Steve Driscoll, UrbanGrowth NSW in a welcome note

Did our Surround Sound on housing on Monday night in Sydney tap an emerging river of change in the housing market? A desire to change the policy and investment agenda to deliver more affordable housing, and at the same time a deep reservoir of talent and ideas to transform the very notion of what housing means in this country and how it can be conceived? Absolutely.

L to R: Stephanie Barker, Greater Sydney Commission; Wendy Hayhurst, NSW Federation of Housing Associations

Did we barely get to scratch the surface of what’s possible? Absolutely.

As a start of a new conversation on how the housing market can be reimagined the Surround Sound on housing was just a start.

The first panel session focused on the taxation, zoning and policy agendas that could yield more affordable housing. There was heat, of course, between those on the developer side arguing for more supply while others demolished some of the arguments.

Another focus was on how to make affordable housing an asset class and something that would attract superannuation funds so that a bigger and steadier supply of affordable housing could prevent the kids leaving Sydney or even Australia altogether.

A big contingent in the crowd was clearly embarked on creating its own solutions to the affordability crisis that in

Nigel Edgar, Frasers Property takes the mic

Sydney has seen median prices pushing toward $1 million. Instead of worrying and complaining, the people in this group were getting on with the business of designing and delivering alternatives.

There was the Nightingale Model (covered here extensively), Big World Homes that want to utilise available well-located development land for small sustainable self-contained homes that allow their occupants to save for entry level to their own homes, a group in Balmain that’s gathered 80 people to develop an alternative place for retirement, and a vertical village that wants to provide amenity for young, old and the disabled.

There are new materials such as wood being used throughout entire buildings and prefab construction that promises big savings in waste and costs.

Sustainability was barely mentioned but that was because none of this innovation makes sense without being sustainable. BWH is fully self sufficient, Nightingale aims for the highest enviro credentials, same with the vertical village.

We were among friends. The choir gets it.

There was much great work underway, clearly. It was impossible to hear everyone’s story; but the crowd got plenty of tantalising snippets and indicators.

Jessie Hochberg, Nightingale Housing

The takeaway from this event clearly signalled the need for more conversations and deeper dives into some of the challenging aspects in the policy space, the work to reform it, and the design-led solutions working away just under the surface of mainstream understanding.

As one guest told us later: “The more I get into all this the more I realise that architecture is the least of our worries. It’s all the back-end stuff like policy, regulation, financing, technology etc that make or break affordable, sustainable housing delivery.”

The big question of the night, was where was the “Uber” or housing? It was a word that emerged during the research for this event: the feeling is that this industry is about to become disrupted every bit as much as the taxi industry was disrupted.

We’ll bring you more in-depth coverage of what was said.

And most excitingly, thanks to our major sponsor UrbanGrowth NSW, there will soon be a video so that we can share the look and feel of the event with all our readers.

We will also keep covering the ideas that came out of the event and in interviews with our panellists and special guests.

While the commercial property world, at least in the leadership group, is across the notion of sustainable transformation, in the residential sector we’ve barely touched the sides.

So our conversation in the Surround Sound on Housing has only just kicked off.


We had a huge response to our competition for 10 tickets; in the end we squeezed in another 20 and still had more than 50 who we could not accommodated despite a fantastic range of questions and ideas flagged.

Hopefully we can something else soon.

Major sponsor for this event UrbanGrowth NSW

Venue sponsor: BVN

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