Housing Affordability Crisis Requires Nordic Policy Solutions: Experts

The key driver of Australia’s acute housing affordability crisis is its over-reliance on just two housing options – private home ownership and private renting.

New research from the Australia Institute’s Nordic Policy Centre shows that Nordic countries have a wider repertoire of policies, and Australia can learn from policies that are already in practice in Nordic countries.

Key Findings:

  • In Australia, the proportion of social housing is estimated to have fallen from over 7% of all housing in Australia in the early 1990s down to just 4% in 2019. That proportion needs now to be ramped up to double digits.
  • In Sweden, public housing is more than triple the proportion it is in Australia. Sweden’s housing co-operatives amount to 22% of the total housing stock, while in Norway this figure is 15% nation-wide, but 40% in the capital, Oslo.
  • Sweden, Norway and Denmark also have extensive co-ownership whereby individuals own, use, and control their own dwellings but shared spaces and property are owned jointly and managed collectively with neighbouring members of a housing co-operative, which improves affordability.
  • Finland’s ‘Finnish Housing First Principle’ views housing as a prerequisite that will enable solving a homeless person’s social and health problems, not the other way round.
  • Coupled with the nation’s belief in the notion that people have a right to decent housing and useful social services, this has seen an impressive reduction in homelessness and the current government has a policy to eliminate homelessness by 2027.
  • Finland currently has less than one homeless person per 1,000 people, compared to Australia’s nearly five homeless people per 1,000 people.

“If we are to have any hope of tackling Australia’s housing affordability crisis, policymakers must stop favouring investors over tenants and shift the priority in housing policy to supporting low- and middle-income earners who simply want a secure place to live,” said Professor Andrew Scott, convenor of the Australia Institute’s Nordic Policy Centre.

“It is no secret that housing is expensive in Australia. Buying a house is hard, and being a renter has many of its own problems. Housing policies in Nordic nations prioritise homes to live in, rather than houses as investments.

“The Australian Government should now require some of the collective capital in superannuation funds to be invested in affordable housing to ensure fund members can have an adequate retirement.

“This will strengthen the presence of ethical, not-for-profit private housing developers of the kind which in Denmark have created a rental co-operative sector which provides security of tenure and affordable housing for one-fifth of the nation’s population.

“Finland become the world leader in reducing homelessness due to their emphasis on ensuring homes for people on a basis of need. Australia could learn from Nordic nations who have shown firsthand how housing policy can work to reduce rising homelessness.”

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