Government intervention in response to significant housing needs, and challenges and failures in the Australian housing market, is both reasonable and warranted, a housing research report said.
Researchers said there is widespread recognition the private housing market is failing to meet the housing needs of a growing proportion of Australian households, and across Tasmania growing demand has created challenges in the housing market.
An Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute report suggests policy makers should adopt pragmatic techniques such as cost-benefit analyses and business case preparation to promote the value of social housing.
Researchers suggest social housing should be considered as essential infrastructure, something which enables the delivery of economic or productivity outcomes or essential services, and not only conceptualise it as a welfare safety net in order to create a viable basis for private investment.
Lead researcher Dr Kathleen Flanagan, from the University of Tasmania, said housing can been seen as infrastructure in that is allows labour to be productive.
“In particular it affects productivity through agglomeration economies – the size and density of populations housed impacts the costs of commuting, public health, ageing and childhood development and learning,” Dr Flanagan said.
The report said government budget priorities, in particular the lack of priority given to social housing, are the principal reasons for the lack of investment in the Australian social housing system.
Social housing is increasingly regarded as a form of welfare rather than an investment that delivers wider benefits to Australians.
The failures of the private housing market extend beyond the narrow group of people targeted by the present-day social housing system, the report said.
“Our research challenges the mainstream assumptions about who social housing should be for and why,” Dr Flanagan said.
The report argues there is a historical precedent of social housing performing broader economic and social services, which add to economic development and productivity growth.
“There are risks an uncritical adoption of a business case approach that focuses on the measurable financial aspects of social housing may exclude or hide other important qualities that are relevant to the purpose of social housing,” Dr Flanagan said.