Adrian Harrington
Adrian Harrington pictured at the The Fifth Estate's Flash Forum on Affordable housing, 2017. Also pictured: John Daley and Nicki Hutley

Newly appointed chair of the Housing and Urban Research Institute Adrian Harrington hopes to get its research in front of a broader audience, including more of the private sector.

“There’s a huge opportunity to better disseminate AHURI’s research,” Harrington told The Fifth Estate.

He says that the national independent research group is well-known by the academic community, the not-for-profit sector and the relevant housing entities in government but is not so well known in the private sector.

“And when you look at the contribution of the private sector to the housing market it’s significant. 

“So at the board and management level there’s a plan to broaden the message and brand and how the research can be used.”

Although the private sector is where its “brand is weakest”, Harrington says there are also opportunities to strengthen existing relationships with the relevant government departments that look after cities and urban planning.

Fostering engagement across all sectors and stakeholder groups is one of the strategic goals outlined by the organisation late last year. Something else the organisation hopes to do going forward, according to Harrington, is broaden the research agenda to inform planning and across the relevant sectors rather than look at housing in isolation.

“We need to look at it in the context of the urban environment. We need to spend more time in the urban research space,” he says.

“We need to better understand that interaction between population, housing, jobs, and the social services that hang off that to develop a more strategic approach to our cities right across the spectrum – social, affordable, home ownership, rental…”

His aim is to work with the board and management to implement the strategic plan so that the group “has a seat at the table when it comes to discussing the whole cities agenda.”

AHURI is funded by both state and federal governments and is dedicated to providing to housing, homelessness, cities and related urban research. It’s research agenda touches on a range of issue, with the most recent report about the impact of domestic violence on the need for housing for women.

Another priority area for the research group going forward will be providing housing for an ageing population, Harrington says.

AHURI has also welcomed two new independent directors to the board: Helen Glanville and Karen Synon.

Harrington is also tapped into the funding side of social and affordable housing

As well as serving on the AHURI board since 2015 and working full time at Charter Hall as head of capital and product development, Harrington’s passion for social and affordable housing has also led him to a role with National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation as a non-executive director.

The NHFIC is essentially responsible two financing solutions. One is the National Housing Infrastructure Facility which provides loans, investments and grants for enabling infrastructure – like transport, telecommunications, electricity, sewerage and water – to unlock and fast-track new housing.

The second is the Affordable Housing Bond Aggregator, which provides cheaper and longer-term financing to registered community housing providers. In March 2019, the aggregator released its first social bond, raising $315 million in funds raised to be loaned to community housing providers.

Harrington says that the bond was “very well perceived” and that the size of the bond exceeded expectations for both community housing and government. It was also four times over-subscribed which “demonstrates that there’s strong demand for these types of bonds from the capital market,” he added. 

A unique perspective on a large and complex issue

Harrington has the unique positions to view affordable and social housing challenges from the research and policy based side through AHRUI and the funding side through NHFIC.

But he says there’s a whole bunch of other community housing and industry groups doing good work and it will be a collective effort to solve these issues.

“And it’s not just a one off, the way we define our cities and the way we define our housing has long term implications for economics and social demographics.

“This is what the Prime Minister [Scott Morrison] made clear when he was Treasurer – that if people are worrying about where they will sleep tonight to leads to a whole lot of other issues.

“You have young people and their aspirations for home ownership and aged people worrying about where they will live… it’s an issue that crosses all boundaries and I’m very happy to be helping.”

Adrian Harrington appeared on the Flash Forum for Affordable Housing held by The Fifth Estate in 2017.

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  1. It would be great if the amazing amount of rigorous research that AHURI does actually gets listened to. They do a good job of serving up findings in small bites giving the bottom line as well as full reports. When it comes to universal design in housing no-one is listening to the evidence of need or the economic studies that show it is cost-neutral if considered at the beginning of the design phase. The ABCB will be running a RIS on this very soon. But this was not brought about by evidence. It was sustained lobbying and advocacy over the last 15 years that finally got COAG to act.