City Futures Research Centre UNSW Built Environment

Understanding and addressing local opposition to affordable housing projects

In response to a deepening housing affordability crisis, governments in Australia have recently introduced a host of policy initiatives and legislative mechanisms to boost the provision of affordable housing. The Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan (NBESP), the National Rental Affordability Scheme, the NSW Affordable Rental Housing SEPP and Amendment VC56 in Victoria have all aimed to boost the supply of accommodation affordable to lower income households and/or fast-track its development. However, the development of affordable housing has frequently been frustrated by local opposition from communities, planners, politicians and the media. In all major Australian cities, such projects have been delayed, cut back and sometimes even halted following local resistance to their development.

The central aim of this project is to better understand the nature of this opposition so that ’affordable housing’ advocates can achieve greater success in progressing future development applications. The proposed project will consider (a) the role of affordable housing in the context of current housing policy; (b) the factors that underlie concerns about affordable housing projects in the Australian context; (c) the extent to which commonly-raised concerns about affordable housing projects eventuate; and (d) the opportunities for concerns about affordable housing to be addressed through policy and practical measures.

To be undertaken in three states (NSW, SA and QLD), the research will centre on four case studies encompassing diverse policy settings and local area types. Each case study will be a locality where two or more affordable housing projects have been proposed and/or developed over the past five years and where these schemes have been subject to varying degrees of community resistance. Through a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods, the following questions will be addressed:

(1) What is the policy and housing market context for local opposition to affordable housing?

(2) What factors underlie local resistance to affordable housing developments?

(3) What are the impacts of affordable housing development on local area characteristics?

(4) How can opposition to affordable housing projects be minimised through policy measures and practical steps?

The study will produce a series of recommendations for policy-makers and housing providers on mitigating or addressing resistance to affordable housing, as well as an evidence-base that documents the impacts of new affordable housing projects on local area characteristics such as property values, crime rates and environmental amenity. Despite the widespread prevalence of opposition to affordable housing in Australia, no such evidence-base currently exists.

Our research team includes a mix of early career researchers and more experienced scholars. The team has been assembled specifically for the range of tasks proposed, and provides a mix of qualitative and quantitative expertise. UNSW early-career researcher and qualified urban planner Davison will lead the project, with support from experienced AHURI researcher Phibbs, and from Galster; a leading international scholar on property economics and the price impacts of affordable housing. Legacy and Liu will assist with the qualitative research, Darcy will bring to the team his conceptual skills and extensive experience in content analysis, and Piracha his knowledge of planning systems and reforms.


Publications

Legacy C; Davison G; Liu EY; van den Nouwelant R; Piracha A, 2013, 'Democratic Infrastructure? Delivering affordable housing under Australia's Social Housing Initiative', in Ruming K; Randolph B; Gurran N (eds.), State of Australian Cities Conference 2013: Refereed Proceedings, SOAC Research Network, Sydney, presented at State of Australian Cities Conference 2013, Sydney, 27 - 29 November 2013, http://www.soacconference.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Legacy-Governance.pdf

Davison G; Legacy C; Liu EY; van den Nouwelant R; Piracha A, 2013, 'How and why does community opposition to affordable housing development escalate? “Unsupported development” in Parramatta, NSW', in Ruming K; Randolph B; Gurran N (eds.), State of Australian Cities Conference 2013: Refereed Proceedings, SOAC Research Network, presented at State of Australian Cities Conference 2013, Sydney, 27 - 29 November 2013, http://www.soacconference.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Davison-Social.pdf