Can The Private Sector Build Social Housing For Profit? No.

construction crew (50 people plus a dog)
StateLibQld 2 120932 Anzac workers involved in building cottages for returned soldiers at Enoggera, 191 photo by The Queenslander is licensed under the public domain
Volunteer labourers who built homes following World War I in Australia and New Zealand. Is this a model we should be using today?

Can the private sector ever cost-effectively AND the profitably build social housing? A simple economics-101-multiplied-over-time argument might be that if they could, they would. But they haven’t so they can’t.

Australian Architect and Professor Tone Wheeler takes a less speculative approach by setting out the basic costs — everything from land to profit — that a private developer needs to cover in order to build housing of ANY kind. Wheeler then sets out to mitigate those costs, bit by bit, with the goal of creating a social housing unit that can be built profitably by the private sector.

In spite of all his chiseling and penny-pinching, he concedes defeat and concludes by rehabilitating a critique of Australia’s HomeBuilder program.1 Read more in ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN: Tone on Tuesday: On Social Housing Part 2


  1. See in The Conversation: Scott Morrison’s HomeBuilder scheme is classic retail politics but lousy economics