The Affordable Housing Initiative

The Affordable Housing Initiative is one response to the problems highlighted in the recent report by ACOSS – “The Affordable Housing Reform Agenda”. See: and the “Rental Affordability Snapshot”, published by Anglicare. See:

There is a clearly established link between growing poverty and the decline in home ownership in Australia. Both of these reports highlight the alarming state of housing affordability in Australia and offer many practical solutions to the problem. Among the many recommendations is a call for investment in new affordable housing stock. The Affordable Housing Initiative is concerned primarily with that recommendation – the call for the provision of new affordable homes.

Housing is vital human need and access to adequate housing and home ownership should be considered as a basic human right. In a society such as Australia, which was federated and founded on democratic and egalitarian ideals, everyone should be have access to at least a basic standard of accommodation that offers warmth, shelter, security and adequate living, sleeping, working and recreational space. Any political or economic forces that hinder or oppose that are effectively complicit in the worst kind of social injustice – depriving people of a place to live.

Ideals aside, viable and practical options to address the problem of housing stress and homelessness do exist, and with the proper partnerships, support and funding, even people living on welfare payments should still be able to achieve modest home ownership. If they are eligible for income support and government assistance to pay rent, they ought to also be permitted to use those payments on a very modest house. So the goal of this particular initiative is not to provide people with rental housing that is funded by welfare, but to provide people with a secure asset which they can live in and own, an asset that can be bought and sold, and one that can incrementally provide a pathway out of poverty and welfare dependence to a life of adequate wealth and dignity.

The first stage of this initiative is to demonstrate that alternative, low-cost home construction is possible. A proven, reproducible model for low cost housing can then provide what is now critically needed: a solution to address the growing problem of homelessness, housing stress and the decline in home ownership among middle to low income earners in Australia.

The Proposal Outline:

1. The coordination of collective action and partnerships between local, state and federal governments, NGOs, building industry companies, private enterprise, owner-builders, financial institutions and private donors - to fund and construct homes that focus exclusively on affordability, ease of construction, speed of construction, energy efficiency and sustainability.

These well-designed, modular, affordable, energy-efficient homes, will initially be modest, but lend themselves to further extension and expansion over time to create comfortable, unique, customisable and spacious living spaces to accommodate the growing needs of individuals and families. These homes will focus on the application of alternative building methods and encompass innovative ideas, such as: converted shipping container houses, straw bale construction, earth building, off-grid technologies, and any other viable building methods that afford participants the opportunity to reduce the costs of construction by participating in the building process themselves – either individually, as part of a group self-build project, or part of a community supported program. For single homeless people, re-locatable off-grid micro-housing may also form part of the matrix of solutions.

Beyond collective partnerships, this new initiative will need to be supported and complimented by a range of parallel initiatives:

2. The establishment of a national database of pre-approved homes that meet the following strict criteria:

- Affordability,
- Ease of construction,
- Speed of construction,
- Energy efficiency, and
- Sustainability.

Architects, owner-builders, alternative building enthusiasts, inventors and innovators would be invited to contribute to this library with proven house designs, customised facades, variations on outdoor living spaces, and modular expansions. Building companies could offer products aimed at that market for people who wish to expand their living space as their circumstances improve. Consistent with the recommendations in the ACOSS report, local governments across Australia would be invited to participate in the program and express their support by providing streamlined and discounted building approvals for any residential project that is based upon the national database of affordable houses.

3. The design and introduction of a 5 star assessment scale whereby local governments and all departments involved in building approval and associated service provision, along with lending institutions, will be rated on their participation and performance in fairly supporting the Affordable Housing Initiative.

4. The creation of a website which hosts the national library of affordable house plans, educational videos, such as information on OH&S, trade hints and building instructions and advice for owner-builders and participants in group self-build projects.

5. The establishment of regional building material recycle depots. These are places where building materials can be donated and where discarded and reclaimed building materials can be offered for free or ‘at cost’ to program participants.

6. A crowd sourcing campaign designed to raise money from members of the public in the hope that State and Federal Governments can also be persuaded to match public contributions.

7. Public and Political advocacy and publicity campaign designed to raise public awareness about the problem of housing affordability and influence the formulation of policies to produce positive outcomes.

- Highlighting the problem of housing affordability.
- Inform public attitudes about the detrimental social impact of parasitic investment practices in real estate.
- Educate local governments and all departments involved in the planning and approval processes to support affordable building initiatives.
- Influence and inform legislation.
- To call for land grants, decentralization of business, new affordable housing developments and secure low-interest loans for the poor.

Where do we start?

I invite you to share this initiative with government and non-government agencies and individuals that care about the problem of housing affordability in Australia. I would like to know who is prepared to work with me to support this initiative and what administrative and investment support can be offered to practically advance the cause. Also, read about the many compelling reason to invest in affordable housing:

If your organisation is willing to join this initiative, I look forward to hearing from you!

- Allan Weatherall

Alternative Concepts (Aust) Pty Ltd
PO Box 111, Charlton, Victoria. 3525 Australia.
Phone: 0418 319 368

Allan Weatherall is a design, communications and project management consultant with more than 30 years experience in the not-for-profit sector in Australia and East Africa. He has hands-on experience in alternative building, having previously built a large rammed-earth home in the Dandenong Ranges, East of Melbourne in the late 90s. Now living in central Victoria, Allan has recently experienced his own housing stress, partly resulting from the 2011 floods. This has only served to consolidate his resolve to pursue practical solutions for others experiencing similar hardship and housing stress.

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