What Future for Evidence Based
Housing Policy Under Neoliberalism?
Insights from Australian Experience
Andrew Beer
Centre for Housing Urban and Regional
Planning
The University of Adelaide
Agenda
•
•
•
•
Australia as a neoliberal nation
Housing under neoliberalism
Australian housing policy under neoliberalism
The future of evidence based policy
Australia as a Neoliberal Nation
• Australia
– A ‘liberal’ welfare regime (Epsing Anderson 1990)
• And a Federation, not a unitary state
– Deregulation of the economy and working conditions from
the mid 1980s under the Hawke/Keating Governments
– Election of the deeply conservative Howard Coalition
Governments from 1996-2007
– Limited political or Treasury ‘buy in’ to housing programs
and assistance despite the programs of the Rudd Labor
Governments from 2007-10
• Australia therefore as a model for the UK, post the
Cameron election
Australia as a Neoliberal Nation:
Public Sector Outlays as a Percentage of GDP
45
40
Per Cent of GDP
35
30
25
20
Australia
15
OECD Total
10
OECD America
5
OECD Europe
0
1997
1995
1993
1991
1989
1987
1985
1983
1981
1979
1977
1975
1973
1971
1969
1967
1965
Year
Australia as a Neoliberal Nation
• Key dimensions of Australian neoliberalism
– A preference for market based solutions to questions of
economy and society
• Eg outsourcing of employment services
• A ‘workfare’ state that does not accept persons out of paid
employment
• Larner (2005) notes that neoliberalism does not reduce public
sector outlays, simply reshapes those outlays
– Importantly, a reliance on the housing market to
accommodate the population, and limited direct
intervention
• Unless forced by politics
• Public housing as anathema, as seen to discourage labour force
participation
Australian Housing Policy Under
Neoliberalism
• Where Have all
the Houses Gone?
Mal Brough, Minister for
Family and Community
Services, 2007
Where Have all the Houses Gone?
Mal Brough, Minister for Family and Community Services, 2007
Figure 1.
Total Stock of Public Housing in Australia, 1999-2000 to
2004-05.
410000
Total Stock of Public Housing
405000
400000
395000
390000
385000
1999-2000
2000-01
2001-02
2002-03
2003-04
2004-05
Year
Source: Department of Family and Community Services, Housing Assistance Act 1996,
Annual Report, Various Years.
Australian Housing Policy Under
Neoliberalism
• Significant policy failures:
– Reduction in social housing supply and escalating
waiting lists
– Rampant affordability problems in the major
Australian capital cities
– Significant under-supply of housing relative to
need/demand (NHSC 2009 & 2011)
– Indigenous housing
• Overcrowiding
• Home ownership rate half that of non Indigenous Australians
Policy Failure:
Percentage of Households in the Bottom 40 Per Cent of the Income Distribution Paying 30
Per cent or More for their Housing
30
25
Per Cent of Low Income
Purchasing Households
Per Cent of Low Income Tenant
Households
Per Cent
20
15
10
5
0
1996
2001
Census Year
2006
Policy Failure:
Percentage of Households in the Top 60 Per Cent of the Income Distribution Paying 30 Per
cent or More for their Housing
25
Percentage of Households
20
Number of Upper Income
Purchasing Households
Number of Upper Income Tenant
Households
15
10
5
0
1996
2001
Census Year
2006
Australian Housing Policy Under
Neoliberalism
• Neoliberalism only allows one solution
– But what happens when that solution fails?
– Productivity Commission (2004) noted structural
causes underpinning affordability problems
• But rejected by Treasury
• Anne Tiernan and Terry Burke
– Kingdon’s Garbage-Can theory of policy
• But who is to take out the garbage?
• Who is to replace the garbage?
Australian Housing Policy Under
Neoliberalism
• Case study - the National Rental Affordability
Scheme (NRAS)
– Government subsidies to private landlords to
provide new rental properties at 80% of market
rent
• Subsidies for 10 years
• Loosely based on an Australian interpretation of
European models
• Much researched topic – Gavin Wood, Nicole Gurran
etc
Australian Housing Policy Under
Neoliberalism
• NRAS
– Product of a coalition of industry groups,
academics and social welfare activists who united
under the title “Australians for Affordable
Housing”
• Fronted by Julian Disney
– Kevin Rudd in 2007 committed to providing
50,000 NRAS dwellings by 2010
• Added another 50,000 as part of the Nation Building
Economic Stimulus package of 2008-09
– With Treasury as the leading proponent
Australian Housing Policy Under
Neoliberalism
• High level of take up of NRAS properties
– Pressure to extend the scheme and concerns over
the 10 year time horizon
– But current pressure comes from outside
government, not from internal voices
• Current priority of the Federal Government is to return
the budget to surplus (May) in 2012-13
• But other opportunities for initiatives will arise in later
fiscal years, especially 2013-14 as the government
moves to elections
The future of evidence based policy
• Context
– Neoliberalism contains an embedded paradox: the
more it emphasises market based solutions, the
more likely public expenditure decisions will be
based on political imperatives
– Neoliberal governments enter government with
ideological positions that fail
• There is no Plan B
The future of evidence based policy
• Where does the future lie for evidence based
policy and research in housing:
– In being part of the process that takes garbage in
and out
• HomeStart
– In working with a coalition of like-minded actors
• Industry, civil society institutions, academia
• In anticipating the deficits in current policy settings and
in anticipating the need to both monitor and develop
alternatives
The future of evidence based policy
• From a researcher’s perspective
– It is an environment that is more chaotic but with
greater opportunities
• Number of housing researchers in Australia has grown
– Greater diversity of research partners as ‘big
society’ policies generate larger welfare
institutions
Conclusions
• Neoliberalism changes housing policy
– It is not a change for good
• It generates new opportunities for
researchers, but fewer for policy makers in
government service
• It is possible to get good outcomes for those
in housing need, but the pathways are now
more arduous, complex and requires multiple
partners
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What Future for Evidence Based Housing Policy Under Neoliberalism?