Safe as Houses: COVID-19 underlines Australia’s housing need

Dr Judy Kraatz leads the SBEnrc social and affordable housing research team

Public debate has erupted along the fault lines of housing, exposing an acute pre-pandemic problem with Australia’s housing needs according to a Griffith University expert.

“This issue is at the forefront of the public’s mind because people who were formerly safe and secure in housing are now vulnerable,” says Dr Judy Kraatz who leads the Sustainable Built Environmental National Research Centre (SBEnrc) social and affordable housing research team.

Dr Kraatz said in the past social housing was available to a broader population but is now prioritised for people with severe and priority needs, creating long waiting lists.

Since 2014, her team has introduced a number of practical frameworks to build the case for increased investment in social housing.

The Rethinking Social Housing: Effective, Efficient, Equitable report identified 53 outcomes and more than 180 indicators across nine impact domains supporting the link between housing and non-housing benefits.

The benefits of housing fall into nine impact domains: Community and culture, economy, education, employment, environment, health and well-being, housing, social and urban amenity.

While the research shows safe and secure housing affects all nine domains Dr Kraatz warns against simplifying the complex issues involved.

“We’re building an evidence base so government decision-makers can better demonstrate the economic, social and community return.”

State governments in Queensland and Western Australia, along with industry stakeholders, have just completed working with Dr Kraatz’s team to map the social and affordable housing networksin these states.

Building a national approach for social and affordable housing

Dr Kraatz said while individual states were using the nine domains to inform future policy making, Australia lacked a consistent national framework.

“There are several challenges for governments, including the difficulty in working across departments and portfolio budgets in terms of investment and benefits realisation.”

She said future research needs include launching a long-term study of the broad benefits of safe and secure housing for individuals over time, and investigating options for an effective national approach.

“We will continue to work to strengthen the case for social and affordable housing as critical social and economic infrastructure in Australia.”

SBEnrc is a key research intermediary between industry, government and research organisations. Its vision is to lead world-class research to enhance Australia’s built environment industry.

Dr Kraatz is a Senior Research Fellow within the Cities Research Institute.