"Is social housing essential infrastructure? How we think about it does matter."
The Conversation, February 6, 2019
Kathleen Flanagan, University of Tasmania, Chris Martin, UNSW, Julie Lawson, RMIT University, Keith Jacobs, University of Tasmania
Could changing how we think about social housing serve as a starting point for a renaissance? Policy advocates like the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) argue that social housing is actually a form of essential infrastructure. This is because it supports economic productivity and a range of other non-shelter outcomes.
Our research has examined whether changing how we think about social housing to see it as infrastructure might provide a pathway to increased investment.
What’s the evidence for this approach?
Conceptually, we found a link between social housing and infrastructure: both operate as forms of spatially fixed, durable capital that enable economies and societies to work better. Governments need to be involved in providing infrastructure to realise its full benefits — because of the scale of investment needed and because effects are spread across the community. In the same way, realising all the benefits of social housing requires government involvement.
When we look at history, there is compelling evidence for this. For example, during Australia’s post-war public housing construction boom, governments recognised their investment as necessary to enhance economic productivity, improve public health, and support families to thrive.
Across [Europe], especially in Finland, Austria and Scotland, we see social housing investment today undertaken in support of energy sustainability, economic stability, and social cohesion.
Flanagan, Kathleen and Martin, Chris and Jacobs, Keith and Lawson, Julie, A Conceptual Analysis of Social Housing As Infrastructure (February 6, 2019). AHURI Final Report No. 309, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited, Melbourne, doi:10.18408/ahuri-4114101. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3330386