Town Planning Review 86.6 Best Paper has been made Open Access

Posted on December 18, 2015 by Chloe Johnson

Free Town Planning Review paper for a limited time only...


The editors of Town Planning Review have chosen ‘The affordable housing conundrum: shifting policy approaches in Australia’ by Dr Peter Williams from the University of New South Wales, Sydney, to be the Best Paper of Issue 86.6.


Peter Williams has critically assessed the evolution of public policy designed to assist the provision of affordable housing in Australia. Focus of the paper is government policy directed to private low-cost rental housing, with social (public) housing and broader housing ownership affordability issues also considered, as these also impact on this sector of housing tenure. Attention of the investigation is directed on Sydney, a city with significant affordability problems, and hence in need of appropriate policy responses.


The paper demonstrates how the public policy measures adopted to assist affordable housing provision in Sydney have experienced a noticeable shift over time across the spectrum of potential government planning and financial intervention approaches. Successive affordable housing schemes have covered a range of approaches, including: mandatory or compulsory; voluntary or negotiated; and planning and financial incentives. The first, compulsory, approach was introduced in 1995 and involved the application of traditional ‘command regulation’ in the form of a mandatory inclusionary zoning mechanism, to exact an affordable housing contribution from developers, but was abandoned following a successful legal challenge. Effectively this mechanism was a betterment tax to capture part of the unearned increment accruing from planning uplift. Despite 20 years of policy formulation and reformulation since then, Sydney is today further away from adopting a definitive policy which realistically seeks to address the issue of the provision and stock of long-term affordable rental housing. The paper concludes that a solution based on a more nuanced approach – ‘of ‘smarter’ regulation – is required, which uses the range of tools available to planners. However, while voluntary and incentive tools might be adopted where necessary, the basis of any long term solution to affordable housing provision must be mandatory planning mechanisms based on land value capture.


Dr Williams said that “the history of affordable housing policy in Sydney has been a dispiriting progression of avoidable public policy failure. A particularly frustrating aspect of this history is that affordable housing provision is a significant problem requiring decisive government action, yet it has been plagued a succession of vacillating or weak action, and more recently, inaction. Discouragingly, the future prospect of a meaningful policy response looks equally bleak.” He further noted that “policies for affordable housing provision are available – they are just not being implemented. State government in particular has been reluctant to tackle this problem effectively, because of fear of antagonising several interest groups, including developers, some local councils and local resident home owners concerned with impacts on local amenity and property values.”


This paper will be open access for a limited time. You can find it here.

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