In light of the enduring housing affordability crisis in Australia, the Australian Co-operative Housing Association (ACHA) and the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) have put forward novel policies at a recent housing affordability roundtable in Canberra. These policies underscore the need for non-market housing models to play a significant role in addressing the affordability issues.
The policy blueprint launched today advocates for a strategic commitment by governments towards incorporating co-operative housing models into future investment plans. The target set is ambitious – a tenfold increase, aiming to achieve at least 10% of Australia’s social housing stock to be co-operatively owned by 2033, from the current meagre 1%.
Melina Morrison, Chief Executive of the BCCM, highlighted the urgency of the matter: “Rental and equity co-op housing models are the missing middle for low to middle income Australians,” Morrison stated. She elaborated on the limitations of simplifying the challenges many Australians confront in the housing market to mere supply issues, suggesting that “deep structural problems” necessitate innovative solutions for “a fairer housing market.”
The blueprint draws inspiration from successful co-operative housing models overseas. Cities like Zurich, Denmark, and Sweden boast significant portions of their housing stock being managed co-operatively – figures that starkly contrast the situation in Australia, where only just over 5,000 households benefit from such arrangements.
At the roundtable, experts like Dr. Marcus Spiller from the Interim National Housing Supply and Affordability Council, Liz Thomas, CEO of Common Equity Housing Limited (CEHL), and Peter Remfrey from Police Bank presented views on the issue. Additionally, mutual banks discussed novel schemes to help essential workers and first-time homebuyers secure housing closer to their workplaces.
The concern was evident in Morrison’s remarks when she stated, “It’s inconceivable to think that in Australia today there are many essential workers who cannot afford to live close to where they work.” The roundtable also reviewed preliminary research findings indicating that active involvement in housing co-operatives is tied to several benefits for members, ranging from a sense of home and safety to health, skills development, and a robust sense of community.
These findings, funded by ACHA and the Australian Research Council, point to the potential of co-operative housing as an effective solution for the housing dilemma, with full details of the research set to be released next year.
Offering a new horizon of hope for dwellers struggling with affordability, ACHA urges the allocation of a significant portion of funds from initiatives like the Social Housing Accelerator, Housing Australia Future Fund, and the National Housing Infrastructure Facility to develop the co-operative housing sector further. This bold move could be a game-changer in ensuring long-term affordability in the Australian housing market.