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Creating affordable, sustainable housing in inner city Brisbane

Queensland Local Governments have been presented with new research that will help them improve affordable housing outcomes across inner city precincts.

Professor George Earl from Bond University today handed over the findings of a Housing Affordability Report to the President of the Local Government Association of Queensland, Councillor Paul Bell AM, that puts forward recommendations about how to improve the problem that is crippling Brisbane.

The independent report: ‘Creating Inclusive Communities: ensuring housing affordability in inner city redevelopment’, is the culmination of research undertaken jointly by Bond University, the Queensland Community Housing Coalition (QCHC) and Landpartners.

The report’s key recommendations for City Councils and Local Government authorities include to:

* Ensure timely and efficient approval processes for affordable housing developments by establishing a dedicated Affordable Housing specialist team or facilitator within Council directly linked to key personnel in associated State Government regulatory bodies
* Investigate alternative financing arrangements which allow for small apartment sizes, separating residential and parking tenure and other tenure innovations such as shared equity
* Encourage innovation and sharing in best-practice design solutions to the variety of urban environments that make up a typical Queensland city
* Actively market Council’s approach to affordable housing to the finance, development and building industries to encourage participation in the provision of affordable housing
* Provide specific provisions in planning schemes for affordable housing – for example, plot ratios, setback requirements and car-parking requirements
* Promote social cohesion and increase community engagement with diverse urban environments and enhance community understanding of affordable housing as a component of broader socio-economic sustainability

The report’s recommendations have also been formally presented to the Brisbane Inner City Advisory Committee for review and discussion.

Deputy Dean of Bond University’s Bond Business School, Technology and Sustainable Development, Professor George Earl, says that while the report looks specifically at Brisbane City, the findings can easily be applied to all urban developments in cities across Queensland and Australia, including the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.

“Housing affordability for inner-city workers, many of whom are on lower to middle incomes, has become a critical social and economic problem for a number of Australian cities – not just Brisbane,” Professor Earl said.

“Employment opportunities for workers employed in the areas of health, education, sanitation, administration and hospitality are often located in the inner city.

“If affordable housing is not available within reasonable travel time, these workers may become economically disadvantaged.

“Plus, the city’s own economic performance and social functioning may also be adversely affected if it becomes difficult to attract these key workers,’ he said.

“Bond University’s School of Sustainable Development has a strong interest, particularly through our planning and property development programs, to work with various organisations and authorities to create long-term, affordable housing that is socially sustainable.

“This research has the potential to influence policy and practice in ways that will benefit large numbers of inner-city workers, as well as the socio-economic sustainability of Brisbane,” Professor Earl said.

Executive Director of QCHC, Mr Mike Myers, says that with housing affordability at record lows, and many low and moderate income families struggling with the cost of housing, the report offers timely examination of the practical ways that Local Governments can proactively respond to the issue.

He acknowledges that while the main responsibility for improving housing affordability rests at a Commonwealth and State level, there is a need to recognise the important role that City Councils play in the planning process.

“Later this year, and for the first time in history, Local Governments will be asked to sign up to the proposed new National Affordable Housing Agreement, alongside the Commonwealth and States.

“This whole-of-government response is essential if we are to tackle this deep rooted housing system failure,” Mr Myers said.

“This report will assist Councils to apply current powers and resources to generate practical solutions at a local level.

“The report also argues for measures to improve community awareness of the issue and to work with communities to achieve a sustainable balance between economic, social and environmental outcomes.

“Affordable housing is about strengthening communities and improving economic performance as much as it is about providing affordable shelter,” Mr Myers said.

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