Conference paper
Description

Since the 1990s, with the rise of neoliberalism in most countries as the accepted governance norm, social housing and other forms of social support have been affected severely. In Australia, any new supply of social housing in all states and territories has almost come to an end. Although recently Victoria, Western Australia and NSW have announced new social housing construction, it is a step in the right direction but is yet to indicate a long-term commitment to address the severe shortage of social housing in Australia. Such shortage of social housing is demonstrated in projections that estimate that over the next 20 years, 727,300 additional social housing dwellings will be required, a near doubling of current combined public and community housing stocks. As at 30 June 2020, there were only 437,000 social housing dwellings across the country.

Social (public and community) housing tenants have been seen as problem tenants or problem families, and their need for social housing has been increasingly framed in the public discourse as rooted in their individual attributes, rather than societal structures. Against this backdrop, a discourse around care has been emerging as an alternative way of thinking and acting in response to neoliberal policies and practices. In this paper, we use data collected from qualitative in-depth interviews with social housing providers and tenants in four Australian states, to highlight their experiences about the extent and ways in which an ethic of care is involved in life in social housing.

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