Affordable housing needs strong leadership

State based affordable housing schemes only work if supported by strong political leadership. That’s the key finding of a major new report, ‘Government led innovations in affordable housing delivery’.

The report, by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) analysed the affordable housing market in Australia. It found that effective strategies and programs:

  • rely on strong political leadership
  • adopt a whole-of-housing industry approach to consultation and implementation
  • communicate objectives effectively to all stakeholders
  • are resilient to changes of government
  • are best run from a central agency with a flexible organisational structure that can respond quickly to opportunities.

The project examined state government-led innovations in affordable housing through analysis of two state-level strategies (the WA Affordable Housing Strategy and the ACT Affordable Housing Action Plan and two state level programs (the NSW Asset Vesting Program and the WA East Kimberley Transitional Housing Program).

The reports found that some programs, such as the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) and state housing transfers, appear across states. Others, such as shared equity housing and low deposit home loans, are much less common.

The research examined what makes a successful affordable housing strategy or program, and looked at the lessons that can be learnt from state governments that have successfully delivered affordable housing.

“Of all the elements examined in this project, it is clear that leadership is the most important,” says the report.

“The delivery of better housing outcomes in a city or region is a long and complex process that requires the support, and sometimes the active participation, of many different stakeholders, including a range of government agencies and the private sector.

“The ACT case clearly demonstrated that very strong leadership is needed to bring all these elements together—a situation mirrored in WA.

“Without the leadership of the housing minister of the time and the CEO of the Housing Authority it is unlikely the WA affordable housing strategy would have been developed at all, let alone implemented as successfully as it was.

“The support of the State Treasury is very important. The East Kimberly Transitional Housing program provides another illustration of just how a driven collection of individuals can make a real difference if provided with the support to implement ideas.”

The report also found that affordable housing programs must be resilient enough to survive a change of government, and must be able to maintain their initial momentum through continual reinforcement of key messages and regular communication of achievements.

It also said that strategies should be run from a central agency “with a flexible organisational structure that can respond quickly to opportunities arising from housing market conditions and unexpected funding sources.

AHURI is a national independent research network with an expert not-for-profit research management company, AHURI Limited, at its centre. It is funded by government grants, its university partners, and payment for professional services.

The report is available here.

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