Housing-Your basic infrastructure-Toolkit for Local Government

Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
Acknowledgements ............................................................................................................. vii
Introduction: who is this kit for?.................................................................................1
Objectives of the kit ..................................................................................................................1
Structure of the kit......................................................................................................... ............1
Further information .......................................................................................................... .........2
Housing policies and strategies ........................................................................................ .........2
Different ‘types’ of housing policy ......................................................................................... ..3
Housing strategies, residential strategies and corporate strategies ............................................5
Understanding local government and housing provision ..........................................7
2.1 Introduction...............................................................................................................................7
2.2 The existing role of local government in housing .....................................................................9
2.3 Why develop a housing policy? ..............................................................................................10
2.3.1 Population decline................................................................................................... ..... 10
2.3.2 Service needs ................................................................................................................ 10
2.3.3 Urban amenity........................................................................................................ ...... 11
2.3.4 Environmental sustainability and efficient land use..................................................... 11
2.3.5 Economic development................................................................................................. 11
2.3.6 Community development .............................................................................................. 11
2.3.7 Housing affordability and choice ................................................................................. 12
2.3.8 Linking services ............................................................................................................ 12
2.4 Who benefits from a local housing policy? .............................................................................1 2
2.5 What actions/roles could flow from a housing policy? ...........................................................13
2.6 The changing context of local government and housing .........................................................14
2.6.1 The localised effects of the restructuring of the Australian economy........................... 14
2.6.2 Globalisation, insecurity and housing.......................................................................... 15
2.6.3 The remaking of government ........................................................................................ 16
2.6.4 The changing housing market ...................................................................................... 16
2.6.5 The changing policy context......................................................................................... 17
2.7 The politics of housing policy.......................................................................................... .......18
2.7.1 Government versus the market ..................................................................................... 19
2.7.2 The long term versus the short term ............................................................................. 20
2.7.3 The ‘haves’ versus the ‘have nots’ ............................................................................... 20
2.7.4 Locality versus society.............................................................................................. .... 21
2.7.5 The community versus the individual ........................................................................... 21
2.7.6 Public space versus housing......................................................................................... 22
2.7.7 Which sphere of government is responsible? ............................................................... 22
2.7.8 Provision versus facilitation......................................................................................... 22
2.7.9 Medium density housing ............................................................................................... 23
2.7.10 The politics of housing: a summary.............................................................................. 25
2.8 Typology of local government ................................................................................................26
2.9 Regional or local housing policy........................................................................................ .....26
Establishing a steering/organising committee.....................................................................30
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
Compiling a local housing picture............................................................................. 31
3.1 Introduction ............................................................................................................................ 31
3.2 Housing supply and demand analysis ..................................................................................... 33
3.2.1 A statement of the national and local economic context...............................................34
3.2.2 Current housing demand............................................................................................... 34
3.2.3 Future demand: population forecasts ...........................................................................38
3.2.4 Housing and land supply ............................................................................................. .42
3.3 Housing needs analysis........................................................................................................... 43
3.3.1 Introduction ........................................................................................................ ..........43
3.3.2 Housing policy context..................................................................................................44
3.3.3 Appropriateness ..................................................................................................... .......45
3.3.4 Housing needs groups...................................................................................................47
3.3.5 Homelessness ........................................................................................................ ........47
3.3.6 Indigenous housing .......................................................................................................49
3.3.7 Culturally/ethnically specific housing...........................................................................49
3.3.8 Older persons................................................................................................................ 50
3.3.9 Youth housing ....................................................................................................... ........54
3.3.10 Disability........................................................................................................... ............55
3.3.11 Assessing needs and linking with policy .......................................................................57
3.4 Affordability study..................................................................................................... ............. 59
3.5 Common data bases ................................................................................................................ 64
3.6 Do we need neighbourhoods?: how to define areas................................................................ 66
3.7 Review of council’s policies and activities............................................................................. 66
From information to action: preparing policies and strategies.............................. 69
Introduction ............................................................................................................................ 69
Developing a housing policy ............................................................................................ ...... 69
Setting goals and objectives............................................................................................ ........ 71
From objective to strategy ...................................................................................................... 74
Implementation.......................................................................................................... ............. 76
Residential strategy................................................................................................................. 77
4.6.1 How does this kit mesh with a HRDS?..........................................................................77
4.7 Affordability policy and actions ............................................................................................. 78
4.8 Summary checklist of the policies and strategies stage........................................................... 80
The production of a housing report .......................................................................... 81
Introduction ........................................................................................................... ................. 81
Who is the report for?............................................................................................................. 81
What is the report for?................................................................................................. ........... 81
What are the outcomes?.......................................................................................................... 81
Is it digestible?....................................................................................................... ................. 81
Is hard copy format the best method? ..................................................................................... 81
Is it benchmarked?...................................................................................................... ............ 82
Is there a rationale for policy and actions? ............................................................................. 82
Examples of goals and objectives........................................................................................ ... 82
5.9.1 Affordability and social housing ...................................................................................82
5.9.2 Research, knowledge acquisition and information provision .......................................83
5.9.3 Residential planning .....................................................................................................84
5.9.4 Coordination, facilitation and relationships to other agencies ....................................84
5.9.5 Planning management ..................................................................................................85
5.9.6 Advocacy and support................................................................................................. ..85
5.9.7 Housing management ...................................................................................................85
Bibliography ................................................................................................................ 87
Appendix I
Appendix II
MAV Housing Policy Position Statement
Survey of Local Government
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
Index of figures
Figure 1.1
Figure 1.2
Figure 1.3
Figure 2.1
Figure 2.2
Figure 3.1
Figure 3.2
Figure 3.3
Figure 3.4
Figure 3.5
Figure 3.6
Figure 3.7
Relationship between policy, strategy and actions...........................................................3
Policy documents.............................................................................................................3
Relationship between ‘types’ of policy............................................................................4
Factors that housing affects .............................................................................................7
Factors that affect housing...............................................................................................8
Demand and supply framework .....................................................................................32
Information typically presented from the census ...........................................................35
Number of dwellings required for a population of ten thousand ...................................40
Population projections method ......................................................................................41
Age structure of Victoria’s population, 1996 and 2021.................................................51
Assessment framework ..................................................................................................58
Policy review ............................................................................................................... ..66
Index of tables
Table 2.1
Table 3.1
Table 3.2
Table 3.3
Table 3.4
Table 3.5
Table 3.6
Table 3.7
Table 3.8
Table 3.9
Table 3.10
Table 3.11
Table 3.12
Table 3.13
Table 3.14
Table 3.15
Table 4.1
Table 4.2
Table 4.3
Table 4.4
Typology of local governments ......................................................................................27
Using approvals data to estimate population change ......................................................36
Estimating population increase by household type .........................................................36
Lifecycle stages and housing careers ..............................................................................37
Average household size, 1996-2021 ...............................................................................40
Overoccupancy characteristics: sources and criteria.......................................................46
Categories of homelessness.............................................................................................48
Percentage of persons with a profound or severe handicap aged 65 and over, by sex and
age, 1993................................................................................................... ......................51
Estimated number of aged households needing dwelling adaptations (by the surrogate
method) ..................................................................................................................... ......53
Roles and responsibilities in relation to supported accommodation for disability ..........57
Calculating mortgage as a proportion of income ............................................................60
Private rental affordability, Melbourne, June quarter, 1995 ...........................................61
Before- and after-housing poverty by tenure, 1973 and 1996.........................................62
Calculating threshold income...................................................................................... ....63
Average annual mortgage repayment in Richmond ........................................................63
Common housing indicators and benchmarks.................................................................65
Housing actions from City of Port Phillip corporate plan...............................................70
Housing roles and potential policy areas ........................................................................72
Specification of an affordability objective ......................................................................75
Examples of identifying outcomes ..................................................................................76
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
Municipal Association of Victoria
The MAV Housing Kit – Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure – has been compiled
specifically for Victorian local government elected members and officers, and aims to
promote and support the development of regional and local housing policies and
strategies by councils.
Housing forms a critical part of the basic infrastructure of all municipalities, and local
government areas are in many respects defined by their housing. Victorian councils
have a range of roles in the planning, regulation, facilitation and direct provision of
housing, in conjunction with the state and Commonwealth governments, the
community and the private sector. Historically the MAV undertook a major role in the
development of housing through its management of the Local Government/
Community Housing Program, and in February 1996 the Victorian Local Government
Housing Policy was endorsed by the MAV General Management Committee.
Victorian councils have undergone almost unprecedented reform during the 1990s,
including amalgamation of 210 councils into 78. The impetus for the development of
this Housing Kit came from the newly formed councils reviewing their overall
strategic directions and revisiting their roles in housing in their redefined areas. With
the strengthened local government system in Victoria, councils have an increased
capacity to plan strategically with their communities to facilitate the provision of
appropriate and integrated physical, social and economic infrastructure.
The kit highlights the need for councils to develop clear policy directions in housing
in view of, for example, changing community demographics, pressure on financing of
municipal infrastructure, major changes occurring with the Commonwealth-State
Housing Agreement, and community controversy in areas of planning and
development such as medium density housing and ‘right to farm’.
The kit is a valuable tool to assist councils in determining their roles in housing with
the public, private and community sectors, and to strengthen the relationship in
regional and local planning with the Office of Housing, local organisations and
developers. It provides a step by step guide to the development of a housing policy
and strategy to respond to the needs of diverse communities.
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
I would like to thank the project chairperson Cr Hedley Moffat and all the members of
the steering committee for their input and commitment to the completion of this
ambitious project, and all the council representatives who contributed to it.
Acknowledgment is also made of the assistance and funding provided by the Office of
Housing to undertake this project.
Congratulations are due to the Swinburne team, headed by Professor Terry Burke and
in particular Scott Ewing, for the production of this excellent kit, which I commend to
councils as a resource for both determining future directions and achieving effective
housing outcomes for their communities.
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
This kit was funded by the Office of Housing and the Municipal Association of
Victoria. We would like to acknowledge and thank the large number of people across
local government who assisted through replying to our original survey, especially
those who took the time to provide ideas and examples, without which the kit would
be very much the poorer. We would particularly like to thank the steering committee,
which really did steer the project and provided invaluable ideas and feedback:
Cr Hedley Moffat (chairman)
Mayor of the City of Moonee Valley
Ms Clare Hargreaves
Ms Jenny Wills
Ms Fiona Hando / Mr John Bennett
Ms Ruth Spielman
Whittlesea City Council
Ms Jenny Macaffer
Formerly Brimbank City Council
Mr Brendan Carins
Boroondara City Council
Ms Jane Wager
Greater Geelong City Council
Mr Paul Ashby
Moonee Valley City Council
Professor Terry Burke
Mr Scott Ewing
Mr Mike Pelling
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
1 Introduction: who is this kit for?
This kit is a guide to what local governments can do by way of facilitating and
advocating for the planning, management and provision of housing by developing a
local housing policy. It is written for multiple audiences: new and experienced elected
representatives, council staff at different levels, local organisations and interested
members of the public.
Objectives of the kit
This kit has been prepared on the assumption that there is no single best approach
to housing policy and that alternative approaches are possible, in recognition of the
different historical and local area attributes of each municipality. To this end, the
objectives of the kit are multiple, with particular objectives having more relevance to
some municipalities than others. The broad objectives are:
 To provide an overview of the role of local government in housing and the
changing external context which may occasion review of, and reflection on,
existing roles;
 To identify the opportunities and constraints for local government in housing
 To identify alternative models of local area housing actions around housing
 To identify and interpret the politics of local area housing;
 To provide step by step guidelines on how to prepare local government housing
strategies and policies; and,
 To provide guidance in integrating housing issues into other plans/documents.
It should be clearly recognised what the kit is not. It is not intended to be a guide to
developing residential strategies and does not deal directly with design, subdivision
and urban character issues (although it touches on each of these in parts).
Structure of the kit
The kit has four discrete parts, with potentially different users or audiences for each:
 Section 2: Overview of local government and housing (roles, responsibilities,
issues and problems);
 Section 3: Preparing a local housing picture, that is, collecting and analysing
 Section 4: Turning information into actions; and,
 Section 5: Principles for writing and producing a policy document around housing
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
Section 2 is an overview of the roles and responsibilities of local government in
housing, the challenges facing local government in housing and the politics of local
housing provision, i.e. what issues arouse local concerns and why. It is in effect an
education document for people seeking explanations about the ‘whys’ of local
government in housing provision.
Section 3 is technical, concerned with ‘how to do it’. If a local government chooses to
undertake a housing policy, what tasks are to be done and how? The kit identifies the
tasks and basic methodologies but does not go into full detail. For those wanting
details, the section provides reference to existing housing studies where appropriate
details can be found. In recognition that many of these studies are not readily
available, we plan to develop a database on MAVnet.
Section 4 outlines some of the principles and problems in moving from the
information stage to preparing policies and strategies, including specification of goals
and objectives.
Finally, Section 5 sets out the stages in actually producing a housing policy document,
including a checklist of considerations in deciding its style and format. This section
also includes examples of goals and objectives from a variety of local government
housing policy documents.
Further information
While reference to relevant housing and planning studies is made throughout the kit,
there is also a bibliography of sources at the end. Also included are ‘boxes’ that
exemplify themes or issues raised in the text. These are not essential to the argument,
and can be skipped to facilitate the flow of reading and to reduce reading time!
Housing policies and strategies
In a lot of the literature and within policy documents themselves, there is a great deal
of confusion (and disagreement) regarding policy and strategy and their relationship
with each other. For the purposes of this kit we will regard policy as a general
statement of aims or goals. In terms of housing, policy is set largely by council itself.
Strategy is a plan for achieving these broad goals with specific actions or programs
and the necessary or desired roles of other agencies, e.g. other spheres of government,
the private sector and the community.
Figure 1.1 sets out this distinction or, more accurately, the relationship between the
three levels. In this example, council has identified four main policies in relation to
housing. With regard to policy P2, four strategies have been developed to achieve it.
Strategy S2 then has four specific actions that will be taken by nominated departments
or individuals over a specified time period.
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
Figure 1.1
Relationship between policy, strategy and actions
In talking about documents, we will refer to ‘policy documents’ to encompass a
variety of styles that contain policy (if sometimes only implicitly), strategies and
actions. This is illustrated in Figure 1.2.
Figure 1.2
Policy documents
Housing Policy Document
Different ‘types’ of housing policy
It is clear that not all councils will be interested in all housing issues and questions.
Further, they have different objectives and requirements which will guide any policy
directions and associated strategies and, just as importantly, will be at different stages
in the ongoing development of policy. For the purposes of clarification in this kit we
will apply the following typology of reports.
In preparing a housing policy it is useful to categorise two discrete stages – the
research stage and the writing stage – although the boundaries may be a bit artificial
and both need to be connected by an appropriate process for the duration of the study.
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
 Housing supply and demand analysis;
 Housing needs analysis; and,
 Housing affordability analysis.
As Figure 1.3 indicates, there is a cascading relationship between the three: they can
be viewed as stages in a process. Not all councils will want to undertake a housing
affordability analysis, but all will need to have done some form of supply and demand
analysis. Those that do wish to prepare a housing affordability analysis will need to
undertake some form of needs analysis. Within these different tasks there are, of
course, differing levels of detail. As will be outlined, supply and demand analysis can
be a complex process and there are choices to be made about detail and tasks to be
undertaken. For example, some councils will want to develop their own small area
population forecasts, while other will be satisfied with using municipality wide
forecasts done by the Department of Infrastructure.
Figure 1.3
Relationship between ‘types’ of policy
Form of Research
Housing Supply and
Demand Analysis
Housing Needs Analysis
Housing analysis required for
MSS, basic decision-making and
information provision
Housing analysis required for
municipality to play an active role
in the local housing market and
develop a housing strategy
Housing analysis required to
Housing Affordability
address equity and social issues
and develop a strategy to improve
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
Housing strategies, residential strategies and corporate
A housing policy is not the same as a residential development strategy. A housing
policy provides a framework for addressing housing issues across all of a council’s
functions, while a residential strategy concentrates on the land-use planning and
development function. The former in principle is something that should guide a
residential strategy, although most local governments embark upon residential
strategies without a broader housing framework. Often when municipalities use the
term ‘housing policy’ it is synonymous with a residential strategy. In the terms used in
this report, a housing policy is much broader and can be seen as the mechanisms that
translate the strategy into outcomes. In embarking upon the development of a housing
policy, it should be made clear to affected stakeholders what the boundaries of the
study or policy process are to be; is it essentially a statutory planning process or
something much more encompassing?
A corporate strategy is a strategy for the entire range of activities and services
provided or managed by local government. It includes engineering, planning, human
services, financial services and economic development, and usually manifests itself in
the form of a municipal strategic statement. A housing policy should form a subpart of
the overall corporate strategy or statement, either in its own right or as component
parts of the other issue or management area.
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
2 Understanding local government and housing provision
This section provides an overview of the role of local government in housing,
the rationale for a more integrated approach, and the problems confronting local
government in housing planning, management and provision.
Local government areas in many respects are defined by their housing. The images of
a Toorak, Carlton, Moorabbin or Bendigo in most people’s minds are those of the
built form, largely the housing. In most local government areas the dominant building
form is that of dwellings; the characteristics of the residential form, whether streets of
grand houses or modernist brick veneers, define much of their identity. While there
may be greater or lesser mixes of commercial, retail and industrial buildings from
local area to local area, the residence still accounts for the greatest proportion of
buildings. The cost, tenure, architectural type and the setting in terms of estates and
streetscape send signals about the overall character and attributes of a municipality.
The fusion of these attributes will shape its socio-demographic structure and rate of
growth by affecting in- and out-migration over time and, in turn, its ongoing housing
character and service needs.
Figure 2.1
Factors that housing affects
Physical image
of a municipality
Form and
intensity of local
Quality of the
Rate base
Form and
degree of social
Because housing is so related to the intrinsic characteristics of a municipality and to
the quality of people’s lives, it can be the source of strong emotions. The public
resistance in recent years in many parts of Melbourne to new dwelling forms, e.g.
medium density housing, is evidence of the emotions housing can arouse.
Houses are also part of the environment of local areas, and the growth and form
of housing can greatly affect the environmental attributes of a region, whether in the
form of water run-off, lost green acre land, soil erosion, deforestation etc.
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
Figure 2.2
Factors that affect housing
Local and regional
employment base
Housing is
affected by
Retail and
commercial centres
Moreover, many of the social problems in a local area derive directly or indirectly
from housing. Homelessness is the most severe manifestation, but other problems
may include the absence of aged care housing or housing for disability and general
problems of affordability and quality contributing to demand on local services. These
are not necessarily caused by local government actions, nor are they a local
government responsibility. However, if other spheres of government retreat from their
responsibilities, e.g. the funding and provision of public housing, these problems are
experienced locally, both individually (by local residents) and organisationally (by the
local services that may have to pick up the social costs). Simply ignoring the problem
will not ameliorate the localised impacts of government failure.
Thus changes to housing, whether through additions to or loss of stock, or by changes
in cost (rents or house prices), can impact substantially on a local area and its
demographics, with all the flow-on effects on the environment, the local economy and
– not to be neglected –local politics. Housing is at the heart of the business of local
government, although it is often not recognised as such. It is not a topic around which
most local governments have evolved comprehensive and systematic policies.
To address all the potential issues raised by housing, an ad hoc approach is not
appropriate. To be effective, they should preferably be considered within a strategic
planning framework which takes social, environmental, design and economic factors
into account. This kit emphasises an integrated approach but recognises that what is
to be integrated, and how, will vary from municipality to municipality, taking into
account the specific housing issues it confronts and the weight placed on them by
councillors and residents. The strategic and integrated approach is based on a belief
that more cost effective, environmentally sustainable and socially responsible
outcomes will be achieved by such an approach.
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
The existing role of local government in housing
By international standards, the role of Australian local government in housing is
minimal. In much of Europe and the US, local governments are major low income
housing providers, implement and administer rent controls, provide rental assistance
and intervene in the residential planning process in a much more vigorous way.
As conditions of development some require contributions to local housing trusts or
provision of affordable housing, others have blanket bans on new developments, and
others place rigid requirements on design and environmental standards. Few councils
in Australia, and even fewer in Victoria, have any such roles, due to factors including:
 The structure of local government (much smaller in size, although this has been
somewhat ameliorated through the recent amalgamation process);
 Our specific form of federalism in which local government lost out in terms of
 The rising importance of private rental relative to social housing;
 The housing problems which other countries have experienced have not presented
themselves in Australia; and,
 A lack of interest in taking up such roles in many cases.
Local government’s concern for housing has largely been expressed through the
statutory planning process, principally, development controls. Recent changes in this
process coupled with, and related to, an increased demand for non-traditional housing
(i.e. detached housing on standard blocks) has made this a very contentious and time
consuming issue at the local level, further focusing the ‘housing attention’ of local
government on this sphere.
An insight into the role of local government in housing in the UK can be gained by
subscribing to an email list run by the Department of Environment, Transport and the
Regions called Direct2LG. This is intended to provide up-to-date information on local
government policy. Although housing is not within the scope of the department, the
newsletter includes numerous references to housing policy and relevant research.
You can register to receive the newsletter by emailing [email protected]
with your email details.
This is not to suggest that local government has no housing role. In fact its role
is quite a significant one, although typically not seen as a housing role per se. Local
government can have major impacts on the form, availability, amenity and cost of
housing through activities such as:
 Undertaking statutory responsibilities, mainly planning controls, which effect the
location, density and form of housing;
 Providing essential infrastructure;
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
 Providing human services to people or households that may be affected by housing
conditions, e.g. aged isolated in their home;
 Supporting local groups involved in housing; and,
 Setting of rates and rate concessions.
These activities have considerable capacity to shape housing issues and problems in a
municipality and perhaps if undertaken in different ways, e.g. rate concessions for
certain types of development, may be able to create new approaches. Unfortunately
they are rarely ever considered in a housing framework, in the context of the sort of
housing outcomes we want for our municipality. And this, to a large extent, is a result
of seeing housing as a physical or land-use phenomenon, not as a social phenomenon.
However, it is important that expectations as to what local government can achieve
by itself, or in consultation with community interests, are not too unrealistic. Funding,
political and organisational constraints mean that its ability to achieve significant
outcomes in areas such as affordability, unless supported by other spheres of
government and the private sector, is still relatively limited.
Why develop a housing policy?
There are many reasons for undertaking a housing policy. It could be a reaction to
crisis or problems such as the politics created around medium density housing in
many parts of Melbourne. The response might be seen in statutory planning terms, e.g.
attempting to improve the transparency and certainty in the process for both residents
and developers. A housing policy can provide the framework for guiding a review of
statutory planning.
But policy is not just about reaction to problems. It is about prediction, planning and
strategic responses before major problems occur. If a council is to be proactive in
doing this, then a housing policy is almost a necessity.
Failure to do so will mean that a local government will have no strategic basis on
which to respond to housing issues as they arise in its municipality. Following on
from this, a lack of a strategic framework makes it difficult to identify issues before
they have blown up into major problems, meaning that many residents will suffer
housing difficulties without there being any local government response.
2.3.1 Population decline
Population decline can affect retailing viability and, given many services are funded
on a per capita basis, the availability of schools, libraries, child care, aged care etc.
Yet population growth or reversal cannot occur to any sizeable degree unless there is
the requisite housing supply. How is that supply to be facilitated?
2.3.2 Service needs
Demographic growth and form is dependent on the structure of local housing markets;
price, type and tenure will affect who moves in and to what degree. As every age
cohort, ethnic group and household type will have distinctive service needs (transport,
schools, health care, child care, aged care), there are major implications for service
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
provision. In addition, wider social and demographic changes can greatly affect the
service requirements of the existing population.
While price, type and tenure are to a great degree determined by market forces, these
forces can also be (and historically have been) influenced by local government
housing policies and strategies. For example, it is very common in the USA and in
some municipalities in Sydney to have an affordable housing policy.
Urban amenity
Housing and streetscape often define the perceived amenity of a municipality or
neighbourhood. If this amenity is eroded then people may feel a loss of wellbeing and
become disgruntled residents, ratepayers and voters. A housing policy can help draw
out perception of amenity and provide a framework for dealing with the problem.
Environmental sustainability and efficient land use
Estate design and housing form have important environmental and infrastructure
implications, for example, issues around surface run-off. A municipality through
various mechanisms can modify environmental outcomes of housing and evolve
appropriate plans.
Economic development
Housing has implications for economic wellbeing in a number of ways. For most
municipalities, the major source of revenue is rates on residential properties.
Additional housing, and its form and quality, can affect the rate base. A program of
urban renewal on tired or rundown areas may more than repay itself in terms of an
enhanced rate base. A more specific example, perhaps of relevance to rural and
provincial areas, is the use of housing to attract industry or households (building on,
say, affordability of the housing) or, in some cases, creating tourism out of housing.
In California the small city of Mendocino fell into decline in the 1970s and early
1980s, creating cheap housing. Some artists and alternative lifestyle people moved
into the town, painting the houses in bright colours and planting attractive gardens.
It began to attract tourists, and the council then embarked upon a scheme to encourage
all residents (with incentives) to beautify their house. It is now a major tourist town,
generating substantial employment and new population growth. There is really no
other attraction there except the houses and the streetscape.
Community development
Households are one of the basic social units. It is perhaps stating the obvious that
housing is what enables people to come together, but it is also an issue that divides
communities. Housing is not just an issue of development controls and overlays but
of community development, and requires significant community consultation.
Housing issues, because of their universal nature (everyone is involved) combined
with their local attributes (i.e. houses exist in space or neighbourhoods), provide
a great opportunity for people to become involved, just so long as there are
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
the appropriate mechanisms for doing so. This may mean information provision,
education, consultation and participation.
2.3.7 Housing affordability and choice
An area which has a relatively homogeneous housing stock in terms of tenure and
choice (detached, owner occupied) may be unable to accommodate increasingly
diverse household structures and labour market situations. For example, many
households (including affluent professionals), because of lifestyle and labour market
conditions, are increasingly opting for the flexibility of rental accommodation. If this
is unavailable, certain households may be forced to move out of the area and others
may not move in.
2.3.8 Linking services
There is a whole range of local government and local government funded activities
that are housing related (e.g. aged care, homelessness, family services and land-use
planning) and have potential implications for one another but are not linked. Local
government could provide a coherent and responsive organisational process to
formally link such services, both internally and with other spheres of government.
Thus one reason for a systematic and comprehensive focus on local government
housing is that there are very real problems and issues to be dealt with. A second
reason is that existing ways of doing so may be inadequate or require adaptation. For
example, a glance over the above issues illustrates that they would fall under a range
of departments or management units and encompass more than just statutory planning.
A housing policy may therefore be a mechanism for greater integration of services and
for identifying and addressing policy or program gaps.
Who benefits from a local housing policy?
Depending on the form and outcomes of a policy, there are benefits for a wide range
of stakeholders:
For councillors it can provide a framework for better decision making and a
knowledge base to facilitate discussions with residents, developers, community
groups, service providers and other spheres of government;
For council staff it can facilitate an integrated ‘whole of government’ approach to
local area management by providing a framework to coordinate the work of
different departments. It can help identify needs and problems and provide a
framework for transparency and certainty of decision making;
For the local community (residents and ratepayers) it is a mechanism for the
improvement of wellbeing through a housing system that is more appropriate to
needs and demand. It can also provide an opportunity for community participation
and consultation and may be a mechanism for acquiring information about the
objectives and direction of local government policy;
 For developers it can make clear the aims and objectives of local government
policies and assist them in preparing applications, as well as providing greater
transparency and certainty of local government decisions;
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 For estate agents (and developers) it can provide information about market trends
and potential business opportunities and, in the case of developers, indicate the
sort of projects that are consistent with the local government’s strategic directions;
 For community service providers it may enable them to have input into the
planning processes associated in linking housing with services, and assist them in
identifying needs and in matching services with needs and for their future
It is important to strike a balance between feasibility and expectations in undertaking a
local government housing policy. Whether all these potential benefits are realised, or
whether some stakeholders benefit more than others, will depend on the nature of the
policy and the process by which it was evolved. Identified outcomes must be realistic,
as raising expectations and not delivering can be counter-productive in the longer
What actions/roles could flow from a housing policy?
Like any policy, the outcomes depend upon the goals and objectives. These will
be discussed in detail in Section 4. The type of actions that may flow from a
comprehensive policy include:
 Rationale for local exemptions from the Good Design Guidelines;
 Incorporation of housing related objectives into the municipal strategic statement
(and local planning policy framework in planning schemes);
 Development of improved management information systems for monitoring and
decision making;
 Identification of emerging housing needs;
 Improved ability for advocacy around housing issues and for local housing needs
 Identification of site opportunities for new development within municipal strategic
 Rationale for changes to development controls to better link residential
development with retailing, commercial and transport development;
 Formation or strengthening of a local housing association to provide affordable
 Establishment of a local area housing trust;
 Identifying opportunities for partnerships with residential land developers and
 Clear understanding of local needs and emerging housing problems;
 Rationale for ability to participate in joint housing ventures with the private sector
or state government;
 Facilitating greater community involvement and communication;
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 Formation of an interdepartmental coordinating group to develop a ‘whole of
government’ management approach; and,
 Development of affordable housing program or projects.
These are indicative only, illustrating the range of actions currently being undertaken
in Victoria.
The changing context of local government and housing
The previous sections have established the reasons why a municipality should get
involved in housing. This section expands on these reasons, discussing the changing
context of local government at the end of the millennium and outlining the possible
housing implications. This is a relatively long section as the changes are coming from
all directions. A confluence of circumstances is creating a climate in which it is
important for local governments to consider having a municipal housing policy and an
accompanying set of appropriate plans and policies. Without this, a municipality may
create unnecessary hardship for current residents, as well as major problems for
subsequent generations. In brief, what are these factors? The changes are outlined
under headings of:
 The localised effects of the restructuring of the Australian economy;
 Globalisation, insecurity and housing;
 The remaking of government;
 The changing housing market; and,
 The changing policy context.
2.6.1 The localised effects of the restructuring of the Australian economy
This refers to the many changes in the private and public sectors which are required to
make Australia internationally competitive. These have already impacted dramatically
on parts of Melbourne and Victoria, particularly through loss of jobs in the
manufacturing sector and loss of services in rural areas. They will probably mean
continued high unemployment and, for a sizeable minority, little increase, or an actual
reduction, in real income over the next decade. Many households will have a reduced
ability to afford housing. More specifically, they will experience a reduced ability to
purchase a home and perhaps put pressure on councils to provide a housing ‘solution’.
Conversely, a minority of households may have sizeable increases in income, meaning
a widening in income inequality and in the housing market’s treatment of the effects
of such inequality (see Darebin Housing Study, 1996, p. 7).
The adoption of a goods and services tax (GST) will increase the cost of housing.
In summary it will apply to new houses and repairs and renovations which will impact
on all tenures (although not equally).
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Localised effects of global changes will mean that municipalities will have to focus
more on generating their own economic wellbeing which requires, among other
activities, examination of the role of housing in local employment growth, given that
building is an important employment creator. Moreover, there is an important role for
local government in generating and adopting policies and programs to reduce
affordability and access problems which result from economic restructuring. Some of
the specific housing effects are outlined below.
Increasing regional inequality: the losers: The income distribution issue is also
a regional one; certain towns, municipalities and regions will face (and are already
facing ) the effects of economic restructuring, rising unemployment and declining
local economic development. The effect on housing is likely to be:
 Falling property values and contracting rate base;
 Dwelling vacancies, creating potential for blighting of the area; and,
 Increasing demand on local services, as those who are more affluent and skilled
are able to leave for other regions while low property values and rents attract
lower income households who cannot obtain affordable housing elsewhere. Some
will have attributes that require support services.
Increasing regional inequality: the winners: Other municipalities will gain from the
economic restructuring and experience new investment, a strong employment base
and increasing incomes. These will largely be inner and middle ring municipalities
and some non-metropolitan areas that attract strong tourism, e.g. Mornington and
Bellarine Peninsula. They will still experience housing problems, including:
 Pressures on lower income housing accommodation, e.g. boarding houses, flats;
 Declining affordability impacting on demographic diversity; and,
 Strong pressures for redevelopment (to capitalise on potential profits) creating
major political tensions and pressures on amenity.
Globalisation, insecurity and housing
Globalisation is one of today’s fashionable phrases, and refers to the notion that, as a
result of integration into the world economy, all countries are subject to fluctuating
investment, currency and import-export conditions. These in turn affect employment
and income conditions. Individual countries now have less control over their own
destinies and this has created a climate of uncertainty about the future.
One outcome of this uncertainty is that people are placing greater emphasis on their
local environment. In a world over which one has little control, it is logical to place
more meaning on the domain you most closely identify with and still maintain some
control over: the family, the home and the local community. And, in any community,
housing plays a crucial role in ensuring and reinforcing security, personal and family
wellbeing. The ‘return to community’ ethos as a reaction to international and national
uncertainty creates a climate, not only for harnessing local initiative, but also for the
emergence of local resistance to change, including change in housing policy and such
market outcomes as medium density housing.
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A housing policy is a mechanism for minimising and controlling community conflict
around housing. It must be recognised that, while such conflict can be managed,
it will never be eliminated, particularly in relation to a sensitive issue such as medium
density housing.
2.6.3 The remaking of government
This is a shorthand statement for a whole range of changes to the way in which
government at all levels is structured and delivers services. The central philosophy of
this change is that government should more closely approximate the management style
of the private sector with its emphasis on client service, efficiency and market
The amalgamation of local government fits into the remaking of government, as
does compulsory competitive tendering and concepts of user pays, privatisation,
deregulation and devolution of decision making to management units closer to the
client. Housing is not immune to these changes. The approach to the delivery of low
income housing assistance by the Commonwealth and the state, planning policy and
the relationship between spheres of government, the private sector and the community
sector (joint ventures) is affected by this changed philosophy. It is important to note
that it does have major implications for municipalities. These can only be dealt with
through policy responses.
2.6.4 The changing housing market
The market for housing appears to be altering significantly. One manifestation of this,
notably in metropolitan areas, is consumers demanding more medium density housing
and more and more builders moving into this market segment. But what the market
dictates is not necessarily consistent with many residents’ perceptions of what is
desirable. As a result there is an emerging trend for resident protest against medium
density housing. Most municipalities do not have a clear housing or planning policy to
guide such development in a way which minimises local anxiety or conflict.
The other major change in the housing market is in relation to the historic incipient
inflation effect. Over a twenty year period, house prices have increased faster than
incomes to the degree that housing is much less affordable than it was in earlier
decades. In the absence of any mechanism to discourage inflation (and the presence of
some inducements, such as non-taxation of capital gains), price inflation will remain
part of the housing market scenario but not in the same way as the past. Inner urban
and middle ring suburbs are likely to experience episodic inflation and continued
declines in affordability, with inner Sydney prices illustrating the Melbourne market’s
potential degree of movement. More outer urban areas and most non-metropolitan
areas will experience slower growth in price movements and in some cases actual
decline in real terms. The divergence in housing markets links to the localised effects
of economic restructuring outlined above and has important implications, raising
questions such as:
 If perceived capital gain is a major rationale for private rental investment, will
areas without such gain fail to attract rental stock, accentuating what in some cases
are already tight housing markets?
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 Will inner urban markets become so unaffordable for new households that home
ownership is severely constrained and rental becomes the only alternative, fuelling
even greater demand for medium density housing than at present?
 Will inner urban markets act in such a way as to eliminate virtually any low
income housing options such as boarding houses, thereby fuelling homelessness
pressures in the inner regions?
 Will the attraction of high property values encourage the Office of Housing to
progressively sell inner city public stock, accentuating the lack of housing options
for lower income households in inner areas? and,
 Will the decline in property values in certain non-metropolitan areas trap
households in these locations, constraining their ability to search for areas of
greater employment?
The changing policy context
The policy context for housing is changing markedly in Australia. The Hilmer
report on competition policy, together with decisions by the Council of Australian
Governments, have given a push to the remaking of government as outlined above.
There are housing specific policies growing out of this context which local
government cannot afford to ignore. These include state planning policy such as the
Good Design Guide for Medium Density Development, the reforms in state and
municipal planning schemes, Commonwealth and state policy on low income housing
as expressed in the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement (CSHA), the structural
reform package for residential care, and reforms to the management of public housing
in Victoria. As the planning issues are discussed elsewhere in this kit, a brief outline
of Commonwealth and state housing assistance policies is provided here.
The provision of low income housing has historically been undertaken in Australia by
state public housing agencies. Such housing has been funded by the Commonwealth
through the CSHA and managed by the states. The CSHA was negotiated every three
years and provided money to the states in the form of housing assistance grants which
were used to construct, purchase and redevelop housing for low income households
and special needs groups.
The shift in position by the Commonwealth indicates that the 1999 agreement may
well be the last, as there is a fear that the concept of a CSHA may disappear at the end
of the 1999-2002 agreement, leaving public housing assistance largely up to the states.
Possible implications of this include:
 Reduced funding for public housing, forcing the states to target their assistance
to the neediest. Targeting to the multiple disadvantaged has the risk over time
of concentrating these people in certain areas, with implications for local area
support and the viability of the estates and with the possibility of creating a
blighting effect on surrounding property and neighbourhoods. This is a potential
long-term problem for local governments with a high proportion of public
 Related to the tight targeting of public housing is the absence of any programs
for affordable housing for those unable to access public housing, e.g. those on
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incomes of, say, $18,000 to $30,000. Over the next decade many local government
areas will find themselves pressured to provide affordable housing for growing
numbers who are unable to access either affordable private housing or public
 Given tighter targeting of public housing to those who need support, there is
a greater commitment to coordinate support services (e.g. health, family and
community services) with public housing provision. Local government will be
increasingly drawn into the housing support network;
 A push to redevelop old public housing estates, often in joint ventures with the
private sector. Relevant local governments need to be positioned either to
participate in such programs or to influence/encourage them;
 Forced sale of public housing stock, particularly in inner urban areas, thereby
depleting the local stock of affordable housing; and,
 A momentum to establish alternative social housing managers (other than public
management), meaning a potentially greater role for the community sector and for
local government in facilitating and working with community housing agencies.
The structural reform package for residential care embraces a raft of initiatives
designed to address perceived problems in the current system, including meeting
the needs of a rapidly expanding population, a shortage of capital funds, inadequate
funds for dementia care, inefficient funding mechanisms and intrusive monitoring
systems. One of the major outcomes of these reforms is more elderly people ‘ageing in
place’ and requiring support from home based services, which may place increasing
demands on local government.
This brief outline of the changing context for local government in terms of housing
suggests an increasingly uncertain and problematic future. Even being a ‘winner’ in
the wash-up of these changes does not mean there will be no housing problems and
issues. Such areas may suffer affordability problems and development pressures. No
council can be complacent about housing outcomes in the decade ahead.
The politics of housing policy
This section provides an overview of some of the major political problems or debates
raised by housing issues at the local level and which set the political parameters for
any housing policy. While some issues, e.g. medium density housing, are often
couched in relatively simple terms such as developer versus residents, underlying such
arguments are more complex ones, and an understanding of these helps greatly in
getting a handle on the politics of local area housing.
There are probably two major reasons why local governments, with some exceptions,
have not had a housing policy. The first is an organisational one. It is an issue that has
historically transcended any organisational unit in local government and therefore
there has been no organisational ‘champion’ to take up or promote such a policy.
Secondly, it is an issue pervaded by politics and therefore to be avoided where
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While there have been a few other attempts to develop a local area housing kit in
Australia, rarely do they give attention to the political problems in any systemic way.
However, policy in any sphere is partly the art of negotiating the politics of an issue
and, of course, housing is no different – perhaps even more so, given the complexity
of issues and the diversity of interest in, and values around, housing. This section
therefore outlines the major political issues raised by housing which may have to be
worked through in evolving a housing policy or residential strategy.
Government versus the market
Policies and plans are often associated with intervention in the market. Planning
controls, building controls and direct housing provision are activities that typify
market interventions. The politics of ‘state’ versus ‘market’ often touch on strong
value positions held by local interests. Those who see market outcomes as being the
most efficient and expressing what consumers want believe interventions produce
poor outcomes and cut across personal property interests, e.g. the right to make profit
from the housing process. Others think that market outcomes, while profitable for the
individual, may not be optimal outcomes for the wider community. This value clash
has challenged public policy from its inception thousands of years ago. In local
housing it manifests itself in terms of contestation around the right of housing
developers to build what will sell in the market versus what many local residents see
as desirable in terms of design or streetscape. This has been a major issue since
the relaxation of planning controls in 1995 and the introduction of the Good Design
Guidelines. These are performance orientated rather than prescriptive as with the
previous planning controls.
The outcome a number of years down the line is one which is satisfactory to few.
Developers complain of obstruction and lack of certainty as to whether a development
will proceed. Local residents’ major complaint is also one of uncertainty: they do not
know whether the next sale in their street or adjacent to them will create a multi-unit
complex with problems of overshadowing and general loss of amenity. And there is
no doubt both sides – from their individual perspectives – are right.
One of the factors inherent in the development process subsequent to the Good Design
Guidelines is that market outcomes do not always mesh with community outcomes.
Markets (with their agents being builders and developers) cannot determine what
is best for a municipality in terms of overall heritage, accessibility, streetscape,
household diversity and affordability outcomes. They will produce what is best for the
individual consumer; the degree to which cumulative individual consumer decisions
mesh with community needs and expectations is an accident to some extent. But
if communities are to provide developers with certainty, these expectations need
articulating and converting into transparent policy or planning principles. A housing
policy will help do this.
Not all local market versus community politics should be blamed on medium density
housing development. In Victoria planning principles virtually enable individual
owner-occupiers to build what they like, irrespective of what local residents believe
is desirable in terms of design or streetscape. Because of changing consumer tastes
and new dwelling products, many households are now finding the same uncertainly
that flows from medium density development also flows from detached house
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construction. A large overshadowing streetscape due to an insensitively designed
detached house can create the same, if not more, problems (given far fewer Good
Design Guidelines attach to individual dwellings) than a medium density housing
development. Many residents appear unaware of the difference, and transfer their
anger to local government when they have few controls to address the problem.
Community education may be of minor assistance in this regard.
2.7.2 The long term versus the short term
Housing and the residential areas in which housing is built can endure, subject to
maintenance and upgrades, for hundreds of years. As indicated above, the legacy of all
the cumulative construction decisions and related landscaping decisions shapes the
image and character of the local area. The decisions can also affect what housing
options are available for future generations. Yet very little thought is given at the local
level to what sort of housing vision is desired for the long term. In part this is because
sensitivity to existing ratepayers and development issues places a premium on what
people want now, and in part because of a view that the market will sort it out. It is,
however, important for politicians to represent future generations in policy thought.
The problems of the long term versus the short term can come up in many guises.
The focus on the short term may blind municipalities to long-term population changes,
which may have significant longer-term implications. A progressive decline in
population (in the absence of proactive long-term policies) may mean less funds for
schools, a reduction in retailing facilities and an imbalance of population profiles (too
many older households, not enough young), with human service implications.
A short-term focus may neglect ageing of the existing population, so that not only are
there inadequate local services, but the ability of households to adapt to changing
lifecycle situation by creating a more appropriate residential environment (e.g. more
compact and affordable dwellings) may be foreclosed by an inappropriate housing
mix. There may also be a lack of ‘exit’ housing for younger people leaving home.
If rental stock is allowed to decline too much or housing becomes too expensive, they
will move away from the area, severing the potential for parental support and affecting
the area’s ability to attract a younger population.
2.7.3 The ‘haves’ versus the ‘have nots’
In any society and any local government area there will be households and individuals
who, for whatever reasons, do not have adequate income and wealth to find either
affordable or appropriate housing. One of the major political issues for local
government is the degree to which a municipality has some responsibility for these
citizens. Should it provide boarding houses, facilitate the provision of affordable
housing, encourage public housing provision etc.? Many residents want to keep their
local area ‘exclusive’ and seek to minimise the presence of such households with
arguments about threats to property values, greater crime, inappropriateness or state
responsibility. While these may be misplaced, the fact that such opinions are held –
and often with considerable vehemence – represents a major political issue.
Australia has always prided itself on being an egalitarian society. There are many
signs that this perception is departing from the reality, which raises in a wider sense
and locally the question of what sort of society we want to live in. The US experience
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would suggest that the less compassionate the society, and the more that
municipalities try to draw the draw gates up behind them through exclusionary
zoning, then the more social problems are created and the greater the burden, e.g.
taxes for increased spending on law and order. The role of public housing in Australia,
which by world standards is locally dispersed, in contributing to the livability of our
cities has not been adequately recognised. Perhaps more important is the recognition
that ‘There but for the grace of God go I – or at least my children’. Concerns such as
physical disability, psychiatric disability, substance abuse, domestic violence and
AIDS strike across all socioeconomic groups, and if housing services are available
in the local area where family and friends reside then they can greatly assist in
rehabilitation or support.
It is therefore important that municipalities consider what role they are to take
in dealing with housing problems, whether that be facilitating local initiatives, e.g. a
boarding house for people with disabilities, or (if relevant) working with the state
government to achieve best outcomes from public housing, which should often be
seen as an area of potential rather than as a problem.
Issues which might arise under this heading include:
 The degree to which gated communities are to be encouraged;
 Support for needs based refuges, transitional housing units, boarding houses etc.;
 Facilitating public housing or working in partnership with the Office of Housing
on public housing initiatives such as urban renewal sites (e.g. City of Melbourne);
 Support for community housing initiatives (e.g. City of Port Phillip).
Locality versus society
This is concerned with the degree to which a local area has societal responsibilities.
If urban consolidation is supposedly good for Melbourne and Victoria, should local
issues and interests be foregone in the interests of the greater good? These vexed
issues raise questions about who defines the greater good and about whose good it
really is. Concerns about medium density housing, for example, are often expressed in
terms that it is not for the greater good but simply for the benefit of developers, with
the consolidation argument only being a rationale. Meanwhile others argue that the
wider society simply cannot afford the environmental and financial costs of
unrelenting fringe development.
The community versus the individual
The politics of this trade-off are concerned with individual rights and responsibilities
versus the need for a sustainable community. The sum of individual decisions
(whether by households or by builder developers) may not turn out to be in the
community interest. If 100 households construct large concrete carparks, the surface
run-off may be more than local drainage systems can take. One medium density
development may not be problematic for streetscape or road usage, but dozens in the
same street may be. Scattered individual medium density developments may provide
individual housing choice, but they may accentuate local car dependence and weaken
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local public transport. However, the politics of overriding individual interests for the
community good is a fraught one.
2.7.6 Public space versus housing
Here the issue is around unutilised or underutilised land. Where there are potential
infrastructure savings or revenue implications, governments often want to use the land
for housing. Existing residents will inevitably want it to be used as public parklands or
recreation space as they can see few benefits to them from a new development and
more likely costs, e.g. additional traffic, noise and possible loss of views.
The Fitzroy Pool closure, and its subsequent reopening, was a particularly high profile
example of this type of dispute. The original decision of the commissioners (supported
by council officers) was to close the pool as it was losing significant revenue, it was in
desperate need of major capital works and maintenance, and there were other pools in
the area. Once closed, the land was to be sold for residential development. What was
not considered in this decision was the need for local public open space which was in
very short supply. Once this role of the pool was recognised (an outdoor local public
recreation facility), the pool (with modifications to its operations) was the most
efficient use of the land.
2.7.7 Which sphere of government is responsible?
Some of the housing functions that certain local governments undertake, e.g. direct
housing provision or housing assistance, are major functions of the state government
or the Commonwealth. The raising of such issues in many municipalities prompts
a response that it is not a local function and is best left to other spheres of government.
This assumes that existing programs of these other spheres are adequate (which they
are not) and have in them a capacity to cope with particular local issues (which they
do not). The debate should not be around overlapping responsibilities but about how
(if deemed appropriate) local actions can complement the housing activities of the
other spheres of government. At the very least there is a responsibility for local
government to be aware of the roles and responsibilities of different levels and the
2.7.8 Provision versus facilitation
This is the issue of whether local government should actually take up the role of
providing housing, notably for those unable to acquire housing in the private market.
Most local governments have shied away from such provision on the grounds that:
 It is not the role of local government but a state responsibility;
 Local government does not have the expertise;
 It will consume too many resources; and,
 The benefits of direct provision are not clear.
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This view is countered by arguments such as:
 There are still many areas of special need that are not being, or cannot be, met by
state government;
 Local circumstances are unique (e.g. boarding house loss) and require action;
 The skills required can be contracted in;
 There are many existing skills in-house, e.g. community development; and,
 The larger size of local government post-amalgamation makes such a role more
Provision does not, however, necessarily mean direct provision; a municipality, e.g.
the City of Brimbank, can provide local housing but have the actual management of
stock undertaken by a community housing association.
Medium density housing
In recent years this has been the political issue for many metropolitan local
governments. As hinted at in the list of issues above, it is one which encompasses
many major political debates: the market versus government, individual rights,
intergovernmental responsibilities. It is really an issue of perceived inappropriate
development more generally, not just medium density. Many of the concerns about
loss of amenity and streetscape apply to the large detached multi-storey houses
constructed in recent years. Developers see it as being about their right to pursue
legitimate business interests (making a profit from meeting market demand) and
resent the uncertainties around the development process. Residents see it as being
about lifestyle, democratic governance and also uncertainty, i.e. what will happen to
the property next door.
The problem of medium density housing is not a new one. In a country where home
ownership of a detached dwelling is considered a birthright, and with nearly 75 per
cent of the Victorian housing stock in this form (down from 91 per cent in the 1940s),
there is always going to be opposition to a building form that cuts across entrenched
values and the lifestyle associated with the detached house.
One of the issues is what sphere of government is responsible for medium density and
through what mechanisms. Planning controls have always been the major mechanism
for control (with constant changes) while the responsibility shifted back and forth
between state and local government. Today it appears to be an issue of contested
An understanding of the processes of planning in Victoria helps put this in context. In
1944 the state government introduced the Town and Country Planning Act. Derivative
of the British system, it was a prescriptive piece of legislation which defined what
could and could not be built and where. The act designated uses in certain zones for
any municipality. Zoning determined the broad type of development, e.g. residential
single detached housing, while siting standards (sometimes called development
controls) defined the specific elements of construction, e.g. setback from fences,
height limits and site area.
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Local government administered the siting elements, within the framework of the act.
Up to the early 1960s the system largely prescribed detached housing as the residential
building form for most of Melbourne via what was called a Residential C zone. Flat
development was allowed in Residential A and B zones, which had a large
preponderance of nineteenth century housing. At that time this characteristic was
being used as a measure of obsolescence and of the need for new development. Many
of the expanding suburbs of this era (e.g. Box Hill, Moorabbin, Springvale and
Heidelberg) had much of their current character defined by this Residential C zone
development in this period.
In the early 1960s changing demographics (the need for low cost rental
accommodation for baby boomers) brought a rash of flat development in zones A
and B in inner and middle ring suburbs such as St Kilda, Hawthorn, Richmond and
Malvern. Much of this was far less sensitive to streetscape, overshadowing and local
amenity than the current medium density development, with thousands of Victorian
homes being demolished for flats. Moreover, there was no appeals process. A massive
residents’ reaction, similar to the present, produced a new metropolitan planning
scheme which delegated planning powers to local government. Most flat development
ceased under a bout of restrictive controls by individual councils, and a new period of
medium density construction evolved which was consistent with these controls. This
was the period of villa unit development. Single-storeyed and only two or three to the
block, this form of development, even though quite prolific, did not produce the
resident backlash of medium density development. One reason was that their singlestoreyed nature meant there were few problems of overshadowing, and another was
that they were built within existing setbacks, blending with other dwellings in the
street and often maintaining considerable frontal foliage.
For various reasons – including pressure from developers, lobbying by conservatives
opposed in principle to government controls, perceived growing mismatches in
household type and dwelling form, and concerns about the cost of fringe development
– the Labor government of the 1980s found itself pushing for a more deregulated
system. This push was carried on by the new Liberal government, but with greater
enthusiasm, given its closer links with developers and its deregulatory philosophy.
The prescriptive planning system was replaced by one emphasising performance, i.e.
providing guidelines as to what represented good development. In this system,
prescribing setback from front and side, height limits or density of development had
little meaning. Vic Code 2 and subsequently the Good Design Guidelines were the
mechanism for the performance based system. An inherent problem with such a
system is ambiguity; people will differ in their interpretation of what represents good
performance, with developers tending to have a different perspective from residents.
Council officials and councillors are likely to have views which align more or less
closely with the developers or the residents, depending on their personal values.
Simultaneously other changes were made. From 1944 to 1995 building inspection was
a council process and directly linked to council planning processes; a building could
not get a building permit if it did not conform to a planning permit. Similarly
demolition permits were a responsibility of local government. The building permit
process was privatised in 1996, severing the link with local government planning
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controls. Quickie demolitions and building permits for properties that do not mesh
with local council planning permits have become fused with issues of uncertainty and
poor medium density development. Collectively this has created an outcome where
the only certainty is uncertainty, with local government blaming state government,
state government blaming the local residents, and developers blaming all spheres of
government plus each other.
The lack of clear responsibility derived from the state government requiring uniform
application of the Good Design Guidelines across all metropolitan local governments.
Many interpreted this as meaning local government has no effective controls over
development and did not substantially attempt to control it. The state government
argued that this was not the case, and that it was still a local responsibility – within the
guidelines – to approve development. This created more uncertainty for stakeholders:
who is responsible? To address some of these problems, the state government enabled
municipalities which wished to exempt certain areas from the blanket Good Design
Guidelines to do so via appropriate amendments (Ministerial Direction No. 8). Such
amendments must be justified on sound criteria and in an overall strategic context
(hence the importance of a housing policy).
Compounding the effects of the above are market changes, notably, the shift to large
two-storey detached houses. Single detached houses have always had a special status
in Australian planning. The construction of detached housing is ‘as of right’, meaning
there is no need to meet many of the planning requirements (except for setbacks) that
attached to other building forms. This was never problematic up until the late 1980s
when most new detached dwellings were single-storeyed. For reasons to do with
changing consumer tastes and the need to fit ever-larger houses on to a site, a greater
proportion of new detached dwellings since the 1980s were two storeys. Many
of these bring the same problems as multi-storey medium density housing, i.e.
overshadowing and non-sympathetic streetscape. Residents often appear unaware of
the planning distinction between medium density and detached housing and believe
that ‘fixing’ the Good Design Guidelines is the solution to current problems. The
uncertainty of what will be built next door would still be there (albeit on a lesser
scale) even if there was no medium density development at all.
2.7.10 The politics of housing: a summary
These are probably the major political themes in and around housing policy. Even in
this highly abbreviated summary form, the complexities are clear. Housing policy is
politically problematic. The obvious response is to say it is all too hard and therefore a
local government housing policy will also be too hard. However, some of the politics
of housing actually occurs because there is no housing policy and councillors and
council staff are often in a situation of dealing with complex issues in an ad hoc
manner. A housing policy may therefore help mitigate the politics of local housing
issues. If a policy can be evolved in which the local community has had some say and
the principles are clear and transparent, then participants in issues of housing
provision may have some certainty and make the appropriate behavioural adjustments.
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Typology of local government
From the survey that accompanied this study and a review of dozens of local
government reports, we have attempted to establish a typology of local governments
and the housing problems that may be associated with them (see Table 2.1). Some
problems may affect virtually all local governments, e.g. poor housing management
information systems, while others may be peculiar to one or two, e.g. housing for
seasonal workers (these are not identified here, as the objective is to pick up the
shared or characteristic problems). By the virtue of their size, some amalgamated local
governments may ‘fit’ more than one category.
Regional or local housing policy
One issue that needs to be considered in developing a housing policy, as with many
issues in local government, is the advantages of adopting a regional (i.e. cross-council
or more than one council) approach, as opposed to a single council policy.
The amalgamation process and the creation of larger municipalities means that most
local governments are large enough to require significant consideration in their own
right in terms of housing issues. The nature of local government and its powers means
that its main advantage is working at the micro level. Coupled with this is that many
local government areas now have within them significant differences in housing stock,
socio-demographic profile etc. that necessitate local type analysis.
Having said this, however, there is a clear role for a regional approach to many
housing issues. The development of a local housing policy may be a first step for
many councils in identifying those issues that are best tackled on a regional basis.
Obvious candidates are developing (or facilitating) social housing outcomes, or big
projects such as a housing trust, as is the approach adopted by the City of Melbourne.
A housing trust is a non-profit body established to manage funds on behalf of an
organisation or collection of organisations for the purpose of providing housing to
whom or in whatever way specified in its establishment. For example, a housing trust
may be established from funds committed by a number of local councils to provide
affordable housing in their region.
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Table 2.1
Typology of local governments
new growth
New stock largely
of detached
affordable High
proportion of
Inner urban
Old inner core
of Melbourne
Old stock of
terraces and
boarding houses,
high proportion
public housing,
much of it high
rise. Mixed tenure
Middle ring
areas largely
of detached
concentration of
home ownership
and individual
centres and
Increments to
Rapid and
dwellings and
Rapid growth
in new
density stock
Infill medium
replacement of
older homes
by large twostorey
Above average
Variable levels
level of home
f growth, mainly
n the fringe of
Older stock of
ities in rural
detached dwelling evelopment
Highly variable
levels of public
High level of
Low to
outright home
ownership; low
levels of other
Younger families,
many on
relatively low
Lack of social
Lack of
emergency and
Shortage of
private rental
Loss of boarding
houses, new
medium density
creating political
and affordability
problems, loss of
affordable private
rental stock,
Political and
amenity problem
with new
problem, lack of
diversity of tenure
and stock
Very diverse
household and
Older households
and families, with
greater proportion
of more affluent
households than
other areas
Typically more
children and older
Lack of housing
Low or negative
settlement pattern
Similar age
profile to regional
urban but with
higher percentage
of older residents
and even less in
the young adult
Lack of housing
Low or negative
settlement pattern
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The City of Melbourne has undertaken a detailed investigation into the feasibility
of establishing an Affordable Housing Trust. The following is an excerpt from this
‘To determine the most appropriate structure, we investigated the following options:
1. Council and Ecumenical Housing to jointly establish a trust which would
undertake and sponsor housing development projects in the Melbourne
metropolitan area.
2. as per option 1 but including Hanover as a joint party and preferred provider of
tenancy services.
3. establish a new trust which will joint venture with appropriate partners, according
to the project
4. use the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Fund as a vehicle for channelling funds for
development projects
5. establish a new trust comprising representatives from Council and the three
nominated vehicles, outsourcing service provision to the most appropriate
The following. table summarises the key qualitative benefits and limitations of each
Option 1
takes advantage of existing
infrastructure, knowledge and skills
takes advantage of Ecumenical
Housing’s good reputation and position
with the government and welfare
Ecumenical Housing’s purpose is very
similar to the Council’s objectives
builds on previous partnership ventures
cost effective and simple structure
Ecumenical Housing is not wellknown to corporate donors
Option 2
All of the above, AND
- extends connections and sources of
- enhances profile through Hanover’s
reputation and experience
- decreases competition for funds between
the parties
- would satisfy all parties’ objectives for
desired outcomes
As above, AND
- more complex structure
- increased potential for conflicting
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Option 3
- Council has maximum control over the
fund’s operations
- joint venture partners would have
necessary recognition with government
and the welfare sector
- costs of infrastructure are
disproportionately high
- no advantage is taken of existing
knowledge and experience
(which take a long time to build)
- unnecessarily duplicates some
Option 4
- achieves economies by utilising existing
organisation’s knowledge and
- takes advantage of experience in
facilitating cross-agency partnerships
- Fund is experienced funds raiser
- joint venture partners would have
necessary recognition with government
and the welfare sector
- natural association with Council, simple
- significant change in grants
policy would be necessary
- Council’s name may not be
prominent in the Fund
- links with joint venture partners
are less direct which may
adversely affect ability to attract
government and other
Option 5
- maximum advantage is taken of
combined knowledge of all parties and
their complementary skills
- some efficiencies in operations by Board
representation; acknowledges Council’s
- costs of infrastructure are
disproportionately high
- negotiating terms between four
parties may be excessively time
- ongoing operational management
would be very complex
- high potential for conflicting
A comparison of indicative administration cost implications of these options is set out
below. The only significant cost difference between the options is the complexity of
the structure and the associated need for administrative support and independent office
accommodation. In Options 1 and 2, these elements would be provided by Ecumenical
Housing or Hanover, in agreement with those organisations.
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Option 1 Option 2 Option 3 Option 4 Option 5
Initial contribution
Fund administration @ 1%
Marketing manager (salary + on-costs)
Admin. support (salary + on-costs)
Accommodation and overheads
Marketing expenditure @ 1.5% of fund
Total costs
Total costs as proportion of initial fund
One-off trust establishment
Note 1: Accommodation and overheads: provision is based on $200/sqrn of B-grade office accommodation,
at a minimum space requirement of 35sqrn
In view of the critical success factors and the foregoing analysis, we believe that the
Council’s goals for increasing the availability of affordable housing would be best
addressed by pursuing Option 2, subject to addressing any conflicts of interest. The
Trust would be structured in such a way that the Council is the governor of the Trust
and the Trustee is incorporated. We recommend that the Ecumenical Housing Trust
deed be used as a basis for the new trust, with appropriate adjustments as described in
Section 5 of this report.’
Source: City of Melbourne, Affordable Housing Trust Structural Feasibility Study
Establishing a steering/organising committee
In establishing a steering/organising committee for developing a housing policy, the
following guidelines will be useful:
 Who are the local stakeholders?
 Who best represents their positions?
 How are other spheres of government to be involved or represented?
 What are the best methods to encourage ownership of the study?
 Do the issues to be considered warrant a regional rather than local perspective?
 What is the focus of any housing policy: narrow (e.g. as context for residential
development strategy) or wide (e.g. to develop a ‘whole of government’ approach
to housing)?
 Is the actual study best done in-house or externally? and,
 Is the nature of the study such that it is one agency’s or person’s job, or may it be
broken up into separate stages with separate contributors?
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3 Compiling a local housing picture
In setting about compiling a local housing picture, the objectives of the housing policy
need to be borne in mind. Clearly these objectives need to inform the collection and
analysis of information. A residential strategy will involve different methodologies
and a different story compared to a comprehensive housing policy with, say, an
emphasis on affordability. However, council officers need to consider not just the
present ‘policy needs’ but also possible future policy interests of council. In other
words, in deciding what information is to be collected, analysed and monitored,
consideration needs to be given to likely future issues. It should also be recognised
that information not only informs the policy process but can also affect its direction.
To make this clearer, information can be used for (at least) five tasks in the policy
 Issue identification (what are the problems?);
 Insight into the causes of issues and problems (what are we trying to influence?);
 Ongoing monitoring of housing trends and issues (what are the likely future
 Providing a shared understanding for the discussion of policy issues, i.e. as an
educational tool. This is particularly important in local government that has
discrete professional areas across the organisation which have difficulty
developing at least a shared base for discussion and the challenges facing
councillors with limited time and many issue areas with which to come to grips;
 As a resource for future policy needs. The only way to determine if a problem is
becoming more pressing is time-series data; information collection is in effect an
investment for future policy making.
Clearly, in the practical day to day existence of local government, the first two
objectives will take precedence, but the potential for other uses should be kept in
When compiling a local housing picture, consideration should be given to the
simultaneous construction of a housing management information system which sees
data as a process rather than simply as point-in-time one-off data collation. New
technologies have automated and streamlined data processing to the point where a lot
of additional value can be achieved for moderate effort by establishing a monitoring
process. Data has little meaning without a context, either comparative (e.g. in relation
to other municipalities) or time-series. Putting in place a process to collect time-series
data enables councils to monitor key indicators and identify future policy issues before
they become problems.
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Councils should also explore the commercial use of information collected or, in some
cases, collated (e.g. data already collected but not consolidated and presented). Local
governments collect a great deal of data and information related to housing and
housing markets that, with minimal value adding, is of significant use to real estate
agents, developers and builders.
Creating a framework for understanding local area housing is critical to the success of
policy development. As in the construction of a house, it helps greatly in undertaking
the collection of information if there is some plan, drawing or guide to what is to be
constructed. Such a collection should not be a trawl for information in the hope that
something useful will come up, but one which is guided by a specific framework.
For example, most of the information that needs to be collected can be organised
according to characteristics of, and trends in, housing demand and supply. This is
captured in Figure 3.1 where the top row shows what has to be gathered for demand
and the bottom supply. This will in turn enable some assessment of the mesh between
them and any problems therein.
Figure 3.1
Demand and supply framework
Broader Economic and Policy Context
of Existing
of Population
Current and
Future Housing
Needs (demand)
of Housing Stock
Likely Housing
Market Response
Current and
Future Supply
In thinking about and developing a local housing picture, the analyst should always be
working towards ‘telling a story’ about the area. This makes the information and data
collected meaningful to the analyst and capable of being explained to councillors and
A simple way of thinking about the information needed to compile such a picture is as
 Current demand (overview of characteristics and needs of current population);
 Likely future demand (overview of characteristics and needs of future population);
 Current supply (overview of current housing stock and associated infrastructure);
 Future supply (overview of future housing stock and associated infrastructure).
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In terms of policy outcomes, then, the key is to identify mismatches or gaps between
current and future demand and supply. In the collection and presentation of
information, it is likely that the categories will run into each other, or it may make
more sense to present all information regarding the current situation (sociodemographic analysis) together. It is, however, useful to use the demand and supply
framework to interrogate the data and to keep clear in your mind what the data is
measuring. Another way of considering this split is in terms of people (and their
housing needs) and the built environment to meet those needs.
Those undertaking local area housing market assessment need to identify the
processes of change affecting markets and residents, then to draw out the implications:
are needs increasing, is the form of need changing, are existing programs appropriate?
The researcher must work through a number of tasks, some of which are interrelated:
 A statement of local economic characteristics and trends;
 A statement and statistical overview of social and demographic characteristics and
 A statement about, and statistical overview of, the local housing market, i.e. the
supply characteristics;
 Identification of local housing needs, including implications of trends outlined
above; and,
 Policy and program implications of local need trends.
For the purposes of explication, we will present this section according to the three
types of report identified in Section 1. This may be considered a ‘typical’ breakdown
or distinction, but different councils will prepare housing strategies in different ways.
In preparing a housing policy and undertaking the required research and analysis, there
are three discrete tasks:
 Housing supply and demand analysis;
 Housing needs analysis; and,
 Housing affordability analysis.
Housing supply and demand analysis
This is the bare minimum that a council needs to undertake in order to fulfil its basic
planning function. In this section we set out the following tasks:
A statement of the national and local economic context;
Current housing demand;
Future housing demand; and,
Housing and land supply.
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3.2.1 A statement of the national and local economic context
One way of starting to develop a local housing picture is with an overview of the
national economic and policy context and the local economic context. It is important
to remember that, although there will be variations in need from region to region, its
overall levels are determined by processes that have their origins in the wider
economy and society. These include the restructuring of the economy with its
emphasis on microeconomic reform and smaller government, changes in state
government policy such as de-institutionalisation and planning (no-one needs to be
reminded of the Good Design Guidelines and the planning changes that underpin
them), demographic changes such as ageing, greater diversity of household types
and population mobility, and general market processes such as gentrification,
suburbanisation and counter-urbanisation (the move to smaller towns adjacent to large
cities). Local housing needs in most cases will reflect localised outcomes of these
Most councils will have an economic development or strategic planning unit that can
input into this process. The relative importance of the local economy will depend
on the municipality’s level of self-containment. For isolated regional municipalities,
the strength of the local economy will be a key determinant of demand for housing;
for metropolitan municipalities, the relationship is less determinate. Councils on the
fringes of large cities may experience significant population growth with little
economic development.
The assessment can then move on to the identification of the characteristics of the
local economy and the trends therein. These include:
 Industry structure and main types of employment;
 Whether it is a growing or contracting local economy, and why; and,
 Income and employment characteristics of the population.
3.2.2 Current housing demand
An important step in compiling a local housing picture to inform policy making
is collecting and analysing information on existing and future housing demand in the
municipality. The information collected and the type of analysis will depend on
council’s objectives and on the type of housing role envisaged by it.
One may note here the distinction between demand and need. Demand is what people
express a want for in the market, either by purchase or renting. Need is a non-market
requirement to achieve some level of material wellbeing. It necessitates some person
or organisation to define the need. This task may be broken down into two distinct
sections: an overview of the ‘broad’ characteristics of the current population, and
consideration of likely future population (i.e. population forecasts). This section
should identify local demographic structure and changes therein, for example, age,
household type and ethnicity. Where data is available, some forecasts of future
population and structure should be provided to signal potential problems.
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The obvious starting point for this type of analysis is the Census of Population and
Housing, which provides a good snapshot in time. Councils are becoming increasingly
sophisticated in their presentation and analysis of census data (see, for example,
the City of Port Phillip’s work, both on their website and on CD-ROM). The key is
to have a good understanding of the underlying data collection method (e.g. the
questionnaire and its administration) and to use the data in a comparative context by
looking at your area over time (e.g. how the rate of home ownership has changed since
the last census) or how it compares to some other area.
Figure 3.2
Information typically presented from the census
Census Information
size (and
If you are examining small area (sub-municipality) data, you might compare all small
areas to the total municipality (see Section 3.6 on defining neighbourhoods). If
you are analysing the municipality as a whole, you may use a region, a basket of
comparable municipalities or the metropolitan, non-metropolitan, state or national
average. A general socio-demographic profile may be best included as an appendix or
as a supporting document, with data used in the report where appropriate.
If your municipality has significant spatial differences in terms of household type, it is
worth considering a mapping approach to data. This can provide great insight into the
nature of the municipality and socioeconomic patterning; for an example of this form
of presentation, see the Social Atlas series released by the Australian Bureau of
Statistics (ABS). A mapping approach based on census collector districts (the basic
geographic building block of the census, typically around 200 households in urban
areas) overcomes the need to create relatively arbitrary boundaries for analysis.
Once the analyst has a good understanding of the information available, the use of
cross-tabulations (or cross-tabs) can be considered. These enable the relationship
between certain factors to be examined. For example, you may be interested in the
relationship between household type and tenure type in your municipality.
The problem with census data is that it is only collected once every five years and
there is a lag time between collection and release. Demographic projections are
necessary to estimate future demand and need. If the total population is in decline,
then housing demand and perhaps need may also be in decline. However, even with a
static population, needs can change. This is because the age structure of an area may
be altering, for example, fewer young people and an increasing number of older
people. Young households may have very different needs from older households: the
former may require more shared private rental housing; the latter may require housing
with facilities for disability, special accommodation units, nursing homes or home
support programs, for example, maintenance.
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One way to augment census data, i.e. to update population estimates between census
periods, is to take account of the change of stock in the municipality since the census
and the resultant (likely) change in population. The simplest method is to take new
dwelling approvals (collected by the ABS from local governments themselves) and
apply some estimate of household size (the simplest estimate is the existing household
size) to the change. This is demonstrated in Table 3.1.
Table 3.1
Using approvals data to estimate population change
Approvals data is not the most appropriate measure from which to calculate intercensus population change, largely because not all approvals end up being built.
It should be possible for councils to collect better data, such as completions or at least
commencements, but this will require coordination with the appropriate section.
It may be possible to develop a better breakdown by building type (e.g. freestanding
house, townhouse/unit and flat) and to take into account demolitions. Clearly, the
level of detail is only limited by the format of information collected. In the case
of specific larger developments, it may be possible to decide on specific average
household size. For example, if there is a large retirement village with villa units
being developed, a likely average household size may be estimated after discussion
with the developer. An example of this approach is presented in Table 3.2.
Table 3.2
Estimating population increase by household type
Dwelling Type
Detached House
New Dwellings
Household Size
Population Increase
One way of ‘adding value’ to the census data (and engageing in a bit of marketing fun)
is to use it to identify housing markets or household types. For example, the City of
Darebin developed the following typology which identified households by type and
age and related this to dwelling structure and tenure.
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Table 3.3
Lifecycle stages and housing careers
Lifecycle stage
Household type
Housing career
Estimated age
oldest (years)
Likely housing type
Likely housing
Young single
Room or flat: shared flat or
Childless couple
Flat or unit: small house
Rented or owned
New family
Small house (2-3BR)
Mature family
Larger house (3-4 BR)
divorced family
Small house (2-3 BR) or flat
Rented or owned
Blended family
Large house
Older family
Largest house (4 BR)
Rented or owned
Empty nesters
Smaller house, unit
Early retirees
Senior aged
70 plus
Institution or granny flat
Owned or rented
Source: Darebin Housing Strategy, 1996, p. 15
This form of typology can greatly increase the explanatory power of demographic
information. The actual process of developing it is also potentially a very useful
learning experience, allowing the analyst to begin telling a story about drivers of
change and likely future issues. It also makes explicit some of the assumptions about
different types of households which can then be tested or challenged. Depending on
the data available, more and more complex categories can be developed.
Care must be taken not to be too dogmatic about the relationship between household
size and the size of dwellings. One common view of the housing lifecycle runs
roughly as follows: young person leaves home and requires one bedroom
accommodation (either single or shared); forms household with another person and
requires one or two bedroom dwelling; couple has children requiring house and
garden; children leave and house is now too large. Aside from the specificity of this
particular lifecycle, it assumes a direct relationship between household size and
desired dwelling size that may be erroneous. In historic terms, we know that average
dwelling size over the last fifty years has increased as household size has decreased,
which implies a more complex relationship.
Another equally plausible ‘story’ based on the type of lifecycle above is that the
dwelling size chosen by young couples is based on income and that young families
sacrifice space when they have children which they later reclaim as the children leave.
How people use their houses is a complex research question, particularly in the
present period of rapid technological and social change in terms of working from
home (small office/home office), home entertainment etc.
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The nature of census data often means that information on population characteristics
(level and type of demand) is included with information on the housing stock (level
and type of supply). This is not a problem as long as the distinction between the two is
kept in mind.
The City of Manningham has identified small office/home office businesses as
important for the municipality due to their socio-demographic profile (high proportion
of well educated professionals) and broad social trends that indicate
an increase in this type of operation. Council took the position that, in terms of
minimising commuting and encouraging employment in the municipality, this form of
decentralised home based business was ideal for Manningham. To this end council has
undertaken a small office/home office study and developed a strategic plan to support
such businesses.
3.2.3 Future demand: population forecasts
The first place to start in terms of population projections by age and sex to assess
future need is the Department of Infrastructure. Many councils take this information
and develop their own forecasts on the basis of their greater local knowledge which
are more suited to their needs (particularly age by year forecasts which enable the
production of forecasts for age cohorts and small area forecasts to assist with planning
the provision of services).
It is critical when using population projections to understand that they are based on
various assumptions. Some councils have found that developing their own projections
is a useful exercise in coming to grips with these assumptions and provides greater
flexibility by allowing them to be modified as conditions change (i.e. as the ‘future’
This is an essential part of a housing policy but needs to be undertaken with caution.
At one level, demographic analysis is a simple technical task, particularly in the era of
demographic software programs and spreadsheets. At another level, it is a complex
task, as the assumptions one makes to feed into any projections can be many and
varied, and identifying and making sense of trends requires a quite rich understanding
of housing market, social and political processes. In short, the demographic data is
only any good if a meaningful story can be told about it!
There is a requirement to be clear as to why a demographic analysis is being
undertaken. Some studies talk about using it to identify housing needs. What they tend
to mean is identifying potential demand. Demographic analysis only provides the
roughest indications of housing demand; identifying needs will require a more
sophisticated analysis.
What is the difference between housing demand and need? The former refers to what
people will consume in the market, whether by purchase or rent. The latter refers
to what they require (need) by virtue of their characteristics in terms of lifecycle,
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lifestyle, medical condition etc. People may be in the private rental sector (expressing
a demand for such) but in reality need more appropriate accommodation, e.g. aged
care housing, community housing, public housing or supported accommodation.
The major factors that need to be identified in any demographic analysis are:
 Current level of population and future trends in that level;
 Current and, if possible, future age structure;
 Current household composition; and,
 Average household size and formation rates.
This information provides the basis for identifying potential housing demand and need
although, as indicated above, additional information is required, particularly in the
case of need.
The objective in this section is not to detail methodologies but to identify pitfalls and
issues to be considered in the process of demographic analysis. The simple method of
projecting future population numbers and age profiles is to extrapolate past trends in
net migration for the municipality and in the extant population, i.e. birth and deaths
within the area and the ‘ageing in place’. This method is commonly used for countries
and large population areas but has decreased reliability at the local level as population
change is sensitive to land availability and development processes. One of the
complications of local level housing analysis is that the supply constraint means that
demand and supply are not independent.
The growth of an area can be accelerated greatly if new land becomes available and a
development attracting hundreds of people is undertaken. This has always been an
issue on the fringe and in growth corridors, but is now also becoming one in built-up
areas where significant areas of industrial, commercial or public land are being
rezoned as residential. Any population projections need modification for potential
land reuses. One approach might be to have different scenarios, dependent
on assumptions as to likely land availability and density of development. These
assumptions mean, however, that different housing strategies will determine
population growth.
The basis for demographic trends and projections is the ABS census. These are
conducted at five yearly intervals (the latest was in 1996) and there can be problems of
accuracy of the population for intervening years. The Department of Infrastructure
produces local government area projections based on an estimate for Victoria as a
whole which is then distributed across the state, based on patterns of development and
land release data. The reliability of both census data and departmental projections
should be checked against building approvals and demolitions since the latest census,
as these will give an estimate of the additional population. For example, if there has
been a 600 net addition to stock and the typical household size for such stock is four
persons, then there should be some 2,400 more persons than the census data.
Within local areas there can be quite marked difference in sub-areas. Any analysis will
require identifying such areas and modifying overall population projections for the
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specific local area attributes. For example, area A is anticipated to have 200 additional
detached houses over the next five years at an average occupancy of 3.5 household
members. This would suggest a population growth of 700 persons. Area B is
anticipated to have 350 townhouses at an average occupancy of 1.5 persons, giving an
increase of 525 persons. This oversimplified example illustrates how different
development patterns affect the population growth, but also shows that more houses
do not necessary mean higher population.
Local area analysis may require location in a broader regional analysis to identify
possible implications for local population trends. If the neighbouring municipality has
a large development project adjacent and it is perceived to be more attractive to
consumers (for reasons of price or amenity), it may draw potential households away
from your municipality.
The total demand for dwellings in the area is determined by household growth, not
population growth. What is important is the projected number of new households and
their expected average size. Such data enables the calculation of the total number of
households requiring housing, as well as overall trends in specific age cohorts. The
specific age cohort data can also be used for estimating numbers with disabilities, by
using surrogate techniques.
Table 3.4
Average household size, 1996-2021
Melbourne Metro Area
Source: Department of Infrastructure, 1996
By dividing the population by average household size, a total number of households
can be determined. Thus, for Victoria in 1996, the total population was 4,539,400 and
the average household size was 2.67 persons, producing some 1,699,920 households.
By repeating this exercise for future time periods, an estimate of future housing need
can be created for municipalities or regions. Note that it is assumed here that every
additional household needs their own dwelling.
Figure 3.3
Number of dwellings required for a population of ten thousand
Number of Households
4 3.9 3.8 3.7 3.6 3.5 3.4 3.3 3.2 3.1 3 2.9 2.8 2.7 2.6 2.5 2.4 2.3 2.2 2.1 2
Household Size
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As an illustration of the importance of household size in determining demand for
dwelling, Figure 3.3 shows the number of households created by 10,000 persons
in relation to household size. At a household size of four persons, there are 2,500
households. Halving this to two creates an additional 2,500 households. This explains
why total population can be static (or even declining) yet demand for dwellings is
At the small area level, the primary drivers of population change are the age structure
of the population and the supply of residential land (or potential for rezoning of land)
which impacts on dwelling stock.
Figure 3.4
Population projections method
household size
dwelling stock
Age Structure
 household size
 births and deaths
 migration patterns
Land Supply
 dwelling stock
 migration patterns
household size
dwelling stock
Source: ID Consulting
The changing age structure of the local population impacts on the average household
size and on propensity to have children or to die, as well as propensity to move. An
older population is generally characterised by declining household size as the children
mature and move out of home, leaving the empty nesters behind. These tend to remain
in the family home until they decide to move to smaller accommodation (usually when
one partner dies). A younger population will tend to have a larger, if not growing,
average household size as couples have children.
Age specific propensities for a population to have children or to die are applied to the
base population. An older population will have fewer births and more deaths, and a
younger population, vice versa.
The most mobile age groups in the population are the young adults. They tend to
move to attend educational institutions, seek work or express a change in lifestyle.
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3.2.4 Housing and land supply
The other side of the local housing picture is supply. In gathering information here,
the conventional approach is to talk in terms of stock attributes and flow attributes; the
former describe housing numbers and composition at any point in time, and the latter
are concerned with changes in the number and composition of housing units.
Typical information required in terms of stock in the municipality is dwelling type,
dwelling size and tenure. The starting point for this information is the census; again,
mapping it will greatly improve its usefulness. The following information is available
through the census:
Dwelling type;
Occupancy; and,
If comparisons of census stock figures are to be made over time, be cautious about
comparability of data. Sometimes census data has slightly different categorisations of
dwelling or tenure which require adjustment to ensure comparability.
Flow data is available in a number of forms and can indicate pressures from
development, the degree to whether development is keeping pace with demand, and
changes in the local housing market in response to demographic or economic forces.
The growth in inner urban medium density housing is a good example of the latter.
The Victorian Building Control Commission’s Building Activity Profile provides
information on ‘domestic’ and ‘residential’ building work by number and value for
each municipality. Domestic buildings are essentially single household dwellings,
while residential are multiple household dwellings such as boarding houses and aged
accommodation. Data is collected from monthly permits lodged with the commission
by building surveyors. Some additional information may be provided on request
(email: [email protected]).
In terms of future supply, local governments through their planning activities have a
great deal of information. Dwelling approvals information tells you what sort of
dwellings are being constructed and enables an estimate of likely future supply. Land
available for development (or redevelopment) will also be known. In most councils
this information is shared among a number of people and departments. Usually the
difficulty is in identifying the people with the information. Often the best approach is
to convene a working meeting with all information holders in the organisation to
identity all potential sites, dwelling numbers and timing (if population forecasts have
been developed, this work will already have been done). Sitting around a map picking
out potential development sites can be quite fun (and strangely therapeutic).
The stock of dwellings changes according to levels of demolition and replacement,
development of dual occupancies and multiple dwellings, supply of vacant residential
lots remaining since subdivision, major residential development site opportunities
and, most significantly, supply of greenfield residential land. As stock ages, the
propensity for demolition increases, often resulting in significant redevelopment,
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creating an increase in the stock of dwellings as the policy push for medium density
housing materialises.
The supply of redevelopment sites has also increased in recent years with school sites
and other surplus land suitable for residential development becoming available. The
privatisation of state utilities and rationalisation of councils has led to an increase in
the supply of ‘surplus land’ for redevelopment.
Changes in the supply of land for residential development impact on the dwelling
supply and provide opportunities for people to migrate to an area when there is a
significant increase in the supply of housing. The increased supply in the inner and
middle ring suburbs has not brought about a significant change in the traditional
migration patterns across the metropolitan area. Nevertheless, the rate of dwelling
construction activity in the urban fringe areas has declined, while the rate of
residential development in the inner and middle ring suburbs has increased (DoI, Land
Release Forecast, 1997).
Changing housing market attributes can, in interaction with employment and income
trends, dramatically affect needs. It is therefore necessary to document the
characteristics and trends of the local housing market by tenure, type, public stock,
new construction, prices, rents and quality (if available). In other words, it should
provide an overview of the supply characteristics of the region and of any perceived
problems or needs flowing from the changing conditions.
The collection and collation of data and information can have significant benefits
besides the direct one of improving decision making. The City of Whittlesea, for
example, has found significant community and business interest in the information
that they have been collecting as part of developing their housing policy. Having good
information well presented can greatly improve the perception of a local government
and develop a reputation for professionalism. As part of its information gathering
stage, the city consulted with key organisations such as the Housing Industry
Association, the Real Estate Institute of Victoria and Eastern Energy to get feedback
on their survey design and to build commitment to disseminate the results. As a result
of this process, council received some funding for their research.
Housing needs analysis
A housing needs analysis goes beyond simply examining preferences as expressed in
the marketplace and the supply available to meet this demand to look at the wider
issue of need. Broadly speaking, its purpose is to enable decision makers to:
 Identify the type and incidence of housing demand and need;
 Evaluate the appropriateness of existing policies and projects in respect of the
identified need, that is, help determine whether programs are effectively meeting
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 Suggest appropriate new projects, services or policies if there are gaps in need;
 Target resources to where need is most intense; and,
 Identify the factors or processes causing changes in need.
With the information collected in the demand and supply analysis, it should be
possible to make some assessments about local housing need. In addition to needs as
implied through a review of local economic, social and housing market trends, this
section can also include actual needs data, that is, client data from supported
accommodation or emergency housing and information service programs, as clients of
these services, by virtue of presenting for assistance, must be in housing need.
Data for a local housing market needs assessment comes from three major sources:
 Secondary data such as ABS census data on housing, ABS building statistics,
Valuer General’s Department’s price data, Rental Bond Boards and housing
 Client data from housing service providers such as Centrelink (rental assistance),
SAAP and housing agencies; and
 Data collected explicitly for the assessment, including data of a non-quantitative
form from housing service providers, clients and other key ‘influentials’ who are
knowledgeable about local needs. This can be generated through a range of
techniques including public consultation, workshops, surveys and focus groups.
To make this data meaningful it will, in many cases, have to be presented in a way
which tells us something about housing needs. Local problems that may create greater
need include:
 Shortage of private rental stock as reflected in vacancy rates;
 Lack of housing diversity;
 High house prices relative to incomes;
 High rents relative to incomes;
 Lack of new construction or lack of diversity in new construction;
 Lack of social housing;
 Too much social housing with vacant stock;
 Lack of student housing;
 Gentrification and displacement of low income housing; and,
 Closure of boarding and rooming houses.
3.3.2 Housing policy context
Undertaking a housing needs analysis implies an interest in wider housing concerns
and therefore requires consideration of the broader policy context. The major policy
makers themselves (e.g. Commonwealth Department of Family and Community
Affairs, Office of Housing) should be considered, as well as peak organisations such
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as the MAV. An example of a policy context for this is contained in the City of Port
Phillip’s Housing Strategy Part B: Context Report (see below), Local Government and
Housing Policy, City of Yarra 1998 and the MAV’s Housing Policy.
4.1.1. Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement on Public Housing and
Income Subsidy
4.1.2. Community Housing
4.1.3. Residential Care
4.2.1. State Planning Policies
4.2.2. Living Cities
4.2.3. State Planning Policy in the New Victorian Planning Schemes
4.2.4. Good Design Guide
4.2.5. Public Housing
4.2.6. Community Housing
4.3.1. Local Government
4.3.2. Port Melbourne, South Melbourne and St Kilda
4.3.3. Port Phillip
Source: City of Port Phillip, Housing Strategy Part B Context Report, May 1997
Clearly this is one section of the report that will not vary greatly between
municipalities, although they will place different emphases depending on their local
issues and may have different interpretations of events. Its main objective is to
summarise the policy direction and activity of the main players and to make this
understandable to readers of the policy. The weak relationship between most councils
and the Office of Housing was shown up in our survey of councils, with only 15 per
cent of respondents agreeing that their council had a strong relationship with it. In
terms of understanding the broad policy context, only 10 per cent agreed that the
current reform of the public housing system is well understood within that council.
Clearly, if local government is to most effectively fulfil a housing role, this weakness
needs to be addressed.
Appropriateness is a broad concept, with no single clear definition. Whether housing
is appropriate or not is very difficult to determine objectively. One measure of
appropriateness is the degree of under or overoccupancy. Overoccupancy or
overcrowding exists when the number of people occupying a dwelling exceeds some
ratio of persons per room; underoccupancy is when the number is below the ratio. As
with affordability, both concepts require the designation of a benchmark.
Unfortunately there is no universally accepted benchmark and therefore various
measures have been used. Table 3.5 documents different sources and criteria for
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Table 3.5
Overoccupancy characteristics: sources and criteria
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 1975
Family Survey (ABS 1980), and Anderton
and Lloyd (1991)
Where, after allocating one bedroom to the
parent(s), there are, on average, more than
two persons per bedroom.
Neutze (1977), and Department of Housing
and Construction (1984)
Households with four persons or fewer need
one room per person and, thereafter, one
bedroom for each two persons, with two
additional living rooms.
Burke et al. (1985)
Where there are at least four persons resident
in a four room dwelling and one person for
each additional room.
NHS Housing and Locational Choice
Survey (1992)
High overcrowding where there are more
than two persons per bedroom on average.
Moderate overcrowding where there are
more than one and fewer than two people per
Source: King A, Towards Australian Indicators of Housing Stress, Department of Housing and Regional
Development, Canberra, 1994
Note that these occupancy standards are defined by the functional capacity of a
bedroom rather than by any cultural standard. Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders
and some ethnic groups may prefer higher levels of occupancy.
Another indicator of appropriateness is the lack of diversity in housing stock and
tenure. This assumes that certain household types or lifestyles require a specific type
or tenure of dwelling; if such type or tenure is not an adequate proportion of the stock,
there is a need for diversity. The typical argument is that smaller households require
smaller and more manageable housing types such as flats, townhouses and units, while
larger families, typically those with children, require detached housing. As the bulk of
housing in most areas is detached, but the growth in demand is disproportionately
from small households, it is assumed that a mismatch exists. As a result, it is argued,
many households are having their housing needs denied. The solution is greater
diversity of stock. However, in the absence of detailed preference studies, we do not
know how many smaller households actually do want smaller dwelling types. The
available studies suggest, irrespective of household types, that there is a preference for
the detached house and home ownership. All one can conclude is that, if there is some
under-representation of non-detached housing or of some tenure, there possibly exists
a mismatch of needs and housing stock.
What measures can we use to indicate the potential for a mismatch? There is no
criterion for such, so a suggested one is: where the stock of non-detached housing in
its various forms or of, say, rental housing (if the issue is tenure) is considerably less
than the state average.
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Housing needs groups
It is difficult to discuss means of gathering information on special needs groups
without speaking specifically about the particular group. The following is not meant to
be an exhaustive list. Municipalities will have to identify the special needs groups that
require attention in their region.
‘At risk’ populations: Centrelink data
Centrelink clients in receipt of rental assistance and recipients by pension/benefit
type indicate households at risk of being in housing need. The data simply
provides the total number of households by postcode. In itself, this is not a
particularly accurate dimension of need, as it could simply reflect the population
of a region or area (as created by aggregating postcodes). Are 12,000 households
on pensions and benefits in a north-west region of a state more or less in need
than 16,000 in the southern region? One way of making this data more
meaningful is to convert it into some relative measure such as ratio of Centrelink
recipients to all households in the region. This can then be compared to the
equivalent metropolitan or state/territory measure. If, for example, recipients in
your region were 1.2:10, but the state ratio was only 0.8:10, this would suggest an
above-normal incidence and therefore a higher potential housing need.
Comparing growth in Centrelink numbers over time is also a way of indicating
potential need.
Homelessness is notoriously difficult to measure. Whilst our survey of councils found
that over half (51 per cent) considered it to be a very important or important problem,
very few have attempted to quantify the extent. Melbourne City Council has recently
completed a study to enumerate homelessness in the city, a task assisted by the
presence of well organised, street based assistance. Most councils will not be able to
fund such a study so other approaches need to be adopted.
One means is to work with agencies to develop an estimate from service usage. By
presenting for SAAP and emergency housing services, people are effectively defining
themselves as ‘in need’. Client records from these services are rich data sources which
previously have not been available for systematic analysis. Since 1996 SAAP data has
been provided by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. One problem,
however, is that the data is so rich that one may get bogged down in analysis. Another
method, discussed in greater detail in Section 3.3.8 in relation to aged housing needs,
is to use state-wide or even national estimates to construct an estimate for the
The issue of homelessness is complex: its underlying causes are many and often
interrelated, and there are various forms or categories. People working in the field
often talk of a homeless ‘career’ or a continuum of homelessness. An illustration of
this complexity is Table 3.6, showing one possible categorisation of homelessness.
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Table 3.6
Categories of homelessness
People housed, but without conditions of ‘home’ (for
example, security, safety) or in conditions of inadequate
Third degree relative
housing/incipient homelessness
People constrained to live permanently in single rooms
in private boarding houses
Second degree relative
People moving between forms of temporary or mediumterm shelter such as refuges, hostels, boarding houses or
First degree relative
People without an acceptable roof over their heads,
living on the streets under bridges or in deserted
Absolute homelessness
Source: Adapted from Chamberlain C and Mackenzie D, ‘Understanding contemporary homelessness: Issues of
definition and meaning’, Australian Journal of Social Issues, vol. 27, 1992, pp. 274-97
The City of Melton, like a number of other Victorian local governments, directly
delivers homelessness services through the Supported Accommodation Assistance
Program. The Family, Youth and Housing Business Unit includes a housing team
leader (full-time) and two other housing workers (one full-time and one 0.6).
Whilst this is not common and has the potential for confusing roles, there are a
number of advantages in the service being located within local government. For many
in the community, local government is an obvious gateway, and thus referral time is
minimised and clients do not have to tell their story twice. Local governments are
relatively sophisticated organisations that have significant resources in terms of
buildings, equipment and skills. A stand-alone housing organisation of a few people
would not be able to afford the photocopiers, faxes, meeting rooms etc. available.
The CCT process has meant that local governments have developed very good skills
in tendering and lobbying which the housing section is able to access. There are clear
structures in place to assist tendering and contract management.
The nature of the business unit in the Melton example enables an integrated response
to issues that require it. In terms of lobbying for clients and representing their interests
in strategic planning, there are a number of advantages to this model. Having a unit
dealing with homelessness increases awareness across the council, meaning that it is
likely to be better informed and more willing to deal with the issue and that
homelessness and housing are more likely to be considered in other areas (particularly
planning). External to the organisation, local government can be an influential and
effective advocate, as demonstrated in the Caroline Springs development. Senior
council officers are more likely to be effective in negotiations with other managers
and entrepreneurs. Overall, directly administering this Commonwealth funded
program has meant that the City of Melton is more aware of homelessness in its
region and more likely to take a role in issues around homelessness.
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Indigenous housing
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing need is the greatest of any needs group
in Australia. Irrespective of the measure of need, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
housing conditions perform badly by comparison with those of the Australian
population overall. It is one of the major challenges of Australian housing provision to
reduce the level of need. The problem has not been ignored. However, there is
abundant evidence that many of the programs have been less effective than they
should have been, in part because of failure to appreciate the cultural issues
underpinning the problem. It is therefore important to know something about both
Aboriginal need and culture in housing provision.
The initial socio-demographic profile (and, of course, council’s day to day experience)
will have identified the size of the local indigenous population. There are two major
sources of data on Aboriginal housing need: the census, and the 1992 housing and
community infrastructure survey of all Aboriginal communities of less than 1,000
population, in total 1,353 communities.
Compared to non-indigenous Australians, Aboriginal Australians face high rates of
overcrowding and after-housing poverty, are much more likely to live in improvised
dwellings, have much lower levels of home ownership and are much more reliant on
publicly provided housing. Other measures of need include security, the absence of
discrimination, and an environment in which one can live without threat to health. In
the private rental sector, negative images of Aboriginal people and blatant racism have
contributed to discrimination. This has forced many Aboriginal people to drift to the
worst private rental stock, for example, that which a landlord could not rent out to
another household.
Housing and health needs rarely figure in needs analysis of other groups. While
housing for many households may be unaffordable or inappropriately located, it is rare
in Australia that housing conditions directly affect health. In certain Aboriginal
communities, however, the relationship is a direct one: poor housing produces poor
health. This is often not considered in mainstream housing because the relationship is
now largely invisible, thanks to engineering, planning and regulatory progress.
Culturally/ethnically specific housing
Many local governments in Victoria have a high proportion of people from different
ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Some are migrants who have been here for forty plus
years and now represent part of Australia’s ageing population. Others are relatively
recent arrivals making the process of transition into mainstream housing, and many of
these do not find mainstream housing satisfactory for various reasons. For example,
elderly non-English speaking people at that stage where they must live in a retirement
or nursing home prefer, for obvious reasons, to share with those who speak their
language and know their culture. Non-ethnic specific aged housing may therefore be
inappropriate. Similarly, culturally specific groups can use housing as a method of
keeping people in an area and maintaining their community support. The Tongan
community in Sydney, for example, have used an award winning cooperative to keep
the community together rather than being dispersed to more affordable but remote
outer suburbs.
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One research task in a local government housing study is to identify the multicultural
make-up of the area and possible housing issues. The census provides the basis to
obtain details of the proportion of people with different language backgrounds and
their age and household structure. This can provide a starting point for research.
Many of these communities will have a local or regional association or federation.
These could be contacted and, through various methods (e.g. survey or focus group
workshop), the degree and form of housing issues could be identified. The role of
local government may be one of facilitator in helping groups to arrange meetings
around issues of potential housing provision and to identify sites, potential managers
and developers and ways of financing for housing initiatives.
There have not been many initiatives along these lines in Victoria, but in New South
Wales there have been projects for the Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Lao communities.
Documentation is available in separate facts sheets and in a more detailed report
(Building on Experience: Guidelines for Future Self-Care Housing for Older People
from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds in New South Wales, Department of
Housing and Urban Development, 1998). A number of these have been funded under
the Community Housing Program, a national program that is potentially available in
Victoria for good applications. In other cases they have been self-financed where the
support consisted of organisation, negotiation and lobbying with relevant parties.
3.3.8 Older persons
Age structure will have been covered in the previous socio-demographic profiling.
Most councils, however, will want to consider aged housing needs specifically, given
the particular issues attached to aged housing and that local governments have a
significant role in providing and/or facilitating aged services such as meals on wheels,
senior citizens centres and home help services, and are major funders of home and
community care services.
The proportion of the Australian population aged over 65 years increased from
approximately 12.5 per cent in 1971 to 16.5 per cent in 1996, and is expected to reach
22.7 per cent by 2021. Several factors have influenced this, including:
 The post-World War Two baby boom (1945-65);
 A steady decline in the total fertility rate (indicated by the average number of
births per 100,000 women) from approximately 2.7 in the early twentieth century
to 1.87 in 1994. This means that Australia’s population is not replacing itself.
Yet it continues to increase, mainly due to immigration;
 Australia’s long history of what can only be termed a ‘youthful’ immigration
policy, with relatively young people arriving since World War Two; and,
 Non-indigenous Australians’ level of mortality has declined, that is, they are living
longer than at any other period of history.
The net result of this is that the population will continue to grow steadily, with
increasing proportions of elderly people.
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Victoria’s population is ageing, and this trend is expected to continue for at least the
next half century. In the period from 1996 to 2021, the number of people aged over 65
is expected to increase by nearly 40 per cent, compared with 16 per cent for the
population as a whole. One of the most distinctive features of the population aged
over 65 is the predominance of women in all age categories. In 1996, there were
approximately 81 males per 100 females. This is even more striking among those aged
over 80, where there were approximately 52 males per 100 females.
While the incidence of disease (particularly heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular
disorders, diabetes and arthritis) increases with age, it should not be concluded that
this is the only variable involved in the cause of illness, disease and/or disability.
Compared to economic position, age may be a minor variable in determining health
Figure 3.5
Age structure of Victoria’s population, 1996 and 2021
85 years
and over
Source: Department of Infrastructure, Victoria in Future, 1995
Table 3.7 shows the percentage of persons aged 65 and over with a profound or severe
handicap in the areas of self-care, mobility or verbal communication.
Table 3.7
Percentage of persons with a profound or severe handicap aged 65
and over, by sex and age, 1993
Age group
Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia’s Welfare: Service and Assistance,
Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1995, p. 181
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Overall, more males will experience profound or severe handicap with increasing
years. However, two salient points should be kept in mind:
 By the age of 80 years or over, 60 per cent of women and more than 50 per cent of
men will have experienced a profound or severe handicap;
 But, under this age, 80 to 85 per cent of men and women – or more – will not have
experienced such a handicap. Some may be categorised as experiencing a
moderate or mild handicap which refers to those who ‘have difficulty performing a
task, but do not require assistance or can use an aid’ (AIHW 1995: 180).
From this discussion we can conclude that older Australians are a diverse group. Sex
and gender expectations, wealth and poverty, access to resources, and race and
ethnicity mean that they are as diverse as any other group in society. Most will live
active and healthy lives, and have opportunities similar to those available to them
when they were younger. This diversity, of course, does not imply any sort of equality.
The same inequalities which existed between an age cohort throughout their lives are
likely to be replicated as they get older.
There are also many problems with identifying older Australians by retirement ages.
Age discrimination legislation, workers being retrenched at younger ages, and
voluntary retirements before 60 or 65 mean that ‘age’ as defined by relationship to the
labour market and retirement is problematic. In addition, it excludes many women
whose work has been domestic and unpaid. Therefore, it seems that past definitions of
‘old’ or ‘elderly’ have more to do with political and social factors than with biological
Housing for older people is an issue in which many (or even most) local governments
have direct involvement. As the population ages (and federal and state governments
withdraw or rationalise) this role will probably increase. Coupled with improved
telecommunications (e.g. telemedicine), there are likely to be innovative solutions,
and some local governments will wish to be at the forefront of these. As well, all
municipalities will have to deal with the issue of ‘ageing in place’, a particular
problem for municipalities with an imbalanced age structure.
Regional or local area age cohort data can be used to translate national needs data to
the local level. For example, if the Commonwealth or the state/territory produced a
survey of age disability with relevant housing information, this can be adapted to local
need assessment. If the data showed that 5 per cent of people over 65 required
handrails inside, or 1 per cent required doors altered for better access, this can be
applied to the regional level by multiplying the national percentage by the total
number in the relevant age cohort for the region. Table 3.8 shows the method.
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Table 3.8
Estimated number of aged households needing dwelling adaptations
(by the surrogate method)
1 Housing
2 Percentage
3 No. of
persons in
4 No. of
persons in
5 (2x3) No. in
6 (2x4) No. in
Requiring door
This data would then enable a statement to the effect: ‘Over the decade to 2001, the
region will experience an increased need for modified housing to address disability.
The total need is 2,250 cases requiring handrail provision and 450 requiring door
Central Goldfields Council is developing an innovative approach to developing low
cost housing. Part of the approach is establishing a ‘system’ for building/developing
which includes elements of self-build, as more bureaucratic methods of building are
too expensive, particularly for small numbers.
Aged housing has been identified as a particular problem. There are many older
couples and singles living in large houses that are deteriorating as the owners don’t
have the cash flow to undertake appropriate maintenance. Coupled with this is the low
level of house prices in the area which makes it very difficult for older people to get
themselves into smaller, more appropriate housing.
One of council’s initiatives is to develop a site in Maryborough with relocatable units.
This makes the housing less expensive (it can be built in a factory rather than on-site
which is considerably more expensive) and more flexible (the difficulty of lowering
house prices is that it is the area that depreciates, not the housing, but by its very
nature most housing is fixed in space). This type of housing on a properly landscaped
site should be attractive to many older people, providing easily maintained housing in
a communal setting.
Even with this development, many older people are living in houses that will not
realise enough to purchase this type of housing. Council has identified a funding
source who is prepared to finance a modest gap over a 25 year period, making it
affordable for the older person. So, for example, if a couple were living in a house that
could sell for $35,000 and the relocatable home cost $45,000, financing could be
arranged for the $10,000 difference. At present rates of interest this would cost around
$15 per week (assuming 6 per cent interest).
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3.3.9 Youth housing
In terms of young people and housing, the following points from a report undertaken
for the Commonwealth Department of Housing and Regional Development (Maas,
Finding a Place: A Recommended Strategy to Improve Young People’s Housing
Opportunities, 1995) are worth making:
 At June 1995, of the approximately 2.5 million Australians aged between 15 and
24, over 800,000 lived independently; of these, 42 per cent lived with unrelated
people in shared households, 48 per cent had formed their own families
as couples, couples with children or single parents, and 10 per cent lived alone
(p. 19);
 Almost 162,000 Australians aged between 15 and 24 live under the Henderson
poverty line after housing costs have been counted (p. 25);
 Young people spend a high proportion of their income on housing. In 1990, 15 to
24 year olds spent an average of 21.5 per cent, compared with 13.1 per cent for all
ages over 15 years (p. 29); and,
 44 per cent of independent young people on low incomes who rent privately pay
50 per cent of their income in housing, compared with 2 per cent in the public
sector. The corresponding figures for paying 30 per cent of income in rent are 83
per cent and 15 per cent (p. 32).
The term ‘young people’, like ‘the aged’, sweeps up a diverse group whose housing
needs are different and who require a range of housing and support options.
One important group of young people with particular housing needs are students.
About 75 per cent of Australian tertiary students live at home; the rest live in some
form of independent accommodation. There are many housing problems for this
group, including the decrease in purpose built accommodation (for example, halls of
residence), the gentrification of areas around many universities resulting in high rents,
and the low level and increasingly tight eligibility rules for Youth Allowance and
Austudy. For municipalities with (or near) tertiary campuses, this is clearly an issue to
be examined.
The City of Melbourne has undertaken a lot of work on student housing in recent
years which has served a number of objectives:
 There is clear unmet demand for affordable student housing;
 Quantifying and explaining the student market will provide an incentive for
developers; and,
 The council has had a long-standing policy to increase ‘after hours’ activity in and
around the CBD through encourageing more residents. Students are particularly
good in this regard, given their ‘outward’ orientation.
This work has also helped to strengthen the relationship between the council and the
educational institutions in and around the city.
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3.3.10 Disability
How we see and define disability shapes our understanding of the issue and how we
respond in policy or administrative terms. Until recently, it has been defined in
essentially medical terms, as ‘a condition which inhibited one’s ability to access the
built environment and society’s activities’. The policy response from this
understanding is to focus on the individual’s condition. As a result, services have
grown up around each condition of disability. For example, intellectual disability
services have been seen as distinct from psychiatric services and these, in turn, have
been seen as distinct from the physically disabled. Large non-government
organisations have devoted themselves to meeting the ‘whole of life’ needs of target
groups such as the blind or people with cerebral palsy, head injury or spina bifida.
An alternative way to look at disability is in terms of how a lack of service and
facilities inhibits people experiencing a disability from fulfilling a normal role in
society. This understanding places the emphasis less on the condition of the individual
than on the form and quality of services and facilities required to overcome the effects
of disability. A handicap, defined as an individual’s inability to carry out a ‘normal’
role as the result of a disability or impairment, thus implies a need for assistance.
If that assistance can be provided, whether in terms of an appropriately designed
house or appropriate level of support, then an individual can assume a ‘normal’ role
and the handicap no longer exists. As an Australian Housing Research Council
(AHRC) report on disability and public housing states: ‘Some of the problems people
with psychiatric disabilities face may be due less to their underlying disorders than to
problems in the service system, for example, continued stigmatisation or difficulties in
gaining access to support services available to people with other disabilities’.
The International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps produced
by the World Health Organisation provides the following relevant definitions, in the
context of health experience:
 Impairment: Any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or
anatomical structure or function;
 Disability: Any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to
perform an activity in the manner, or within the range, considered normal for a
human being; and,
 Handicap: A disadvantage for a given individual, resulting from an impairment or
a disability, that limits or prevents the fulfilment of a role that is normal
(depending on age, sex, and social and cultural factors) for that individual
(Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 1995: 240).
These definitions reflect a non-medical interpretation, drawing attention to restrictions
as they affect normal activity. These restrictions may be social as much as medical.
The challenge is to identify what the restrictions are, how they shape housing need,
and precisely what is the appropriate administrative response.
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There are no reliable estimates of the existing or potential demand for supported
accommodation for people with a disability. The following points help to give some
indication of what demand might be:
 The ABS survey on disability, ageing and caring carried out in 1993 found
721,000 people reporting a profound or severe handicap (just over 4 per cent of
the population aged 5 and above). For ABS purposes, such people sometimes, or
always, require personal assistance or supervision in one or more of the activity
areas of self-care, mobility or verbal communication (AIHW 1995: 245). These
figures include persons over 65 who, although support requirements may be
similar, are administratively classified into aged care and accommodation services
rather than disability services;
 The survey also found that people with a profound handicap were more likely to
be boarders (18.5 per cent) than were the general population. Approximately
30 per cent of those with profound or severe disabilities were renters (as distinct
from boarders). Nearly 14 per cent of all people with a disability were living
alone, which is approximately twice the rate of the general population (AIHW
1995: 251); and,
 The proportion of the non-aged population suffering a severe disability has
remained fairly constant since 1981. The increases that have been reported have
been due to the ageing of the population (AIHW 1995: 255).
Such data can help in estimating a level of potential demand for supported housing.
Actual demand is more difficult to measure. The AHRC attempted to calculate a level
of demand for public rental housing by people with a psychiatric disability in New
South Wales, arriving at a figure of 11,700 people. In comparison, actual demand
as measured by applications for public rental housing by people with identified
psychiatric difficulties was only 2,356 in the period from 1990-91 to 1992-93 (AHRC
1994: 28).
There is evidence that the policies of non-institutionalisation in place since the 1970s
have led to a situation where there will be extra demand for supported accommodation
in the near future. Non-institutionalisation has generally not been accompanied by an
equivalent parallel expansion in community based accommodation options, and
families have been left to take up the slack. As the parents of this generation of people
with disabilities reach old age, they are increasingly unable to cope with the strain.
Not only is supported accommodation having to expand to meet the ongoing demands
of younger people with disabilities reaching the age of independence, but it will also
need to cope with the backlog resulting from the faulty policy implementation of the
past twenty years.
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Table 3.9
Roles and responsibilities in relation to supported accommodation
for disability
Aims of support
Maintain the person in the community
Support quality of life goals
Advocacy support, protect interests of tenant
Maintain the person in their tenancy
Housing provider
Property management
Obtain and offer appropriate housing stock
Rent setting and collection
Develop and offer grievance procedure
Inform tenants on rights and responsibilities
Accountability to tenants and funding bodies
Resolve tenancy issues
Ensure appropriate support arrangements are made
Develop competency, best practice and minimum standards
Funding bodies’
Provide appropriate stock and/or funding to housing providers
Establish viable programs
Provide adequate funds for support services
Pay rent and meet tenancy responsibilities
Respect privacy of other residents in individual and shared housing
Meet general responsibilities of living in the wider community
3.3.11 Assessing needs and linking with policy
With all the data assembled, the challenge is then to bring it together to analyse
housing need in the municipality. The skill in preparing a report is not really in the
data per se, but in the analysis that attaches to it. Every region will have a housing
needs problem. What has to be brought out is how the characteristics of that region are
shaping the degree and nature of local need. This is where demographic factors, local
economic conditions and local housing market conditions have to be woven into a
story about local need.
However, simply identifying needs and trends is not sufficient. The purpose of a needs
assessment is to guide the policy process, therefore it should conclude with policy
recommendations that are consistent with the assessment. One framework for
analysing housing need is to interrogate the data in terms of the following criteria:
 Affordability;
 Accessibility; and,
 Appropriateness.
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Figure 3.6
Assessment framework
Affordable housing:
Needs to
supply and
Appropriate housing:
Housing size, lifecycle,
cultural requirements,
lifestyle, tenure security
Needs to
address housing
costs and
Housing costs as a proportion
of income, sufficient income
remaining for other expenses
Needs to
address design
and construction
Available housing:
Sufficient supply, proximity
to social networks, services
and employment
Benchmarking needs indicators is a key task. By this we mean the requirement in any
analysis to establish some standard of comparison in order to measure (or benchmark)
the severity of a problem or whether conditions are improving or worsening.
A benchmark can be:
 Historical, using some yardstick chosen from the path, e.g. housing affordability in
1981 was 2.5 times household earnings but in 1999 was 3.2 times earnings;
 A recognised standard, e.g. the affordability benchmark of 25 per cent of income
committed to housing; or,
 A comparative standard, e.g. with the state or metropolitan average (Melbourne in
total has 21 per cent households in private rental where municipality C has only 15
per cent).
Many housing reports are almost meaningless in that that they only describe recent
census data without placing it in any context. For example: ‘The Municipality of
Probus has 68 per cent home ownership and 20 per cent rental. Almost two-thirds of
households are families with children and the age cohort with the greatest proportion
is the age group 30-45.’ What does this tell us? Basically, nothing: unless we can
compare it with Melbourne or Victoria as a whole or with what they were, say, ten
years earlier, we get no impression of whether this is distinctive or typical or whether
it represents major change.
With a bit more data to provide benchmarks it could say: ‘Probus is very similar to
the metropolitan average with 68 per cent home ownership and 20 per cent rental.
However, it is noteworthy that ownership has increased five percentage points over
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the last census period, compared to a decline for Melbourne. Almost two-thirds of
households are families with children and the age cohort with the greatest proportion
is the age group 30-45. This is greatly at odds with Melbourne as a whole which has a
much lesser proportion of stereotypical nuclear family households.’
Affordability study
An affordability study goes beyond measuring need and potential stock mismatch to
 Whether the available housing is affordable;
 What sort of problem affordability represents; and
 The potential policy options.
In contrast to many other countries – and, indeed, to other states, notably New South
Wales – most Victorian local governments have not been actively involved with
issues of affordability. This is not because there are no affordability problems (there
clearly are in many areas) but because it is seen as a state or Commonwealth
responsibility (in fact, neither have an interest or responsibility) or simply as a
personal issue for those experiencing it. The implication of the latter is that the
problem could be simply solved by moving to a cheaper area. Councillors and staff
who recognise affordability as a problem and wish to do something often face
community resistance as most ratepayers do not see it as a problem and are not
concerned by it.
Any municipality undertaking an affordability study (and ultimately policy) therefore
has to develop a strong rationale for why it is doing this. For example, the City of
Yarra (1998) in its affordable housing statement offers the following rationales:
 To facilitate ‘diversity of population and experience to create a vibrant social and
cultural life of the city and contribute to community cohesion built on
understanding and sharing difference’;
 To provide ‘diversity of economic and social base which sustains local
employment and industry and generates the local economy’; and,
 To provide ‘diversity of households which maintain and support local services to
meet a broad range of current and future community needs’.
The following views are implicit in these rationales:
A lack of affordability creates the potential for excessively homogeneous areas,
with a risk to diversity and vitality and a breeding ground for intolerance. The
experience of many US cities illustrates that this is no idle concern;
High housing costs can affect the ability to retain and attract labour (particularly
low paid unskilled workers) and therefore affect local firms. This is certainly the
experience of inner Sydney and has prompted US cities such as Los Angeles,
San Francisco, San Diego and Boston to have active affordability programs;
Increased housing costs can dislocate people from their local support network
and put a greater burden on formal support services;
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High housing costs will affect the household make-up of an area, deterring
younger families and consigning it to high concentrations of the affluent aged
and empty nesters; and,
Affordability problems can create family stress, leading to family breakdown,
depression and health problems which impose costs on the wider community.
Whether these arguments resonate with local residents will vary from municipality to
municipality. Some will have a predominance of ‘beggar my neighbour’ residents for
whom such arguments have little impact. For others they could be a lead-in to an
affordability study and policy.
There are other reasons for undertaking an affordability study. It can identify market
trends which could be a valuable information source for builders and developers,
provide information which is useful in lobbying and negotiating with the Office of
Housing, e.g. with respect to new housing construction or potential sales, and provide
information which sheds light on emerging issues and themes (gentrification or
population decline) with all that these may mean for local character and social
problems. Municipalities without an affordability problem can attempt to capitalise on
this to attract residents or employers. Bendigo and Geelong have both used their
relatively low purchase prices compared to Melbourne for place marketing.
Affordability is conventionally measured by ratio of income committed to housing
costs and then compared to some benchmark such as 25 or 30 per cent, although there
are other ways of looking at the affordability issue, particularly in terms of potential
policy response. Typical measures of affordability are outlined below.
Mortgage as a proportion of income
This divides the monthly or annual mortgage repayment that would be necessary to
purchase a dwelling by some measure of income, for example, average earnings or
household income. This can be determined from the ABS census or, if an annual
series is to be created, by determining the median house or flat price from the Valuer
General’s data and, taking current interest rate conditions and some lending ratio for
average earnings, converting this into an affordability ratio. Table 3.10 illustrates the
latter process for three areas plus metropolitan Melbourne.
Table 3.10
Calculating mortgage as a proportion of income
Total Loan
House Price
Avge. Annual Mortgage
as % of
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The mortgage is assumed to be for 80 per cent of value of property and for 25 years.
Data required is:
 Median house price (Valuer General’s annual property sales statistics);
 Interest rates (daily in financial sections of papers or from banks);
 Annuity table; and,
 Average weekly earnings (ABS).
The data in Table 3.10 would suggest Richmond has an affordability problem for any
household or person earning less than full-time average earnings, while Preston and
particularly Bendigo are affordable areas. The metropolitan Melbourne ratio is close
to the acceptable benchmark of 25 per cent.
Rent as a proportion of income
This divides the monthly or annual rent (median or quartile) by some measure of
income, for example, average earnings or household income. Rents are provided every
five years in the census or are available monthly in the Office of Housing Rental
Report. This data can be converted into an affordability measure as per Table 3.11,
adapted from this report.
Table 3.11
Private rental affordability, Melbourne, June quarter, 1995
Lower priced **
rental as
percentage of
Household type
Median rental as
percentage of
Current Same
quarter quarter
Current Same
quarter quarter
Single elderly
1 b/r flat
Single parent with
one child
2 b/r flat
couple with two
3 b/r
Couple on poverty
line wages with
two children
3 b/r
Couple on AWE
with two children
3 b/r
* Includes base pension/benefit/wage plus all other payments/allowances (for example, family allowance, rental
assistance) where eligible.
** 5th percentile metropolitan rental for assumed property type.
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Benchmark income (housing costs as some proportion of income,
for example, 25 per cent)
This method assumes a benchmark house cost to income ratio, and measures the
number of people who fall below the benchmark. It depends on census data (there is
no other data set) and will require ordering special cross-tabulation tables, but is the
best method for identifying the actual number of households affected by an
affordability problem.
After-housing poverty
This uses census data to measure the number of people whose household income falls
below the poverty line after meeting housing costs. This is the severest measure of an
affordability problem and, like the benchmark income method, requires specially
ordered ABS census cross-tabulation tables. Although the data is for Australia as a
whole, the exercise can be repeated for a local government area if the appropriate
tables are used. Note that the data shows a big increase in poverty over the last two
Table 3.12
Before- and after-housing poverty by tenure, 1973 and 1996
Units poor after
housing costs
Percentage of
all income
units in
Units poor
after housing
Percentage of
all income
units in
Public housing
Private renter
Source: Burke T, The Australian Housing System, Centre for Urban and Social Research, Swinburne University
of Technology, 1998
Threshold income
This is the income deemed necessary to afford the median price house in a region or
municipality. It is useful for identifying the scale of an affordability problem as it
reduces the data to a single meaningful figure and is easily built up from local data
sources. Table 3.13 shows the method for three case study locations while Table 3.14,
taking Richmond as the example, illustrates how the data can reveal changes over
time, in this case 1980, 1990 and 1998.
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Table 3.13
Calculating threshold income
Median house
80% value of
(mortgage to
income ratio
of 25%)
The data here shows the necessary income to afford the median priced house and
illustrates that $45,516 is sufficient for Melbourne as a whole but in Hawthorn goes
up to $85,261, while in Dandenong and Moe strong affordability holds.
Table 3.14
Average annual mortgage repayment in Richmond
Average annual mortgage payment
in constant dollars (1998=100) at
prevailing interest rate
Average annual mortgage payment
in constant dollars (1998=100) at
constant interest rate (10% p.a.)
Table 3.14 shows the annual mortgage payment (in constant dollars) required to
purchase the median priced property in Richmond in 1980, 1990 and 1998. Presented
in this form, the data demonstrates erosion of affordability in the 1980s and an
improvement in the 1990s. Note that, when using time-series data with monetary
values, it should be converted into real terms by deflating the data by the relevant
increase in the Consumer Price Index. Affordability measures are highly sensitive to
the effects of interest rates, as this table shows. The second column presents the same
affordability trends holding interest rates constant at 10 per cent, showing that the
underlying house price movement (independent of interest rates) is one of declining
The data required to create a measure of threshold income is:
Valuer General’s property sales statistics (median and quartile dwelling price
Annuity table and prevailing interest rates (from the Financial Review or local
Assumptions with respect to deposit, loan to income ratio (for example, 20 per
cent) and lending period (for example, 25 years); and,
Some measure of income, for example, average household earnings or average
earnings per employee (ABS earnings data).
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The method of creating a local area threshold income affordability measure involves
the following tasks:
 Determine the median or quartile house price for a locality, for example,
 Assume a 20 per cent deposit and that the balance of 80 per cent (that is, $80,000)
has to be financed; and,
 Calculate the necessary mortgage based on the loan not exceeding 25 per cent of
income, using the annuity table and prevailing interest rate; for example, at 6.5 per
cent for a 25 year loan period, the annual mortgage is $6,559. Given the assumed
loan to income ratio of 25 per cent, this means that the annual income necessary to
afford a $100,000 dwelling is $26,234 ($6,559 x 4). This can be compared to an
earlier time period to determine whether conditions are improving or worsening,
or can be compared with average household or personal earnings.
The data, preferably collected in a way that enables comparison over time and against
some standard, e.g. Melbourne or Victoria, will enable a story to be told about the
nature of affordability.
Common data bases
One of the major problems of local government housing studies is their characteristic
uniqueness. Because they have been undertaken for different purposes with different
knowledge bases, methodologies and assumptions, the data collected is often in a
form which is specific to that municipality and does not lend itself to comparability
with other studies. It would be useful if some minimum set of comparable data could
be collected. Table 3.15 suggests that minimum, with some Melbourne data provided
as an example of this approach.
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Table 3.15
Common housing indicators and benchmarks
Total dwelling
commencements as
proportion of total stock
Indication of overall level of
residential building activity
New ‘other’ residential
commencements as
proportion of total
Indication of contribution of
medium density housing to total
level of residential building activity
Separate houses as
proportion of total stock
Indication of stock balance in terms
of single family homes and multiple
occupancy (medium density)
Proportion of each major
tenure category of total; i.e.
purchasing, outright owner,
private rental, public rental
Indication of tenure structure
Outright ownership
Private rental
Public rental
Percentage change in each
tenure category compared
to last census
Indication of changes in tenure
patterns which in turn indicate
changes in demographics and market
Outright ownership
Private rental
Public rental
Available residential land
supply (residential lots in
subdivision plans)
Indication of capacity for future
6,241 (March 1999)
Threshold income, i.e.
income necessary to afford
median priced house (see
Table 3.13)
Indication of ownership
Median house price
Measure of local housing costs
$143,000 (1998)
Median rent two bedroom
Measure of rental prices
$176 (March 1999)
Median rent three bedroom
Measure of rental prices
$202 (March 1999)
Median rent (two bedroom
flat) as proportion of
avenge weekly earnings
Measure of rental affordability
Number of Centrelink
rental assistance recipients
as ratio of total municipal
Measure of private rental need
Household growth (total
population divided by
average household size as
per 1996 census)
Measure of broad demand
Household size
Measure of lifecycle stage of
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Do we need neighbourhoods?: how to define areas
Local governments have always used wards or ridings to divide their municipalities
for voting purposes. Since council amalgamation, the combination of larger areas and
a more sophisticated approach to policy development and service provision has seen
many councils map neighbourhood areas. This has been done both to assist in
practical delivery of services and to help in the conceptualisation and understanding of
the municipality.
As the amalgamation process demonstrated, drawing boundaries for communities and
neighbourhoods is a delicate and complex process. Dividing municipalities into
smaller units for administrative purposes may not recreate the controversy of the
restructure process, but care still needs to be exercised. Delineation of areas that
seems common sense to the practitioner can seem illogical or even insensitive to
members of the community.
In setting about defining neighbourhoods, councils need to be very clear regarding the
purpose of the areas and make this well known. Are they simply administrative zones
to aid service delivery, are they supposed to encourage local participation and, perhaps
most importantly, will they be treated differently in terms of types of activities
permitted/encouraged and in allocating resources?
Review of council’s policies and activities
As part of this process, consideration needs to be given to council’s current policies,
strategies and activities in relation to housing issues. In essence this means taking the
council’s housing policy and, informed by the housing ‘story’ developed thus far,
using it as a prism through which to consider council’s other activities (as described
diagrammatically in Figure 3.7). It should be remembered, of course, that other policy
issues may well adopt the same approach and that tact and discretion are needed in
making recommendations across council.
Figure 3.7
Policy review
Land Use Planning
Community Services
Health and Local Laws
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The degree to which this type of approach can be pursued is very much determined by
council’s commitment to housing issues and a ‘whole of council’ approach to these
issues. However, even without this commitment, this analysis is useful to guide
housing policy advocates in their discussions with other parts of the organisation.
Having a well supported and argued position in relation to other functional areas’
impacts on housing is particularly useful during corporate reviews and other ‘whole of
council’ planning.
Bayside Council has developed a cross-department committee to deal with housing
issues that includes representatives from strategic planning, statutory planning,
community services and infrastructure and asset maintenance. This interdepartmental
approach to issues is set out in the municipality’s corporate plan.
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4 From information to action: preparing policies and
This section is concerned with the transition from information and ideas into a
product, i.e. a housing policy document or a community report. At the end of the
section, a summary checklist of issues for undertaking this stage is provided.
Developing a housing policy
A housing policy is a statement of the principles and commitments of a municipality
as they relate to housing. It incorporates, indeed provides the framework for, the
council’s objectives, strategies and actions on housing. A housing policy can be very
broad, encompassing many aspects of housing, or it can be issue specific, e.g. the
facilitation of affordable housing. A housing policy could be a stand-alone document
or part of a strategic vision document for the municipality.
The information that was collected in the housing analysis stage (Section 3) is
important in informing and driving a housing policy. But information alone does not
produce a policy and the set of goals, objectives and actions that make up a policy.
This requires a process which may include:
 Conducting workshops with councillors and key staff from relevant areas who are
all previously informed by the information provided by the housing analysis. This
will enable views as to what are the core problems identified and what, taking into
account the local politics, are to be emphasised and worked into policy;
 Conducting workshops or focus group discussions with community organisations
and key stakeholders, e.g. developers, resident action group; and,
 Putting a panel of experts together to think about possible policy issues and
Those organising such exercises must be aware of the good and bad practices
involved. There are a multitude of publications explaining how to run consultative and
participatory processes. Where relevant, however, attention should be paid to getting
participants to think outside their existing perceptions and views, e.g. to illustrate that
housing is more than planning, that it is not just about good or bad medium density
The role of councillors is crucial. Without their leadership little will occur and it is
therefore important to keep them informed and involved throughout the process. They
will be highly sensitive to the politics of the issue, so in pushing a policy that may
have political side-effects a good argument must be provided and perhaps a method of
negating political opposition considered.
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Councils are required to have a corporate plan which provides the strategic framework
for its role. Often these pay little attention to housing and focus on broad generic areas
such as financial management, business development, community services, city
amenity and community participation. Any housing policy should be consistent with a
corporate plan, picking up and using its language. Thus if under ‘community services’
the corporate plan refers to ‘providing and facilitating high quality innovative and
accessible services within our community’, housing policy and associated objectives
should attempt to fit (where relevant) into this statement. If a corporate plan is still in
the process of evolution, there may be an opportunity to adapt it to better fit housing
policy. Table 4.1 illustrates the housing contribution to the City of Port Phillip’s
corporate plan.
Table 4.1
Housing actions from City of Port Phillip corporate plan
Priorities 1998-99
Housing maintaining
a wide range of
affordable housing
which supports the
retention of a diverse
community living in
the city
Actions 1998-99
indicator 1998-99
Complete master plan
and incorporate into
the City of Port Phillip
planning scheme
June 1999
Complete Stage 2 of the St
Kilda Railway Station housing
Stage 2 completed
June 1999
Maintain and promote the
Shop-Top Housing Program
Develop and
implement marketing
Facilitate community housing
Facilitate one new
community based
June 1999
Develop an implementation
plan for 54 identified strategies
from the City of Port Phillip
Housing Strategy May 1997
Implementation plan
Maintain diversity of housing
stock, particularly single
detached dwellings
Proportion of detached
Maintain at
Commencement of St Kilda
Depot Housing Project
Complete refurbishment of the
Regal Hotel rooming house
provided by community
Source: City of Port Phillip, Corporate Plan
This example illustrates a contribution to the corporate plan. Housing might, however,
fit with other plans, e.g. health, so that the health problems of people with psychiatric
difficulties may require housing responses. It may therefore be appropriate to ‘fit’
housing policies into a health plan if there is to be no housing specific plan.
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Policies should evolve out of the information collection stage but they should also
relate to potential and actual roles of local government. Table 4.2 suggests typical
housing roles as they may relate to potential policy areas, with some boxes filled in for
exemplification. The list is not exhaustive but indicative and could be used as a
template to help identify appropriate actions relating to housing policy. A checklist for
starting the process would be as follows:
 Has a process been established to involve key stakeholders in the evolution of a
 Is it an appropriate process?
 Is there a corporate plan which housing policy is to fit into? and,
 How will policies relate to the existing or potential housing roles of the council?
The next section discusses some of the specifics of developing a policy.
Setting goals and objectives
Setting goals and objectives is a crucial part of policy development. They in effect
articulate the policy. The principles discussed here are generic ones, which apply for
any policy issue. It is useful, however, to work through them with housing examples
to illustrate the potential issues and problems.
Assuming needs have been identified, and a process determined where there is some
sense of agreement as to where the municipality is to go, i.e. the aims of the exercise,
then this information has to be translated into actual goals and objectives. The goals
outline the broad intent of policy, while the objectives define the specific elements of
this intent.
Goals are couched in fairly general terms and in some respects are motherhood
statements; however, by virtue of being housing specific (where often no such housing
specific goals existed) they do signal the broad importance of the issues and the
themes deemed relevant for the local government.
‘To encourage the provision of a variety of housing types to accommodate future
housing needs and preferences’ (City of Monash)
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Table 4.2
Policy area
Housing roles and potential policy areas
Working Infrastructure
Advocacy Financial
provision and
housing with
mix of types
Establish a
where all
address the
problem of
Special need
Work with
groups to
establish a
house for the
decline by
Joint ventures
Urban amenity
Increase the
rate base by
of housing
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Objectives, being much more specific, are more problematic. The importance of
objectives derives from their potential to:
 Give direction to the planning and management of the council’s housing role;
 Give clear indication for stakeholders, including developers and ratepayers, as to
council’s intent;
 Provide a basis for accountability of council;
 Signal direction in, and approaches to, meeting local housing demand and need;
 Provide a framework for implementation or action by council staff; and,
 Provide a starting point for functional areas or business units to consider housing.
To be effective, objectives must:
 Be clear and unambiguous;
 Be potentially measurable;
 Indicate the form of action required; and,
 Be realistic in terms of resources and organisational abilities and knowledge.
Conflicts between objectives should also be avoided but this is not always possible.
Objectives might need a companion statement which fleshes out the ideas embedded
in them. This statement might specify what the terms used in the objectives mean, e.g.
affordability, and it might suggest some indicators that could actually measure related
outputs and timeframes for their implementation.
Objectives are normally prefaced with a verb that suggests the form of action.
Typically these are to provide, facilitate, assist, fund, lobby, promote, explore,
develop, encourage, define or manage. These words imply different levels of intent.
Thus to manage, provide, develop or fund are a higher order of action than the others
and indicate a strong level of action by local government. Other terms recognise that
the actions are to be taken elsewhere, with council having a supporting role only, e.g.
encourage, facilitate, assist. The actions should fit the intent.
Examples of housing objectives include:
 To maintain a socially diverse community throughout the Sydney LGA through
facilitating the provision of affordable housing (Sydney);
 To provide for a variety of affordable and appropriate housing types, tenures and
styles at a rate which is consistent with demand (Waverley NSW);
 A stable residential population through urban consolidation initiatives targeted to
appropriate areas (Port Phillip);
 To facilitate innovative forms of residential development and redevelopment on
derelict and underutilised sites (Brimbank);
 To advocate influencing all spheres of government to ensure affordable housing
meets current and future housing needs of residents (Yarra);
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 To provide a better understanding of local housing needs and the potential role of
council in responding to these needs (Lake Macquarie NSW); and,
 Reasonable access to low cost housing for low income households (Port Phillip).
Section 5.9 provides examples of housing objectives, categorised under the headings
of: affordability and social housing; research, knowledge acquisition and information
provision; residential planning; coordination, facilitation and relationships to other
agencies; planning management; advocacy and support; and housing management.
From objective to strategy
The objectives define intent and make its nature transparent to the wider community.
But by themselves they do not produce outcomes. This requires a strategy, i.e. a set of
actions, in relation to each objective, the sum of which will define the overall housing
policy. What actions attach to each objective should be determined by the processes of
consultation developed for information gathering or the policy implementation
process. Some questions that could be considered in the process of evolving a set of
actions are:
 Will it arouse political opposition and, if so, from whom?
 Can actions be adopted to weaken any opposition?
 Is it feasible?
 What degree of effect or outcome can we expect from an action: low, medium or
 Who is responsible for the action?
 What resources does it require and is it the most effective use of resources?
 Is it consistent with other actions and the corporate plan?
 How important is it in the achievement of a goal or objective?
 What cooperation may be required from other agencies to obtain outcomes?
 What might be the unanticipated side-effects of the action? and,
 Are the concepts or ideas included in objectives operational?
Actions should indicate for those affected what they and the council have to do to
achieve the outcomes hinted at by the objectives. There may be multiple actions with
different implications for different business units, official or stakeholders. Consider
the affordability objective of ‘providing for a variety of affordable and appropriate
housing types, tenures and styles at a rate which is consistent with demand’. This
might give rise to a set of actions as exemplified below:
 Maintain and if possible increase current levels of public housing;
 Investigate council use of own land for mixed social and private housing;
 Investigate the establishment of a local housing trust fund for affordable housing;
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 Work with developers with a view to incorporating some affordable housing in
developments; and,
 Establish a mechanism for monitoring the affordability of housing and changes
These actions are only indicative and each may require further specification or
commentary. Thus ‘Maintain and if possible increase current levels of public housing’
may have accompanying actions of:
 Maintaining a close working relationship with the Office of Housing; and,
 Lobbying the Office of Housing to limit the sale of individual public rental units
which have certain attributes, with the policy document then nominating the
relevant attributes (see Port Phillip Strategy Report Part A p. 32 for an inner urban
In some cases the nature of the objective and actions are such that they may require
even greater specification to make the idea clear to council staff, councillors and the
community. Table 4.3 illustrates specification of an affordability objective.
Table 4.3
Specification of an affordability objective
To facilitate the
provision of more
affordable housing
within the
Affordability refers
to housing that could
be purchased or
rented by a
household on less
than an average
Properties to be
affordable would
have to sell or rent at
a rate whereby
housing costs were
less than 25% of
average household
income (currently
50 units over the
next five years
If the actions are to be operational then additional documentation (not to go in the
housing policy document) will be required which gives guidance to those doing the
implementation. This should include:
 Timeframes for the action;
 Priorities between actions where there are multiple actions;
 The level of resources (data, people, money) needed or available;
 Who will be directly responsible (which organisation area, which individuals?);
 Whether there is a coordinating committee between organisational units to
produce a ‘whole of government’ approach; and,
 What monitoring procedures are to be established.
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Identifying objectives and recommending actions does not ensure implementation. An
action plan is required to assist. This is not concerned with housing issues but with the
organisational initiatives and reforms required to put the housing policy in place.
Thus, for each identified action that makes up the overall housing policy,
consideration will have to be given to:
 Timeframe, i.e. programs, necessary steps and time to be taken;
 Level of resources required, i.e. monetary and human resources, budgeting; and,
 Parts of the organisation or external agencies responsible for implementation;
As any housing activities will impact on a number of areas of the organisation, they
will need to be incorporated into the corporate planning process and be budgeted for.
In the current climate of managerialism, consideration may also have to be given to
identifying performance measures or outcomes for each of the actions inherent in the
housing policy. This is a complex area as housing, like many service areas, does not
lend itself to quantifiable indicators and may have timeframes for outcomes, e.g. five
to ten years, which do not sit easily with annual indicators. Nevertheless it is useful to
try to identify outcomes, even if they cannot be quantified. Table 4.3 illustrated for an
affordable housing objective its translation into a performance outcome. Table 4.4
expands the idea with a wider range of examples.
Table 4.4
Examples of identifying outcomes
Performance outcome
To evaluate housing
demands and supply
conditions in the city
To identify existing level of
demand and supply, related
needs and trends therein
Improved data for local
decision making which
clearly specifies existing
demand and supply situations
To develop partnerships with
other spheres of government
and community organisations
Participate in and/or organise
local and state housing
Organise one local area
housing forum per year
Better coordinated housing
services in the region
Quarterly meeting with
representatives of the Office
of Housing
A number of housing actions will require partners. This may be because a local
government does not have the necessary resources, expertise or legislative
responsibility, or simply because of their complexity. Joint ventures around affordable
housing or the redevelopment of underutilised land typify activities for which
partnerships can be created and which in some respects symbolise the future way of
‘doing business’. The partnerships forged by the City of Port Phillip with both the
private and public sector have enabled it to become the facilitator of the largest local
government community housing program in Australia, illustrating the potential of
partnerships (see City of Port Phillip 1997).
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Residential strategy
This section makes the link between a housing study and the housing and residential
development component of a municipal strategic statement (MSS). A housing and
residential development strategy (HRDS) is a set of principles to guide the planning
and provision of residential land use and housing development. For fringe areas and
non-metropolitan cities and towns it is largely concerned with giving direction to the
development of new residential areas on green acre sites. For existing areas it is about
giving direction to infill development which is increasingly medium density. The
major instrument of a residential strategy is the planning scheme, although it should
not necessarily be confined to such.
Rapid urban growth and the need to manage that growth in a way which makes the
best use of infrastructure and meets the housing needs of the community was (and is
still) an important driver of residential housing strategies. Since the early 1980s a
second major driver, particularly in existing areas, has been the growth of medium
density housing, facilitated by the deregulation of the planning system and the
introduction of Vic Code 2 and subsequently the Good Design Guidelines. This
system moved planning from a basis of prescription to performance but, as the much
publicised protest led by the Save our Suburbs group indicates, it has not been a total
success, at least at the level of community acceptability.
To address the issues raised by these processes, the Department of Infrastructure and
planning requires each municipality to prepare a MSS under section 12A(3) of the
Planning and Environment Act 1987. The department has also prepared practice notes
to help undertake a HRDS as part of the MSS process. These outline, among other
things, suggested issues to address in the HRDS. These include in a summarised form:
 What demographic and population changes are likely to occur in the future and
how they will affect needs;
 Whether a municipality wants to follow market trends or whether it wants to
intervene for certain reasons;
 Identification of development and redevelopment sites;
 What time scale the review is to cover and how frequently it will be reviewed;
 How the strategy can make best use of physical and social infrastructure;
 How the strategic outcomes relate to other council objectives;
 Whether the strategy should be targeted or non-targeted in locational terms;
 Whether planning mechanisms are the only way to achieve outcomes; and,
 How it will be implemented.
How does this kit mesh with a HRDS?
Firstly, it could be argued a housing strategy of the type outlined here is important in
setting a broad framework for the HRDS. Meeting special needs, e.g. aged housing, or
working in joint ventures around public housing estate renewal, achieving
affordability objectives or increasing private rental stock could be important issues to
be addressed in a HRDS. Unless a housing study like that recommended was
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undertaken, the range of issues to be considered and planned for in the HRDS might
be artificially constrained. The trends one has to accommodate through appropriate
interventions are likely to be more than market development trends and include the
unintended side-effects of market processes on housing patterns and housing choices.
Secondly, this kit provides details about how to undertake some of the stages in a
HRDS, including identifying demographic trends and needs, identifying policy
interventions, and preparing reports which are inclusive of the community. Local
governments should not see a HRDS as a burden imposed on them by the state but as
an opportunity to come to grips with the implications of future housing patterns within
their communities.
Affordability policy and actions
Increasingly around Australia and Victoria, local governments are giving attention to
declining affordability. This is particularly the case for inner urban areas suffering
gentrification and displacement of affordable housing but, as the affordability problem
extends to middle ring suburbs, these too may be forced to reflect on such issues.
Section 3.4 suggested various data collection ways to get a handle on affordability and
the rationale for undertaking such studies. Translating this information into a policy is
considerably more complex. Broad policy objectives are suggested in this list, but
actions related to such objectives need further discussion. The ability to affect
affordability by local government programs and policy is limited, as the market largely
determines house prices and rents and therefore the general level of affordability.
There are things that local government can do, although this varies from local area to
local area depending upon housing market attributes, municipal land ownership, the
social and economic profile and the support of stakeholders. Examples that could be
considered include:
 Use of council owned land for facilitating affordable housing projects, e.g. the St
Kilda Depot site in Port Phillip;
 Support to maintain private rooming houses and development of new rooming
houses (see Port Phillip 1997, section 4.3.14, for specific activities);
 Formation of joint ventures with other government, community and private
agencies to develop affordable housing (City West in New South Wales is a good
example of a partnership committed to providing greater affordability of housing
in inner Sydney);
 Encouragement of shop-top housing projects, subject to evaluating for financial
 Advocacy on behalf of lower income households, e.g. around the implications of
the GST in the private rental market;
 Use of planning controls to encourage affordable housing;
 Formation of a local area housing trust to raise funds for affordable housing
ventures (Melbourne City Council has shown leadership in such a model); and,
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 Generally trying to influence national public housing policy (but to do this
effectively the council itself has to develop its credibility in terms of housing).
Taking the notion of affordability from being simply a concept to something that can
give direction to policy is problematic. Many state and local government documents
define it in an abstract way, rendering it difficult to translate into policy or to produce
a readily understood meaning. For example, the City of Yarra defines it as ‘housing
which is appropriate to the needs of low income households and does not consume
such a high proportion of household income that it leaves the household with
insufficient money to meet basic needs’.
This definition indicates that affordability varies for every household, depending on
their personal situation. This is a difficult notion to design policy around. An
alternative way of couching affordability is in terms of the attributes of dwellings, not
of households. Thus an affordable house might be one which is brought on to the
market at, say, 80 per cent of the median rent or median house price for the area. This
is an indicative benchmark only, but it is one that is identifiable, readily understood
and potentially implementable.
Affordability in Yarra by this notion may be very different to affordability in
Moreland or Bendigo. It is one around which targets and actions can be clearly
designed. For example, a joint venture using council land might be undertaken with
the requirement that a developer provide a certain percentage of dwellings below a
defined affordability threshold, which would differ from municipality to municipality.
If, say, fifteen dwellings are constructed at a total cost of a target $90,000 (but with a
market value of $150,000), then that enables tenants to be chosen in such a way that
the viability of the project stacks up. A development with an average value of $90,000
may require a rent of $130 a week to be viable (depending on degree of borrowed
funds) and assuming the availability of rental assistance. Given the market rent is
perhaps $180, the development would choose a mix of incomes, with those paying
over $130 and up to the market rent cross-subsiding those on lower incomes. In these
sorts of development, the objective is to provide affordable housing, not uniformly
low income housing – to complement social housing, not to compete with it.
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Summary checklist of the policies and strategies stage
Establish a process to produce policies and a related strategy:
 Has a process been established to involve key stakeholders in the evolution
of a policy?
 Is it an appropriate process?
 Is there a corporate plan in which housing policy is to fit? and,
 How will policies relate to the existing or potential housing roles of the
Relate policies to the existing or potential housing roles of the council.
Identify goals and objectives consistent with the rationale for undertaking a
housing study:
 Are goals clear and unambiguous?
 Are they potentially measurable?
 Indicate the form of action required of the objective; and,
 Be realistic in terms of resources and organisational abilities and knowledge.
Develop an action strategy around objectives:
 Consider whether it will it arouse political opposition and, if so, from whom:
 Can actions be adopted to weaken any opposition?
 Is it feasible?
 What degree of effect or outcome can we expect from an action: low,
medium or major?
 Who is responsible for the action?
 What resources does it require and is it the most effective use of resources?
 Is it consistent with other actions and the corporate plan?
 How important is it in the achievement of a goal or objective?
 What cooperation may be required from other agencies to obtain outcomes?
 What might be the unanticipated side-effects of the action?
 Are the concepts or ideas included in objectives operational? and,
 For each identified action that makes up the overall housing policy, a process
of implementation must be established which takes in:
  The time for each action;
  The level of resources required;
  The parts of the organisation or external agencies responsible for
  The individuals (or position) responsible for implementation; and,
  Evaluation and monitoring.
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5 The production of a housing report
This kit has outlined all the stages of undertaking a local government housing study.
The outcome of this process is normally the production of a report or set of reports
which may be prepared by consultants, done in-house or as a joint process. In
producing this kit we reviewed some thirty or so local government housing reports
from around Australia, enabling us to distil a few lessons and observations. This
section has been prepared as a checklist for those producing a housing report.
Who is the report for?
Many reports seem unclear as to who the intended audience is and therefore in many
cases are neither fish nor fowl. Were they predominantly internal documents to guide
council decision making or were they to assist external audiences, e.g. ratepayers or
developers, in decision making and knowledge acquisition? This can influence style
and content and may suggest the need for more than one publication.
What is the report for?
Closely related to the former question is that of function. Some reports seem to have a
mass of statistical information but it is not clear why. Is it for community education or
is it to guide decision making? These might require different content and presentation.
What are the outcomes?
Some reports give the impression that the report itself is the outcome. In most cases,
however, it is merely part of a process, in particular to guide decision making and
assist in policy development. It is therefore important that the material in a report be
reviewed at the preparation stage for relevance to final outcomes. Is the information
merely interesting or is it important to subsequent products?
Is it digestible?
Some reports are extremely large and deter readership by their bulk. Can a report be
broken down into smaller, more digestible sub-reports if all the material is deemed
necessary or is there material that can be dispensed with? The City of Yarra, for
example, produced a number of documents as part of its affordable housing strategy,
ranging from quite substantial reports to small four page information sheets. The City
of Port Phillip had two reports: one was the objectives and actions, the other was a
statistical report with detailed documentation which provided the rationale for them.
Is hard copy format the best method?
We have embarked upon a new communication age with electronic approaches now
complementing hardcopy. For some uses and some users, consideration may be given
to presentation in electronic format. Again this decision depends largely on the
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intended audience; if it is internal to the council or various categories of professionals,
then delivery via the internet (or council intranet) may be appropriate, whereas a
broader audience will require hard copy, possible augmented by electronic delivery.
Governments all over the world are experimenting with new technologies and
approaches, and it can be very instructive to spend some time visiting government
websites in Australia and overseas to examine the modes of delivery and different
approaches to information sharing.
Is it benchmarked?
A good report should in effect be able to tell a story and allow readers to place the
municipality in a broader regional or metropolitan content, i.e. to be benchmarked
against some standard. How is the municipality different? What is it in the local
housing situation that suggests uniqueness or specificity? This can only occur if data
and text are prepared in a way which draws this out (see Section 3).
Is there a rationale for policy and actions?
Policies and actions are not self-evident. A report needs to outline a very clear
rationale for recommendations and overall policy. For example, if it suggests an
affordable housing policy, it is not sufficient to document that there are problems of
affordability in the local area. The report should make it clear what the implications of
non-action are and why it is the responsibility of local government, not of another
sphere of government or the market.
Examples of goals and objectives
This section identifies a number of goals and objectives recommended by studies
commissioned by councils. Not all have actually received the endorsement of the
councils but they are provided as indicative types of objectives for addressing certain
issues. Of course there is no space to reproduce the rationales offered for each, nor the
specific actions required to implement them, but they can be found in the reports.
5.9.1 Affordability and social housing
 Encourage the maintenance and development of affordable housing (Port Phillip
 Advocate to influence all levels of government to ensure affordable housing meets
current and future needs of residents (Yarra 1998);
 Reduce housing stress among households renting (Waverley NSW 1996);
 Maintain a supply of rental accommodation (Waverley NSW 1996);
 Support the continued operation of private rooming houses and development of
new rooming houses (Port Phillip 1997);
 Affirm the need for the continuance of a public housing system as an essential
safety net for low income households (Port Phillip 1997);
 Redevelop and convert old and inappropriate public housing (Port Phillip 1997);
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 Provide reasonable access to low cost housing for low income households (Port
Phillip 1997);
 Provide information about affordable housing issues (Yarra 1998);
 Facilitate community housing across the municipality on an opportunity basis
(Port Phillip 1997);
 Investigate council funding sources for direct provision and identification of
suitable surplus property (Port Phillip 1997);
 Develop innovative financing models for the provision of community housing
(Port Phillip 1997);
 Maintain and encourage the provision of affordable rental housing for low income
earners (Waverley NSW 1996);
 Increase the supply of public housing (Waverley NSW 1996);
 Lower the cost of housing for prospective home buyers (Waverley NSW 1996);
 Actively support and promote the contribution of affordable housing in the life of
the city (Yarra 1998); and,
 Facilitate projects that create affordable housing opportunities through
partnerships, incentives and developer contributions (Yarra 1998).
Research, knowledge acquisition and information provision
 Establish an ongoing education program for builders, developers, real estate agents
and consultants (Hume 1996);
 Provide information about affordable housing issues (Hume 1996);
 Undertake research into the social and physical impacts of the ongoing subdivision
of rental flats (Port Phillip 1997);
 The identification of housing needs and issues be monitored and reviewed on an
annual basis, including the monitoring of underutilised stock (Brimbank 1998);
 Improve local area public housing data (Port Phillip 1997);
 Research into the impacts of (state) policy emphasis on special needs housing
(Port Phillip 1997);
 Collect and disseminate information regarding population characteristics and the
housing market (Hume 1996);
 Prepare a Residential Rental Property Investment Bulletin (Hume 1996);
 Establish an ongoing education program for occupiers of houses (Hume 1996);
 Investigate council funding sources for direct provision and identification of
suitable surplus property (Port Phillip 1997); and,
 Develop innovative financing models for the provision of community housing
(Port Phillip 1997).
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5.9.3 Residential planning
 Achieve a greater mix of types and sizes of houses and residential lots to respond
to existing and future population characteristics, diverse lifestyles, accommodation
and affordability needs (Hume 1996);
 Achieve a greater variety in the tenure of dwellings (Brimbank 1998);
 Set dwelling targets for neighbourhoods (Port Phillip 1997);
 Continue support for shop-top housing (Port Phillip 1997);
 Support the continued operation of private rooming houses and development of
new rooming houses (Port Phillip 1997);
 Incorporate sustainable development principles in residential development (Port
Phillip 1997);
 Encourage combined living and working arrangements (Port Phillip 1997);
 Develop key strategic sites (Port Phillip 1997);
 Support the conversion of commercial and industrial land and buildings (Port
Phillip 1997);
 Determine areas where medium density housing will be encouraged (Port Phillip
 Achieve greater energy efficiency in dwellings through the incorporation of
principles of solar orientation in the design and siting of house (Hume 1996);
 Ensure all new dwellings meet adequate residential amenity standard in terms of
privacy, open space, overshadowing, daylight etc. (Hume 1996); and,
 Ensure all new dwellings have a design that responds to the features of the site
or lot, having regard to their relationships to the street and streetscape, other
dwellings, and on-site garden areas and areas of open space (Hume 1996).
5.9.4 Coordination, facilitation and relationships to other agencies
 Housing be incorporated, within existing resources, into the role of a council
officer with responsibility as a contact point for the community and other key
players on housing issues (Brimbank 1998);
 Provide a regular forum for discussion on housing and planning issues that brings
together key stakeholders from the public, private and community sectors
(Brimbank 1998);
 Link up with other networks in relation to housing, i.e. HIA, MBA, Office of
Housing, local government peak bodies such as MAV, VLGA (Brimbank 1998);
 Prepare a position statement and strategy regarding council’s role in relation to
community housing within the municipality (Hume 1996); and,
 Monitor and respond to public housing policy (Port Phillip 1997).
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
Planning management
 Adopt a strongly proactive approach in promoting responsive housing and
residential subdivision (Hume 1996);
 Take a more active role in assessing planning permit applications and improve the
responsiveness, design and quality of residential developments (Hume 1996);
 Integrate council’s strategic asset management plan with trends in housing
development in Port Phillip and prepare a development contributions plan (Port
Phillip 1997);
 Prepare a planning scheme amendment to assist in the implementation of the
strategy (Hume 1996); and,
 Adopt a role of advocate and promoter of responsive housing and residential
subdivision (Hume 1996).
Advocacy and support
 Support local community groups in addressing housing need, i.e. endorsing
funding applications, in-kind support (Brimbank 1998); and,
 Lobby federal and state governments for increased housing assistance and income
support funds, including an increase in public and community housing stock
(Brimbank 1998).
Housing management
 Continue to utilise existing council owned stock for the purposes of low cost
housing and ensure that property/tenancy management arrangements are oriented
to local housing needs (Brimbank 1998);
 Facilitate the development of demonstration projects in partnership with the
private, public and community housing sectors that encourage housing innovation,
diversity and sustainability (Brimbank 1998);
 Investigate council funding sources for direct provision and identification of
suitable surplus property (Port Phillip 1997); and,
 Develop innovative financing models for the provision of community housing Port
Phillip 1997.
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
6 Bibliography
General References
Australian Local Government Association, Australian Local Government
Association’s Submission to Inquiry into Housing Assistance, 1997
Baker S, Johnson J and Laird B, Wimmera Regional Housing Needs Assessment,
Wimmera Regional Housing Council, 1996
Briggs Brindle Chambers, Towards a National Local Government Housing Policy,
Vol. 13, Paper for the Australian Local Government Association, 1995.
Burke T, Medium Density Housing in the United States: Implications for Queensland,
Centre for Urban and Social Research, Swinburne University of Technology,
Burke T, The Australian Housing System, Centre for Urban and Social Research,
Swinburne University of Technology, 1998
Burke, T, 'Local Government and Housing Issues', in Parity, Council to Homeless
Persons, Vol. 12, Issue 5, June, 1999
Byrne J and Davis G, Participation and the NSW Policy Process, Cabinet Office, New
South Wales Government, 1998
Calavita, 'Zigzagging Towards Long-Term Affordability in the Sunbelt: the San Diego
Housing Trust Fund', in David, 1, The Affordable City, Temple University Press,
Philadelphia, 1994.
Cameron N, How Regional Australia and Innovative Affordable Housing Will
Reshape National Urban Settlement Patterns in the 21st Century, 1998
Clavel, R, and Kleniewski, N., 'Space for Progressive Local Policy: Examples from
the United States and United Kingdom', in Logan, 1, and Swanstrom, T., eds.,
Beyond the City Limits: Urban Policy and Economic Restructuring in
Comparative Perspective, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1990.
Commonwealth Department of Social Security, Housing Assistance Act 1989: Annual
Report 1995-96, 1997
Cox, G. and Miers, S., Social Impact Assessment for Local Government, Office of
Social Policy, New South Wales Government Social Policy Directorate, Sydney,
Department of Planning and Development (Vic), Review of Developer Contributions:
Background and Key Issues, draft paper, May, 1993.
Department of Planning and Development (Vic), Guidelines for Developer
Contributions, Dec, 1995.
Department of Urban Affairs and Planning (NSW), Affordable Housing, Revised City
West Affordable Housing Program, 21 July 1996.
Dunmore K, Planning for Affordable Housing, Institute of Housing, 1992
Ecumenical Housing Inc., National Housing Policy: Reform and Social Justice,
Melbourne January 1997.
Ministerial Task Force on Affordable Housing, Affordable Housing in NSW: The
Need for Action, NSW Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, 1998
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
Howe, B., 'Local Government and Housing', in Parity, Council to Homeless Persons,
Vol. 12, Issue 5, June 1999.
Lawson, L, The Housing Activity of Local Government.. Results of the AHURI Local
Government Housing Survey, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute,
June, 1995.
Lawson, J., Low Cost Housing Opportunities.. Case Studies from the United States
and Canada, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Occasional
Paper No. 2, 1993.
McLoughlin, B., Shaping Melbourne's Future, Cambridge, Melbourne, 1992.
McNellis, S., Social Housing - A Future Direction for Housing, VCOSS Social
Housing Project Paper No. 1, Oct, 1992.
McNellis, S., Social Housing: Building the Future-Issues for Social Housing in
Victoria, VCOSS Social Housing project Paper No. 2, June 1993.
Ministry of Housing Victoria, The Role of Local Government in Housing-A
Discussion Paper, September 1983.
Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), Local Government and Community
Housing Program (LGCHP) and Local Government Sub-Program: Progress
Report Summary of Projects Funded 1984185 to 1991192, undated.
NSW Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, Local Housing Initiatives, 1998
NSW Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, Local Housing Resource Kit: Draft,
NSW Local Government and Shires Association, What Type of Housing Should NSW
Local Government Be Encouraging?, 1998
NSW Local Government and Shires Association, Local Government Housing: List of
References, 1998
Percy-Smith J and Sanderson I, Understanding Local Needs, Institute for Public
Policy Research, 1992
Purdon, C., and Burke, T., Local Government and Housing, National Housing
Strategy, Background Paper 6, 1991.
Stone, M., Shelter Poverty: New Ideas on Housing Affordability, Temple University
Press, Philadelphia, 1993.
van Zijil V, A Guide to Local Housing Needs Assessment, Institute of Housing, 1993
Local Government Reports
AAT, Monash Planning Scheme: Local Variations to the Good Design Guide, 1998
Adelaide City Council, Social Development Strategy: Enhancing Community Life in
Adelaide, 1998
Central Goldfields Shire Council, Central Goldfields Shire Municipal Strategic
Statement, 1997
Central Goldfields Shire Council, Adopted Strategy Plan and New Planning Scheme,
Central Highlands Regional Housing Council, Central Highlands Regional Housing
Needs Assessment, 1995
Housing: Your Basic Infrastructure
City of Ballarat and Grampians Housing Network, Ballarat 2020 Housing Vision,
Coopers and Lybrand Consultants, Affordable Housing Trust Structural Feasibility
Study, Melbourne City Council, 1998
Council Strategy Branch, Principles for the Planning of New Residential
Developments, Maribyrnong City Council, 1998
Habitat Planning, Delatite Shire New Planning Scheme, Delatite Shire Council, 1998
Henshall, Hansen and Associates, Responsive Housing and Residential Subdivision,
Hume City Council, 1996
Hume City Council, Hume City Council Municipal Strategic Statement, 1997
Hume City Council, Hume City Council Corporate Plan, 1997
La Trobe Shire Council, La Trobe Strategy Plan, 1997
La Trobe Shire Council, La Trobe Shire Corporate Plan, 1998
Maribyrnong City Council, Maribyrnong Municipal Strategic Statement, 1997
Melbourne City Council, A Liveable City: A Social Housing Strategy for the City of
Melbourne, 1997
Menner G (The Planet Group), Housing Needs in Brimbank, Brimbank City Council,
Monash City Council, Monash Strategic Statement, 1997
Monash City Council, Monash Future Directions Paper, 1997
Moonee Valley City Council, Moonee Valley 2010, 1998
Moonee Valley City Council, Moonee Valley: Council Plan, 1998
Moonee Valley City Council, Moonee Valley Municipal Strategic Statement, 1998
Sinclair Knight Merz with Burke T and Homewood J, Darebin Housing Study,
Darebin City Council, 1996
South West Regional Council, South West Regional Needs Assessment, 1995
Spivak G, Housing Strategy Part A: Strategy Report, Port Phillip City Council, 1997
Spivak G, Housing Strategy Part B: Context Report, Port Phillip City Council, 1997
TBA Planners, Central Goldfields Rural Housing Project: Summary, 1994
Urban Consulting Group, Bayside City Council: Municipal Strategic Statement,
Bayside City Council, 1997
Victorian Department of Infrastructure, From Doughnut City to Café Society, 1998
Waverley Council, Affordable Housing Study, 1996
Yarra City Council, Strength in Diversity: Housing Needs and Trends, 1998
Yarra City Council, Strength in Diversity: Local Government and Housing Policy,
Yarra Ranges Shire Council, Yarra Ranges Municipal Strategic Statement, n.d.
Yarriambiack Shire Council, Yarriambiack Shire Council Housing Policy, 1998
Policy Position Statement
The MAV will assist Councils in developing Local Housing Strategies using an
Integrated Local Area Planning (ILAP) approach. This process will document housing
needs and establish an agreed approach amongst all stakeholders to respond to those
needs. It is recognised that there are limited resources within Local Government to
undertake this strategic role and that resources may appropriately be sought from the
State and Federal Governments. These Local Housing Strategies would contribute to
the understanding by other spheres of Government about housing need and
appropriate responses in individual municipalities.
Local Government has the prime responsibility for governance at the local level
within the constraints imposed by the Australian Governmental system. Councils are
responsible for the development and maintenance of diverse, viable and sustainable
communities in which housing plays a key role. Economic, social and environmental
factors all impact on the creation of these communities and provision of diverse
accommodation needs.
Together all three spheres of Government are responsible for the planning and
regulation of the supply of land, infrastructure and the construction of affordable
housing. It is proposed that each Council define its role in a Housing Policy to inform
housing providers, the community and other spheres of government about its role.
The role of Local Government is defined by the need within the municipality,
resources available and Council's commitment. Housing needs are complex and can
be affected by the nature of current and future housing and the community as well as
services available in that community. Resources to respond to that need may be drawn
from Federal, State and Local Government as well as from the community. They may
include property, funds, staff time and/or expertise.
Local Governments are currently involved in housing in many ways which are not
well recognised but can be classified according to the following five roles.
The involvement of individual councils in each of these roles will vary along a
continuum reflecting the diversity within Local Government and the communities
they serve.
Awareness and identification of need
This includes researching local needs as well as informing key players and advocating
for private and public sector developments to respond to this need. Ensuring that the
community is informed of these needs is a key part of this role.
Planning and regulatory functions
The provision of diverse, adequate and appropriate housing is dependent on a system
which facilitates the supply of appropriate land and buildings for current and future
residents. Both strategic and statutory planning functions have an impact on this
Facilitation of housing outcomes
Where there is an unmet need Local Government can take a role in assisting and
supporting housing developers (both for profit and non profit) by highlighting
opportunities, providing inducements and assisting with the statutory planning
processes. Where a non profit project is developed a council may invest resources in
the form of funds, land and/or expertise.
Director provision and management
In a smaller number of cases Local Government acts as the owner or the manager of
housing stock or as a land or housing developer.
Commonwealth and State Policies
Local Government should monitor and inform the development of Commonwealth
and State policies because of their significant impact, particularly the proposed
changes to the Commonwealth - State Housing Agreement under discussion by
COAG. The changes will redirect Commonwealth capital funds to recurrent housing
subsidies for both private and public tenants.
Appendix II Survey of Local Government
Survey of Local Government
One of the key tasks undertaken in the development of the housing kit was a survey of
all Victoria’s local governments. The distribution of the questionnaire was
undertaken in two stages. Firstly those local governments (around half) who had
nominated a responsible officer were faxed the survey (24th September, 1998). All
remaining local governments were then contacted by phone and an officer identified.
These councils were faxed the survey on the 6th October, 1998.
Findings from the survey are included in this appendix. Fifteen of the councils
reported having undertaken a Housing Strategy (28%) whilst 33 councils reported that
housing was mentioned in their Municipal Strategic Statement (62%).
As part of the survey, respondents were asked to rate a series of issues in terms of
importance to their area. Looking at issues rated as either important or very important
by councils lack of affordability and maintaining urban character were the two most
nominated (62% each) with infrastructure provision, lack of social housing, small
rental housing base, and homelessness all attracted at least fifty per cent of
respondents. It should be noted here that obviously the type of municipality eg inner
urban or regional centre will have a large bearing on the types of problems considered
important. The results have been broken down on the basis of a typology of
Table 1
Percentage of Respondents Rating Housing Issues as Either
Very Important or Important
Lack of affordability
Maintaining urban character
Infrastructure provision
Lack of social housing
Small rental housing base
Pressure on existing infrastructure
Managing development
Lack of housing choice
Urban consolidation issues
Declining population
Lack of diversity
Poor quality housing
Managing large development projects
Land costs
Scattered settlement patterns
Low or negative capital appreciation
Underutilisation of housing stock
Loss of rooming, boarding houses
Land shortages
Rapid household growth
Appendix II Survey of Local Government
Another section of the survey was a series of statements asking respondents to either
agree or disagree. This question produced a roughly equal distribution between
agreement, disagreement and neither agree nor disagree for many statements (see
Table 2).
Looking at Table 2 the statements that had the most unanimous reactions were as
 Lack of authority/power severely curtails our council’s impact on local housing
issues (47% agreement);
 There is a lack of interest in housing issues amongst our councillors (52%
 The main constraint for this council in dealing with housing issues is lack of
resources (63% agreement);
 Housing issues are a high priority for this council (46% disagreement);
 The current reform of the public housing system in Australia is well understood
within this council (71% disagreement)
Table 2
Response to Statements Concerning Housing and Local
Agree &
Disagree agree nor
Lack of appropriate research and policy skills are a key constraint to council
developing appropriate housing strategies
Lack of authority/power severely curtails our council’s impact on local
housing issues
There is a general lack of interest in housing issues across the organisation
There is a lack of understanding of housing issues across the organisation
There is a lack of interest in housing issues amongst our councillors
Generally our councillors do not see housing as a local government issue
There is lack of understanding of housing issues amongst council officers
The main constraint for this council in dealing with housing issues is lack of
Given the constraints facing it, this council is committed to tackling housing
Housing issues are a high priority for this council
This council has a strong network of housing related contacts
This council is interested in innovative housing strategies
Strategic planning in this council is strongly informed by housing issues
Encouraging greater affordable housing is not a high priority of the local
The current reform of the public housing system in Australia is well
understood within this council
Our council has a strong relationship with the Victorian Office of Housing
Our council has a strong relationship with local community housing groups
Appendix II Survey of Local Government
Survey Results
This section provides greater detail of responses from the survey
1. Lack of appropriate research and
2. Lack of authority/power severely
policy skills are a key constraint to
curtails our council’s impact on local
council developing appropriate housing
housing issues
agree nor
agree nor
3. There is a general lack of interest
4. There is a lack of understanding of
in housing issues across the
housing issues across the organisation
agree nor
agree nor
5. There is a lack of interest in
6. Generally our councillors do not see
housing issues amongst our councillors
housing as a local government issue
agree nor
agree nor
Appendix II Survey of Local Government
7. There is lack of understanding of
8. The main constraint for this council
housing issues amongst council
in dealing with housing issues is lack
of resources
agree nor
agree nor
9. Given the constraints facing it, this
10. Housing issues are a high priority
council is committed to tackling
for this council
housing issues
agree nor
agree nor
11. This council has a strong network
12. This council is interested in
of housing related contacts
innovative housing strategies
agree nor
agree nor
Appendix II Survey of Local Government
13. Strategic planning in this council is
14. Encouraging greater affordable
strongly informed by housing issues
housing is not a high priority of the
local community
agree nor
agree nor
15. The current reform of the public
16. Our council has a strong
housing system in Australia is well
relationship with the Victorian Office
understood within this council
of Housing
agree nor
agree nor
17. Our council has a strong
relationship with local community
housing groups
agree nor
Appendix II Survey of Local Government
Percentage of Respondents Reporting Issue as Very Important or
Important by Region of Municipality
Respondents were asked to rate various issues as either very important, important,
neither important nor unimportant, unimportant or no at all important. These are the
results for the proportion of councils (by council type) who rated each issue as either
important or very important.
1. Lack of housing choice
2. Low or negative capital
3. Small rental housing base
5. Scattered settlement patterns
4. Poor quality housing
6. Loss of rooming, boarding houses
Appendix II Survey of Local Government
7. Lack of affordability
8. Land shortages
9. Managing large development
10. Underutilisation of housing
11. Maintaining urban character
12. Infrastructure provision
Appendix II Survey of Local Government
13. Homelessness
14. Urban consolidation issues
15. Rapid household growth
16. Land costs
17. Managing development
18. Pressure on existing
Appendix II Survey of Local Government
19. Declining population
20. Lack of diversity
21. Lack of social housing
Three Main Housing Issues
In addition to specific questions about housing issues, respondents were asked to
nominate the three most important housing issues facing their municipality. The
unidentified responses are set out in the following table.
Issue 1
Declining population
Issue 2
Issue 3
Underutilising housing stock
Maintaining urban character
low or negative capital
Consolidation of urban areas
Maintaining urban character
Small rental housing base
Managing development
Managing development
Not seen as core business
Adequate availability of balanced Employment issues
housing stock
Urban design, trees and energy
Urban Village Development
efficiency in multi-unit
Promotion of development
Changing Accommodatio and
Age and Life Style
Appendix II Survey of Local Government
Issue 1
Issue 2
Issue 3
Residential Housing Needs
Facilitation of Social Housin g
Retaining Boarding/Rooming
Aging population requiring low
maintenance units
Maintaining valuations in time of
declining population
Age of housing stock
Roads- main road improvements
Primary schools
Innovative flexible housing
systems development
Development of urban and rural
housing potential of Shire and
Lack of housing choice
Declining population
Creating community
(shopping) nodes in the growth
Provide more housing,
utilising existing
infrastructure, at less cost
through innovation
Pressure on existing
Urban character and medium
density opposition
Housing an aged community
Suitable housing for aged and
people with disabilities,
The effect of medium density on
character/heritage of areas
suitable housing for youth
Council's role (if any) in social
housing issues
Declining household size
Services to match growth
Poor quality housing
Lack of diversity
Lack of housing choice
Urban consolidation issues
Lack of affordability
Maintaining local and
neighborhood character
Appropriate heritage controls
Poor quality design- lack of
landscaping within design
Enhance the quality and amenity
of the urban and rural areas,
including the renewal of older
public housing areas
Maintaining full occupancy
Consolidate development within
and around existing towns and
Increase in public housing starts
Addressing needs of youth, DV,
Diversity of housing
Lack of affordability
Lack of housing choice
Managing large development
Declining affordable stock for
low income households
High value of land/property
which makes opportunity for
social housing development
Single parent large familiesdomestic violence public housing
Single person housing stock
Youth housing
Better management of housing
Design and development of
medium density
Managing large projects
Infrastructure planning and
Streetscapes, urban character
Social housing
Diversity of housing stock and
urban consolidation
Council does not consider
housing to be a core service
Repairs and maintenance
Urban rural conflict
Maintaining heritage character
Extension of sewerage reticulation
Appendix II Survey of Local Government
Issue 1
Issue 2
Issue 3
Development issues- 'change vs
status quo
Infrastructure (sewerage, water)
Lack of affordable housing
Lack of housing choice
Reduced property management
Managing development
Pressure on existing infrastructure
Declining population
Lack of boarding/rooming houses
Lack of affordability
Lack of housing choice
Emergency accommodation
Youth accommodation and support
Disability supported
Retirement living concept
Short term living
Negative growth
Negative capital appreciation
Lack of housing choice/diversity
Maintaining urban character
Urban consolidation
Housing affordability
Housing choice
Infrastructure provision
A range of affordable housing
which meets community needs
Development of adequate capital
and social infrastructure
Managing large development
Urban character and heritage
Managing the transfer of title to
community groups
Retention of public housing stock
Not involved in housing issues
Public housing reforms and
policy development