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March 2015
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Defining action to secure institutionally financed affordable housing

Efforts to engage institutional investment in rental housing provision were badly damaged by the 2014 termination of the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS); yet lessons can be learned from the NRAS initiative and these should inform a successor program.
Building on our major 2013 study, a newly-published City Futures report reviews the NRAS experience and other emerging developments around the institutional financing of rental housing. 

With contributions from (CFRC Visiting Fellow) Judy Yates and Prof Peter Williams (Cambridge University), the report focuses mainly on the Australian context. However, it also references rapidly unfolding UK developments involving both government- and industry-led initiatives that have made major advances in this space over the past two years and which have possible implications for Australia. 

Drawing on interviews with finance experts and senior policymakers, as well as a review of recent Australian and UK publications, the report details 10 recommendations to government for action to re-start progress towards this widely-shared policy objective. 

A better deal for boarding house residents?

New rules for NSW boarding houses have helped secure improved management of unregistered establishments, and made it easier to solve disputes over security deposits (bonds). These stakeholder perspectives originate from newly-published City Futures research on the early impacts of 2013 boarding house regulation reforms crafted by the NSW Government. 


Mainly based on interviews with a range of State Government, local council and NGO players, the fieldwork was part of a larger study RMIT-led study which compares recent boarding house regulation reforms in NSW and Victoria (where the term ‘rooming houses’ is used).

However, while NSW stakeholders report gains from the state’s new regulatory system – see above – these have been marred by ongoing ambiguity around what is a ‘registrable boarding house’, by the regime’s lack of clearly defined physical and management standards, and by variable working relations between state and local tiers of government.

City Futures rings the changes

As part of a recent City Futures organisational restructure, we are delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Chris Pettit as Professor of Urban Analytics. Joining us from Melbourne University in May, Chris will head up the Centre’s Urban Analytics stream, greatly strengthening this aspect of our work.

This is part of refocusing City Futures interests into a more limited number of core business areas.  The restructure follows extensive discussions on the Centre’s future trajectory led by Adjunct Prof Geoff Roberts and also involving a high level group of Sydney-based urban policy makers and practitioners.  The outcome has been a loss of two Program areas, the significant strengthening of a third and the recasting of the remaining four Program areas.

Alongside Dr Pettit’s arrival, these changes have led to Associate Prof Katy Bridge’s Enabling Built Environments group moving to an independent role within the Faculty’s Architecture Program to better exploit design orientated research opportunities.  Prof Michael Neuman, who led our Sustainable Urbanism Program, has also moved on to pursue career opportunities elsewhere.  We wish both of them the very best in their respective paths and thank them for their substantial contributions to the Centre’s emerging profile over the past five years. 

Chris Pettit’s arrival has been made possible through a significant investment by the University to support the expansion of an analytics capacity in the Faculty.  Under Chris’s direction we aim to capitalise on our established AURIN (Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network) facility and develop a strong urban data and spatial analytical basis to our research, including a much enhanced GIS capacity.  To that end, with Chris’s help, we have been active in discussions with the Urban Big Data Centre at Glasgow University which we hope will develop in the next several years into a strong relationship.

The remaining City Futures Program areas are currently being reorganised to enhance our predominant interests in housing policy and practice (via our AHURI role), urban policy and renewal, urban change and equity and urban wellbeing.  Stay tuned for further announcements here in our next Newsletter. 

HBEP shifts gears

The City Futures Healthy Built Environments Program (HBEP) is shifting gears with the completion of its 5-year NSW Ministry of Health (MoH) grant. As acknowledged in its excellent MoH evaluation, HBEP has made a significant contribution in bringing health and planning closer together. Thus, among its biggest policy impact successes is the inclusion of a human health objective in the NSW Planning Bill 2013. While yet to be passed into law, it is hoped this will be legislated following the NSW State election. 

The HBEP Achievements Book summarises the Program’s activities in research, education and leadership under the Directorship of Professor Susan Thompson. Professor Thompson has also been appointed as a member of the NSW Minister for Health’s Preventive Health Advisory Committee – the first urban planner to hold such a position. Here is Susan with NSW Health Minister, the Hon. Jillian Skinner, MP

Health outcome incorporated in Metro Strategy

The recently released Sydney Metro Strategy has embraced health as an important outcome of State planning decisions. An entire section on health is included under the Strategy goal on ‘strong, healthy and well connected’ communities. Direction 3.3 ‘Create healthy built environments’ presents built environment strategies to achieve this. HBEP Fact Sheets, summarising Australian evidence and policy for on the topic, have been referenced. The Strategy also commits to developing Government guidelines for a healthy built environment (Action 3.3.1), to be progressed with the NSW Healthy Planning Expert Working Group, of which HBEP is a founding member. Stay tuned for progress updates.

Community housing: ongoing government support needed to achieve full potential

While they have proven robust and successful to date, Australia’s leading community housing organisations (CHOs) are as yet operating at well below optimal scale and have underutilised capacity. This presents a challenge for both organisations and policy-makers. This key research finding emerges in the latest report from a 3-year study of larger CHOs led by A/Prof Vivienne Milligan

Funded by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), the research was a joint venture with Swinburne University and University of Western Australia colleagues.  Linking with similar studies in England and the Netherlands, the report includes 3-country comparisons on CHO organisational values, aspirations and strategies. These reveal many significant similarities and contrasts across the not-for-profit housing sectors of the three countries.
The relatively undeveloped Australian sector requires further government support to fully realise its potential to deliver high quality housing management services and badly needed additional affordable supply.

Staffing news

Laura Crommelin joins the City Futures team as a Research Associate, to work on projects related to housing affordability and urban renewal.  Already a sessional lecturer and Ph.D candidate in urban planning in the Faculty, Laura’s research interests cover a range of current trends in post-industrial cities, including place branding, place-making and DIY urban revitalisation practices.

Forthcoming BE/City Futures Seminars

Dr Elisabete Silva (Cambridge University, UK) Adaptive planning policy – building and managing adaptive cities with adaptive policy using dynamic simulation
Wednesday 25th March 12.00-1.00pm
Room 4035, Level 4 Red Centre West Wing, UNSW Kensington Campus

Books, Referred Journal Articles, AHURI Reports and other Q4 2014/ Q1 2015

Burnley, I. H. (2014) Developments and Complementarities in International Migration Paradigms; Journal of International Migration and Integration; doi:10.1007/s12134-014-0395-8
Dalton, T., Hulse, K. & Pawson, H. (2015) Rooming house futures: governing for growth, transparency and fairness—Victorian Discussion Paper; Melbourne: AHURI
Fitzpatrick, S., Pawson, H., Bramley, G., Wilcox, S. & Watts, B. (2015) The Homelessness Monitor: England 2015; London: CRISIS
Herath, S., Choumert, J., & Maier, G. (2015) The value of the greenbelt in Vienna: a spatial hedonic analysis; The Annals of Regional Science; doi:10.1007/s00168-015-0657-1
Kent, J. L., & Thompson, S. (2014) The Three Domains of Urban Planning for Health and Well-being; Journal of Planning Literature, 29(3), 239-256; doi:10.1177/0885412214520712
Milligan, V. Pawson, H. Williams, P. & Yates , J. (2015) Next moves? Expanding affordable rental housing in Australia through institutional investment; Sydney: City Futures Research Centre, UNSW  
Milligan, V., Hulse, K., Pawson, H., Flatau, P. & Liu, E. (2015) Strategies of Australia’s leading not-for-profit housing providers: a national study and international comparison; Final Report no. 237; Melbourne: AHURI
Pawson, H. & Herath, S. (2015) Dissecting and Tracking Socio-spatial Disadvantage in Urban Australia; Cities 44 73–85 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2015.02.001
Pawson, H., Dalton, T. & Hulse, K. (2015) Rooming house futures: governing for growth, transparency and fairness—New South Wales Discussion Paper; Melbourne: AHURI
Randolph, B., & Easthope, H. (2014). The Rise of Micro-government: Strata Title, Reluctant Democrats and the New Urban Vertical Polity. In B. Gleeson, & B. Beza (Eds.), The Public City: Essays in Honour of Paul Mees (pp. 210-224). Carlton, Victoria: Melbourne University Press.
Randolph, B., & Tice, A. (2014); Suburbanizing Disadvantage In Australian Cities: Sociospatial Change In An Era Of Neoliberalism; Journal of Urban Affairs, 36(s1), 384-399. doi:10.1111/juaf.12108
Thompson, S., Kent, J., & Lyons, C. (2014). Building partnerships for healthy environments: research, leadership and education; Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 25(3), 202; doi:10.1071/HE14039
Troy, P. (2014). Urban Public Transport: A study in Commonwealth-State relations. In B. Gleeson, & B. Beza (Eds.), The Public City: Essays in Honour of Paul Mees; Melbourne, Australia: University of Melbourne Press
Troy, P. (2014). Urban Public Transport: A study in Commonwealth-State relations. In B. Gleeson, & B. Beza (Eds.), The Public City: Essays in Honour of Paul Mees; Melbourne, Australia: University of Melbourne Press
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