Australia Ponders How Community Housing Benefits All, Not Just The Poorest

the face of a while high rise, its balconies festooned with greenery
Alt Erlaa Estate, Vienna photo by Rob Schofield is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Alt Erlaa Estate in Vienna, Austria, built 1974, a tribute to the glory of well-built mixed income social housing. More: Alt-Erlaa, Vienna: ‘the World’s Best Council Housing?’

A recent article in Australia’s Fifth Estate explores two important benefits that may accrue in the future from a more active program of building community housing.1

First, the article details the benefits to communities as a whole when there is a rich spectrum of supporting services for community housing. These can be made available to others in the community, even though they may not be residents of the community housing.

The article goes on to explore a future of mixed income neighbourhoods in which lowest income citizens and more affluent ones can both benefit. It presents the obvious advantages of funding new construction by development projects in which some non-market housing (community housing, or any of the alphabet salad of such housing types) can be successfully built, albeit with government support.

What the following article does not address: the challenge to maintain non-market housing in developments that are built through public/private partnerships. Following construction, the private sector invariably allows for its own needed maintenance, and looks to ultimately pocket any excess as profit. The community housing, with small rents that are geared-to income, is left to sink or swim on its own.

Historically, this creates community-type housing with rents collectively unable to manage housing maintenance. The only option: begging bowls waved towards any level of government or philanthropy that might respond.

The reluctance of governments in particular to pay and pay and pay has led to the decay and physical collapse of far too much public housing worldwide.

The alternative may well require a rethink of social rent-geared-to income housing to include not only the lowest income citizens, but also those who have more income, and who contribute a portion of that income to overall project maintenance, not pocketed as profit. Read more in two articles from THE FIFTH ESTATE: The future of community housing includes social solutions and Industry Applauds New Sustainable Public Housing At Ivanhoe, But Is The Model Sustainable?


  1. There’s literally a whole world of English language terms such as “community” housing. Social, public, state, council, cooperative — all these terms and undoubtedly more refer to a collection of housing types that are most notable in their lack of connection to the free, speculative housing market. Common to them all is a government requirement or a private/non-profit agreement that the housing will not be bought and sold on the free market. Otherwise, these terms refer to differing, sometimes overlapping, often currently changing terms of housing ownership and tenancy.

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