We believe that all new affordable housing developments should occur within a national framework that identifies suitable locations for such housing developments. Those developments should take the form of resilient and sustainable neighbourhoods, many should be rental, and all should come under lifetime management plans so they do not deteriorate over time.
A national framework
- We need a coordinated national policy to support the development of affordable housing at all levels of government, national, state and local, and to remove the obstacles to creative solutions to the housing affordability crisis.
The locations and support infrastructure
- As part of this coordinated national policy we need a review of potential locations for housing development. The most critical demand for housing is in the low-income and pensioner demographic where access to work is not the critical factor. Rather than the concentration on high density housing in already congested city areas this group is focusing on small developments in regional towns where there is adequate support infrastructure already in place to support new housing. There are many Australian towns with a population of between 30,000 and 300,000, and a few more recognised regions. These offer ideal environments for new affordable housing developments, that would have minimal impact on existing infrastructure, and bring the benefits of increased population to the areas.
There are three aspects to sustainability that we will pay attention to with our housing developments, environmental, social and physical.
Building environmentally sustainable neighbourhoods
- All new developments should be environmentally sustainable and cause no negative impact on the natural environment.
- Efficient new technologies should be incorporated in relation to all buildings.
- Efficient new technologies should be incorporated in relation to all utilities, but particularly power and water, to incorporate the highest standards of environmental sustainability.
Building socially sustainable neighbourhoods
As well as being environmentally sustainable these initiatives provide both affordable housing and AFFORDABLE LIVING.
- Housing should be built in the form of resilient neighbourhoods that have been designed to include common and community spaces including organic food production, meeting places and recreational options.
- House design should be flexible and include all stages of life up to and including “age in place” options.
- Part of this must include a new approach to housing singles, who make up the vast majority of those on the community housing waiting lists. There will be a slant towards singles accommodation to redress the current shortfall of public and community housing for singles. There will also be a slant towards those who are least able to manage a homeless lifestyle for age or health reasons. However, in general, the community will be demographically varied.
- There should be a greater emphasis on long-term and secure rental options. A large proportion of those currently forced out of the housing market are not in a position, either through low incomes or age, to either want to or need to purchase property.
Building physically sustainable neighbourhoods
- Houses should be built using low-cost efficient modern building practices resulting in low-cost designs.
- These building must suit the geographic and climate challenges they face and should be cost effective to maintain, both inside and out.
- There must be a long term management plan to maintain the property and buildings in good order and prevent deterioration of the neighbourhoods over time.
The definition of affordable is a moving target with different groups quoting different numbers. Most deem it to be when households in the lowest 40% of income distribution spend more than 30% of household income on housing costs. Housing costs are rental payments for tenants and mortgage payments for freehold/leasehold owners (Disney, 2007).
The term, used by real estate agents when marketing property for rent or sale, does not have a definition and is open to interpretation.
Also recent government policy initiatives have been using a definition of 75% of market value, which is clearly not affordable for low and fixed incomes.
We propose to develop a sliding scale of affordability based on three approximate figures, the Newstart allowance, the Age and Disability Support Pensions, and the national minimum wage. It is worth noting that many who are working, are still receiving well below the national minimum wage as a result of the casualisation of the workforce, but are not claiming any government benefits.