Suffering from inadequate revenue flow and too often delivering a substandard product, Australia’s social housing sector is in need of reform. 

By following a data-driven and systemic best practice approach to asset management, the sector can achieve better outcomes for tenants, according to a new report by the university-driven Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI).

AHURI concludes that aside from more adequate revenues, the industry needs a common asset management framework, standard terminology and measures to work within, as well as better skills development and training and education.

It suggests that all social housing operators would adopt a best practice asset management framework based on ISO 55000 from the International Organization for Standardization.

It also called for radical reform of the social housing finance system, including more substantial investment from Commonwealth and state governments. One of the suggestions was a recalibration of Centrelink payments so that recipients have sufficient income to pay rents that cover maintenance, rates, insurance and administration.

“A recalibration of Commonwealth Centrelink payments would also facilitate a transition to a property rent system based on the costs of providing social housing. This would ensure the financial viability of [operators] while providing housing affordability for tenants and vertical and horizontal equity among social housing tenants,” the report said. 

The current value of social housing in Australia is estimated at $100 billion, much of which was built between 1950 and 1970 and is substantially depreciated.

Particularly smaller operators don’t have sufficient revenue for upkeep, resulting in unacceptable conditions for many tenants and maintenance backlogs so severe they often result in the premature disposal of assets, financial losses and a reduction in provision at times of growing demand.

“If [social housing operators] are to take responsibility for acquiring, maintaining, upgrading, renewing and redeveloping housing stock and establishing themselves as sound asset managers, then the social housing sector needs a new operating framework,” the report concluded.

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