AHURI calls for social housing to be treated as critical infrastructure

Treating social housing as critical government infrastructure would attract significantly more private investment, a new report from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has found.

According to the report, the broad shortcomings of the private housing market is increasingly forcing Australians out of the market, meaning that social housing is increasingly being forced to cater to a broader swathe of the market.

The Conceptual analysis of social housing as infrastructure research report suggests that policy makers adopt more pragmatic evaluation techniques of social housing, including cost-benefit analysis and business case preparation.

However, the report also warned against viewing housing infrastructure as productive stock, saying that it runs the risk of excluding non-monetary value.

“Housing can obviously be seen as infrastructure in that it allows labour to be productive,” says lead researcher Dr Kathleen Flanagan, from the University of Tasmania.

“In particular it affects productivity through agglomeration economies—the size and density of populations housed impacts the costs of commuting, public health, ageing, and childhood development and learning.”

The report acknowledges the widespread issues surrounding the shortcomings of the private housing market in failing to meet the needs of a growing proportion of Australian households, and argues that more should be done to broaden notions of who uses social housing.

“Our research challenges the mainstream assumptions about who social housing should be for and why,” says Dr Flanagan.

“There are risks an uncritical adoption of a business case approach that focusses on the measureable financial aspects of social housing may exclude or hide other important qualities that are relevant to the purpose of social housing.”

The full report can be found here

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