A new study estimates that the 40,000 new social and affordable homes recently announced by the government will generate an additional benefit of $4.4 billion over the next 40 years.
- New calculator to ‘make better economic case for investment in affordable social housing’, says researcher
- It estimates savings from reduced needs for health, policing and community services.
- One housing expert doubts he can accurately quantify these benefits.
Researchers at Swinburne University of Technology have developed a tool to calculate the social, economic and environmental benefits of social and affordable housing.
“For too long, social and affordable housing has been seen almost as a welfare service,” says Wendy Hayhurst, CEO of the Community Housing Industry Association, which commissioned the study.
“We need to start looking at social and affordable housing as infrastructure, something we invest in, in order to get a return on that investment.”
The researchers – Associate Professor Christian Nygaard and Dr Trevor Kollmann – plugged the 40,000 social and affordable homes promised under the National Housing Accord and the government’s Housing Australia Future Fund into their calculator and found that profits were estimated at $4.4 billion over the next four decades. .
“You can build social and affordable housing purely on the basis of the rents you would get from those properties,” Dr Nygaard said.
“What we’re trying to show is that on top of these rents, you also get all this social value.
“We hope this will provide a better economic case for investment in affordable social housing.”
The jury is still out on the accuracy
Nicole Gurran, professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Sydney, is not convinced this type of tool can accurately quantify these benefits.
“Where do we begin when trying to assess the economic benefit of a secure roof over a small child’s head?” she says.
“Research shows there are huge benefits for individuals, as well as wider benefits in terms of economic productivity.
“But whether we are able to fully quantify them through an accounting mechanism, I think the jury is out.”
Dr Gurran says there are “moral arguments” for affordable housing, particularly in a wealthy country like Australia.
She says she finds it “ironic” that despite Australia’s wealth, “we cannot find it within ourselves to meet the housing needs of people on very low incomes”.
The new tool – called the Social Infrastructure and Green Measures for Affordable Housing (SIGMAH) Calculator – provides government, community housing organizations and the wider social and affordable housing sector with a robust tool for estimating social benefits and broader economic concerns, says a news release from the Community Housing Industry Association.
This allows policymakers to understand how much less public spending a government will incur in areas such as health, policing and community services by making housing available to those who need it.
The calculator also estimates private benefits such as higher consumption, income and education.