Addressing Australia's Housing Shortage Through Improved Housing Utilisation

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Zochling Hugh 2010, 'Addressing Australia's Housing Shortage Through Improved Housing Utilisation', , AUBEA, Melbourne, , pp. A023-1-A023-18.
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Australia currently suffers from a well documented housing shortage, particularly in the area of affordable housing. the reasons for this shortage are equally well documented, with supply-side constraints being generally regarded as the root of the problem. Governments at all levels have made various attempts to relieve the acuity of the problem, which has become something of a policy debate football, with most responses on the need to create more housing. However, the creation of additional new housing stock is highly costly and can involve considerable time lags, through various barriers to completion. New home construction can also be quite environmentally unsustainable, having a high carbon footprint. Therefore, it is proposed that another, although partial, solution may lie in addressing the demanside for housing, via the utilisation of existing housing stock. This paper explores the current level of utilisation of Australia's existing housing stock and identifies significant underutilisation by international standards. Using detached housing in the Sydney metropolitan area as a proxy, examination of 2006 Census data has shown that there is substantial underutilisation of housing stock. The need to explore policy initiatives that can encourage a higher utilisation of existing housing stock is highlighted, including removing the existing barriers to housing substitution for retirees. A central conclusion of this research is that if a significantly higher housing stock utilisation could be achieved the potential time and capital savings, and importantly, carbon footprint reduction, could be significant by comparison to the construction of new dwellings.
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