A policy shift towards green building standards will unlock environmental, economic and social benefits in the affordable rental housing sector new Griffith University research has found.

Published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, the research reveals that implementing a green-building mandate within a federal affordable housing financing scheme would improve rental affordability through reduced energy/water bills and low-cost financing for community housing, while simultaneously reducing Australia’s carbon emissions.

Dr Stefen MacAskill Cities Research Institute, Griffith Business School, School of Engineering and Built Environment

“Integrating green building principles into a typical Brisbane based affordable housing development can reduce annual rental housing costs by approximately $5-17 per week for 1-4 person households, over a 10-year period,” said lead researcher Dr Stefen MacAskill from Cities Research Institute.

“A shift to a green building policy could alone contribute to almost 3% of Australia’s carbon emissions reduction target if applied nationally.

“The Australian government’s move towards bond-based financing structures is expected to lead to an expansion of affordable rental housing stock across Australia, providing an opportunity for positive change as we transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Recent statistics indicate that almost half Australian low-income households are facing ‘housing stress’, with more than 30% of the household income going to housing.

“Over the years, a patchwork of Government supported housing affordability schemes have been devised to assist low and middle-income rental households,” said Professor Rodney Stewart, Deputy Head of Research, Cities Research Institute.

“These schemes offer financial incentives to increase affordable housing and reduce the financial burden of rental housing costs, but they don’t consider broader housing affordability measures, like ongoing utility costs which are determined by building design.

“Existing and previous initiatives to have suffered a ‘split-incentives’ barrier when it comes to green building, as landlords and developers are reluctant to invest in efficiency improvements.”

Professor Rodney Stewart, Deputy Head of Research, Cities Research Institute.

Professor Stewart said over the past 10 years domestic residential energy costs had increased by about 60%, with gas and water costs following similar trajectories.

“Changes to high-level policy directives create an opportunity to provide better incentives for green building.

“Previous initiatives have failed to motivate developers to construct efficient ‘green buildings’, which despite higher construction costs, can deliver net positive returns over time.

“The shifting affordable housing policy landscape provides an opportunity to include incentives for utility efficient, green certified housing in a renewed scheme.”

Dr MacAskill said this was a missed opportunity to deliver upon government environment, social and economic goals.

“By connecting affordable housing policy with green building principles, tenants not only save money but also contribute to Australia’s environmental sustainability objectives.”

1: No Poverty
UN Sustainable Development Goals 1: No Poverty

7: Affordable and Clean Energy
UN Sustainable Development Goals 7: Affordable and Clean Energy