A new housing affordability competition has thrown up some creative concepts for housing affordability.
What can we do to address the housing affordability crisis?
How about a community lands trust? Or a smart home that collects data on its occupants, uses the data to improve performance… oh, and makes a few dollars from selling the data on the side? Then there is the notion of an equity housing model such as lifetime leases or a more flexible rent?
These are just some of the creative concepts that were selected for the short list in the City of Sydney’s recent Housing Challenge
There were 230 entries in total from both national and international teams, with seven ideas shortlisted as finalists.
Each of the short list teams will receive $20,000 to further develop their concept over the next five months with the public invited to provide feedback in November and December.
Shortlisted concepts cover a wide array of approaches including new design and delivery methodologies, innovative financing and ownership arrangements, planning tools, smart data systems and supporting pop-up housing in unused buildings.
“Sydney is grappling with a housing affordability crisis, but we need a diversity of housing to accommodate the diversity of our community,” City of Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore said.
“In addition to sustained investment in social and affordable housing by state and federal governments, we need new ideas to increase affordable housing supply, so I’m excited that we received such a diverse array of ideas that we increased the shortlist from six to seven.
“We’re proud to announce our final shortlist, offering new ideas for alternative and affordable housing solutions to help meet the needs of our community and beyond. We anticipate that the successful projects will be replicable, scalable and provide lessons for future initiatives.”
New equity models and long term leases
Eddie Ma, co-founder of spatial design practice, Vigilanti, has created an equity housing model that delivers affordability for low and moderate income households through innovations in finance and ownership types including lifetime leases, and affordable and social housing in a flexible rental model.
An investment opportunity is also part of the concept.
“Socially minded impact investors could invest in projects with a capped return and offer housing under a leasehold ownership for a lifetime lease agreement, as opposed to perpetual ownership,” Mr Ma said.
“We believe the equity housing model has great potential to bring relief to the desperate affordability crisis we have on our hands.”
Temporary pop up shelters
Housing All Australians’ temporary pop-up shelters delivered through repurposing existing buildings to provide transitional short-term and medium-term accommodation was another of the seven short-listed concepts.
“This is not a long-term solution, but an immediate response by the private sector to a city in crisis,” HAA founder and director, Robert Pradolin said.
The land trust model
Western Sydney University researcher Dr Louise Crabtree and Jason Twill of Urban Apostles have proposed a metropolitan lands trust policy framework. The partnership’s proposal considers a Sydney-wide metropolitan community land trust policy where equitable and innovative development models could be enabled and scaled.
“Community land trusts are non-profit, community-based organisations designed to ensure permanent housing affordability through community stewardship of land,” Dr Crabtree said.
“We cannot address housing affordability issues in our cities until we address how we relate to and govern land. It’s not a design issue, it’s a land issue.”
“Addressing the impact of land cost inflation on affordability is core to unlocking an equitable future for Sydney.”
Principal architects with USA practice in situ Design and University of Kansas academics Joe Colistra and Nilous Vakil propose a concept for a smart home that collects marketable data on its residents while at the same time utilising the monitoring systems to improve home performance and reduce energy spend.
The key idea is the sale of data can offset the occupants’ housing costs.
“The ‘Smart Home Sydney’ introduces affordable options while providing amenities and services to thrive at all stages of life,” Mr Colistra said.
“A science fiction scenario of ‘smart cities’ is not as far off as you may believe. The smart home prototype provides a vision of the future and creates lifelong neighbourhoods.”
Getting the size right and making the design flexible
A collaborative international team comprising Monash University researcher Dr Alysia Bennett, UCLA CityLAB’s Dr Dana Cuff and University of South Australia researcher Dr Damian Madigan has conceptualised A Right Size Service that would enable people to adapt the size and function of an existing property.
Dr Bennett told The Fifth Estate the concept draws on a Californian initiative that has facilitated granny flat developments on existing properties.
Dr Cuff was involved in the development of the planning and implementation guidelines to support a policy change in 2017 that enabled the development of granny flats (also known as accessory dwelling units) under city planning laws throughout the state.
Within 12 months of the policy change applications for granny flats in LA alone rose from 70 a year to 2000 in 2018. Within two years, around 20 per cent of all housing development applications in LA were for granny flats.
The idea of the Right Size Service is it provides a downsizing option other than moving house. It supports DIY renovations to improve home performance while also making it possible to allow other people to occupy the owner’s existing dwelling.
People would be able to design and change the configuration of the home so it is “always the right size” for its current needs.
Bennet says that although household sizes change as family members come and go, home designs are typically not flexible enough to allow easy transition with leasing or sharing of space.
Most of the guidelines and policies the team will develop during the next few months will be focused on detached dwelling types found in established inner and middle-ring suburbs, but it would be also ideal to influence new “McMansion” style designs with the same flexibility.
The team will also investigate financial options for renovation to deliver adaptation, the legal aspects of leasing or subleasing, building code compliance and any potential barriers in local planning regulations.
A pixelated view of essential spaces
Another of the finalists, The Pixel Project, has its roots in examining what the essential spaces are a human being needs to live well in the city. Devised by panovscott Architects principals Anita Panov and Andrew Scott, and Alexander Symes of Alexander Symes Architect, the design-led approach is based on small “pixels” comprising private rooms 16 square metres with ensuite and storage, located around shared communal living areas.
Speaking with The Fifth Estate, the team said rebuilding community is also part of the picture.
A collection of pixels would be an alternative to the current trend towards smaller and smaller self-contained dwellings, and enable sharing of gardens, living spaces – even potentially backyard chickens.
The team has also considered the financial dimensions. Its proposal aims for a pixel to cost around 30 per cent of annual income, with the dwelling located on a site subject to a 100-year land lease held by a company, rather than a private land ownership tenure.
This would decrease the cost of getting into the market and provide an alternative to either renting or buying under current market arrangements.
The team envisages people buying shares in the company holding the land lease, which then enables them to scale up or scale down the number of pixels their household occupies. Shares could also be inherited or traded
Mr Scott said part of the design solution would involve considering the “threshold conditions” between the private space and the public space carefully, to ensure dwellings cater for the individual’s varying needs and desires for engagement with others.
Sustainability is fundamental to the concept, with design and materiality thinking acknowledging the finite nature of the planet’s resources, Mr Symes said.
Over the coming months the team will start to more fully develop the scheme, including looking at methods for fabrication and how the concept would work from both a legal and an amenity perspective. The team also need to find ways a proposal could deliver the standards required under planning regulations and rental design regulations.
“We want to create something that is high on amenity, highly sustainable, affordable for all and sociable,” Mr Symes said.
A third way between renting and owning – an idea from Switzerland
Co-operative housing models for non-profit build-to-rent developments in Zurich, Switzerland, were the inspiration for The Third Way, a proposal from associate director at MGS Architects Katherine Sundermann, urban strategist Alexis Kalagas and urban designer Andy Fergus.
“Our proposal is a non-profit model of build to rent housing that has the potential to shape Sydney’s housing supply by providing a ‘third way’ between renting and owning,” Ms Sundermann said.
The idea would be to provide greater rental security for residents while locking in below market rent.
The team envisages projects would be developed and financed through member equity, low-interest loans and commercial mortgages.
- Read more about all the finalist proposals here