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What can England and Australia learn from other countries’ national housing strategies?

The following article by Hal Pawson, professor of housing research and policy, and Chris Martin, senior research fellow, University of New South Wales, was originally published in Inside Housing.

In what feels like the dying days of an exhausted government, Michael Gove’s Social Housing Regulation and Renters’ Reform bills look like last-gasp attempts to breathe life into a housing reform agenda barely on life support.

True, many of the measures that strengthen regulatory oversight in social housing and tenant security for private renters will be widely welcomed. But, as Matthew Bailes and Charlotte Carpenter point out in their recent story for Inside Housing, these moves lack a grounding in any overarching vision or reform agenda for the wider housing system.

The last such official analysis and position statement for England, Fixing our broken housing market, is now more than six years in the past. Thus, Mr Bailes and Ms Carpenter rightly echo the National Housing Federation’s recent call for the next government to urgently instigate a more formal and long-term national housing strategy for England.

This chimes with policy developments in Australia, where, after a decade of federal complacency and inaction, housing stresses have similarly escalated to historic highs. Rent inflation is at record levels, while homelessness has continued to climb, all against a backdrop of ongoing homeownership decline.

“There is much to be learned from strategy-making experiences in nations such as Canada, Austria and Finland”

Complementing the NHF pitch, our new report calls for Australia’s federal government to chart a coherent national roadmap for housing and homelessness reform. With many of our recommendations also relevant to the UK, we outline the goals, scope and institutions an ambitious national strategy needs to succeed in the domestic context.

Unlike both England and Australia, where such a project would be without precedent, substantive national housing strategies do, in fact, exist in other countries. As analysed in our report, there is much to be learned from strategy-making experiences in nations such as Canada, Austria and Finland.

Closer to home for Inside Housing readers, there is a lot to be said for the Scottish government’s ‘Housing to 2040’ policy blueprint. Importantly, this continues a Scottish housing strategy-making tradition incorporating public consultation, goal-setting, evaluation and revision.

‘Housing to 2040’ also bears the hallmarks of any meaningful strategy: analysis of problems to be addressed, clear and measurable goals for gauging progress in tackling those problems, identified actions to achieve those goals, and plans for mobilising resources to implement specified actions.

“In Australia, after a decade of federal complacency and inaction, housing stresses have similarly escalated to historic highs”

Following Australia’s 2022 general election, the country has a new national government with a degree of housing ambition and an initial suite of policy and investment initiatives to match.

Whether prime minister Anthony Albanese fully recognises the need for a far-reaching long-term strategy of the kind we propose remains to be seen. But British readers will be envying the scenario where that question can at least be asked.

Towards an Australian Housing and Homelessness Strategy by Chris Martin, Hal Pawson and colleagues is published by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI)

 

Date: July 13, 2023 9:33 am

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