Housing Research and Policies for the Future: Setting the Right Questions

Professor Duncan Maclennan CBE, FRSE, AcSS
Professor of Public Policy, University of Glasgow; Professor of Management, University of St Andrews

The ways in which we think about housing, as analysts, are frequently guided by stylised facts that often become implicit assumptions of policymakers. Conventional wisdom has been that freer trade, deregulated finance and increased labour mobility are critical growth facilitators. This neo-liberal view assumes sustained global growth, significant increases in urbanisation and that income growth will be biased against lower income households. But where and how will growing urban populations live?

There is now a near global crisis in housing markets. It has to be addressed through policy:

  • A first step is to put the design of efficient housing systems at the core of policy, and not distortions of tenure.
  • The second step is to recognise that market failures, and not just, or even always, low income, underpin ‘housing problems’.
  • The third major policy shift is to recognise that assumptions about the future growth of cities are not consistent with delivering adequate, accessible housing for the poorest quarter of advanced economy populations unless governments intervene.

The 1980s consensus of minimal intervention in land markets, reduced compulsory purchase and the emergent critique on planning have to be reversed. Research and policy must refocus.


Beyond the housing paradox: the future of owner occupation

Professor Susan J Smith, MA, DPhil (Oxon), FBA, AcSS, FRSE, Cambridge University, UK

This presentation is concerned with the structure of housing systems in the more developed world, where questions of housing, finance and home are inextricably linked. Such entanglements have turned residential space into a hybrid of money, meanings and materials that is paradoxical in many ways. Consider, for example: the spatial paradox which must hold together if housing services are to deliver investment returns; the financial paradox that pulls the rabbit of fiscal well-being from the hat of indivisible assets; the uncanny character of housing’s supposed security; and the ill-fated anticipation that home ownership might conjure something out of nothing when welfare needs arise.

Professor Smith will draw on examples from Australia and the UK, charting the origins and effects of a spatial financial paradox which has unsettled the stability of housing dwelling, permeates the interface of public and private affairs, and is challenging both the character of domestic life and the future of owner occupation.

The session starts with tea, coffee and a chance to chat with our speakers, so please RSVP to cur@rmit.edu.au for catering purposes.

Image by David J via Flickr/CC BY 2.0


Seminar Room 1, State Library, LaTrobe Street, Melbourne


Monday 14 April 2014, 4pm for 4:30 to 6:30pm