RESEARCH SUMMARY

NextGen

A MULTIMODAL DESIGN LED APPROACH TO THE NEXT GENERATION OF AUSTRALIAN AFFORDABLE HOUSING


Professor Tom Barker
University of Technology Sydney

Keywords: affordable housing, housing economics, social housing, urban design strategy, interdisciplinary design


‘NextGen’ investigates options for the next generation of affordable or social urban Australian housing. Australia currently has the least affordable housing of anywhere in the world: the median affordability index for Australian is 6.3 which indicates ‘severely unaffordable’ - worse than any other country (ADIHAS, 2009). Although house prices are cyclical, in Australia there is an upward trend on housing costs in Australia at the lower end of the market. There is little state or federal involvement in social housing projects, and although Australian developers have indicated enthusiasm to enter the affordable housing market, the barrier to entry is a lack of margin: there is demand but no supply.

The design problem demands mould-breaking solutions. For example, Pritzker panellist Alejandro Aravena’s “half-built” housing (Chile), Urban Ecology Australia’s Christie Walk with shared amenities and food gardens (Adelaide).

Viable solutions to such acute conditions can both inform and learn from experiences in Europe, the USA and elsewhere. NextGen takes a multimodal approach that is committed to the socio-cultural transformative capacity of architecture to provoke and facilitate design excellence.

Housing affordability relates for example to density, dwelling size, regulations, land rationing, construction costs, infrastructure, materials and construction, sustainability, modes of ownership, economics and socio-cultural factors. Through considering such factors through a design-centric format, the research considers innovative ways of mitigating the affordability crisis through actionable design, proposing sustainable neighbourhoods, design typologies, cultural shift strategies and modes of ownership that are attractive to developers, funders, public-private, and cooperative ownership.

NextGen manifests itself within: UrbanAid’s research at the UTS School of Architecture; in partnership with RMIT’s SIAL in Melbourne; Hong Kong University’s Architecture Department; and an M.Arch course with the Sydney architect Adam Russell.