Since when did the housing affordability crisis become a housing delivery crisis? Asks Sarah Reilly as she calls for balance in the fast evolving group think that deregulating zoning will lead to affordable housing. It won’t. What it will do is provide more empty housing (there is heaps) more upmarket dwellings and investment and holiday homes. YIMBYs Go! She urges, but only if they support affordable and social housing

What do we need?

We need: more affordable and social housing. And greater housing diversity. So that lower income and more vulnerable community members (like our young people without the bank of mum and dad, our older people who want to age in place, our single parent families, our key workers, our women without super – to name a few) have safe and stable homes.

This housing needs to be within complete communities that have the social infrastructure and services to support population growth, and to enable all our communities to connect and thrive.

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What we don’t need

More fast-tracked, unaffordable, short term/holiday rental, unoccupied, investment dwellings that the people who need it most will never be able to afford or access.  

What we also don’t need

The current blaming of local government and NIMBYs’ (not in my backyard) as the reason for the situation that we, as a planning and development industry – as a city, a state, and a nation – have found ourselves in.  Since when did the housing affordability crisis become a housing delivery crisis?

Words have meaning, and the meaning has definitely shifted.  

Enough with the NIMBYs and YIMBYs

We know that more housing supply doesn’t deliver more affordable housing. So, why is this currently the main avenue that we are focussed on to address the fact that more and more people just can’t find a stable home?

Why do we keep throwing around terms like “YIMBY” and “NIMBY”, which places the blame and accountability on communities and those agencies most connected to them?

I’m a massive supporter of being a YIMBY if it means supporting more affordable and diverse housing (for example social housing, key worker housing, town housing for older people to stay connected to their neighbourhood). But not if it is just an avenue to deliver more unaffordable private housing in unaffordable areas, no matter what, that might raise local rents, push local communities out, and mean more cumulatively delivered housing that is not strategically supported by infrastructure and services.  Please don’t call me a NIMBY for that. ?

Not starting with needs means more of the same

More of the same, fast-tracked market driven housing, without needs-based longer-term impact thinking, isn’t working for most people or places.  While there is no silver bullet to address this affordability crisis, we can’t just keep getting on bandwagons because it’s resulting in not just a lack of secure homes but:  

  • lack of school places for children and young people to  get a quality education?
  • ?a lack of consideration of the cumulative impact of small site-based development on the need to deliver more regional and state social, health, and transport infrastructure and services 
  • declining community connection, which is currently at its lowest, and we are facing cumulative shocks and stresses impacting our ability to be resilient
  • lack of public open spaces for people living in small apartments or constrained housing to get out into green spaces with their friends and family for respite and exercise?
  • more cases of investment apartments and towers with defects across our cities. More defects mean higher strata costs, increasing rents, or mortgage defaults. These defects have been exacerbated by recent La Niña events, which?leave shoddy buildings no place to hide from leaks!? ?

?What we can do collectively

  • stop playing the blame game – state and federal governments, local governments, and the private and community sectors need to work together for a need-based, multi-pronged response to delivering housing affordability and housing diversity for the people who most need it
  • slow down and think collectively. Stop talking about dwellings and housing, and start talking about homes and communities
  • start with needs – early and strategic community and housing needs assessments to inform planning proposals, masterplans, and regional planning
  • show strong leadership, engagement and education with communities around the changes we need for more equitable growth
  • deliver more affordable housing on government land where there is much less impediment from land costs. If state and federal governments truly want to deliver more affordable housing, including around transport hubs. Leverage public land and set affordable housing targets that must be delivered. Don’t wait to be told what’s “feasible”
  • resource local government to deliver strategic LGA wide social infrastructure plans that can inform and allocate land and resources not just locally, but that is the responsibility of state government and private sector
  • revisit negative gearing – a system that rewards multiple property ownership for personal gain, will not protect tenants’ ability to afford a stable home 
  • resource local government planning teams to be equipped to effectively and efficiently respond to the growing planning proposals they receive through the housing targets set by other levels of government. And to enable them to meet their obligations to ensure they deliver public good through their proposal

This article was first published on Linkedin and republished with permission.

Sarah Reilly, Cred Consulting

Sarah Reilly is the founder and managing director of Cred Consulting More by Sarah Reilly, Cred Consulting

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  1. Great article Sarah! I especially agree with the need for more diverse housing that is needs-based and placed within established suburbs with connections to services and communities.
    My research project aims to articulate housing needs of diverse household types in dwellings of dual or more households in housing forms that increase density ‘gently’ in the suburbs. The housing needs are being collected from an anonymous online survey to households and interviews with housing providers. Through my research at the University of Queensland I hope to contribute to the housing affordability crisis by providing needs-based longer-term thinking of sustainable housing solutions.
    If anyone reading this would like to participate in the online survey here is the URL address

  2. I agree with the author’s list of collective actions but there is one more that is missing that would deliver more social and affordable housing than just relying on the redevelopment of government owned land to achieve this objective. Almost all of the housing in Australia is built by the private property development sector. Inclusionary zoning requiring a percentage (which can be slowly increased) of housing in new developments to be social and truly affordable housing is a very successful way to deliver more of this housing to those most in need. This tool is being used overseas and it actually works.

  3. Wow, some welcome common sense!
    I would include a couple additional “What we can do’s”, namely impost a stiff state or local government levy on unoccupied properties, and significantly reduce short-term letting.