housing providers to help address shortages in housing that is affordable to low and moderate income households. However, an important question is whether, in the quest to provide affordability, these new developments sacrifice social, financial or environmental sustainability.
Eight Australian not-for-profit housing developments were analysed in this project. The study utilised a range of methods including interviews with not-for-profit providers, site visits, and surveys and focus groups with residents of those developments.
The study found that affordability for tenants generally lay on a range between that found in public housing and the private market. However, those providers with heavier debt financing obligations were least able to house lower-income households affordably.
All of the housing projects examined had at least some positive outcomes in terms of social, environmental and financial sustainability. For example, in several projects, tenants were benefitting from lower living costs as a result of reduced water and energy bills and having good access to services. On the other hand, in many projects, parking provision was reduced as a means to achieve greater dwelling yield and this had a negative impact on residents’ satisfaction.
The study identified a number of policies that might leverage sustainability, including:
- Land supply measures: access to appropriate sites improves transport accessibility and avoids noise or air pollution for residents.
- Policies for rapid planning approval: avoids construction delays, improves the yield of affordable housing and enables a wider tenant mix.
- Review of rent subsidies: cost based rent setting might avoid the problems of access to affordable housing for lower income earners in highly geared developments.
Authors: Ilan Wiesel, Gethin Davison, Vivienne Milligan, Peter Phibbs and Bruce Judd with Michael Zanardo