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  • Samantha Reece

Back community-led social and affordable housing

If Australia is serious about housing affordability, every single level of government needs to find new partners prepared to think outside the box.


I’ve seen some extraordinary community-led social housing projects in recent times.


Not one of them involved a developer.


I recently took a break in a holiday unit with a compact 42sqm ground floor lounge, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, which had an upstairs loft with three beds. It was small but perfect for a single mum with three children. It got me thinking about affordable design. The place had a simple, easy to reproduce floor plan that could easily deliver several units of cost-effective housing on a relatively small site.


In Melbourne, Banyule Council offered up land for affordable housing. A.R.M Architects rose to the challenge, enlisting colleagues to produce a design proposal free of charge that was then approved by council. The result, Launch Bellfield, is a building with a quirky, bright façade housing 58 people who pay $150/week in rent.


Aboriginal Housing Victoria adopted a similar model. Breathe Architects donated time and brick and appliances suppliers donated goods and materials. The building, which cost $3300/sqm, is extremely affordable.


Further north, Cox Architecture and Wild Modular pitched to the Queensland Government a project to supply two-bedroom, two bathroom prefabricated housing units connected to services for at a cost of $300,000 each. The project would deliver 50 apartments in six months.


In Perth, Michelle Blakeley Architect’s MyHome project forged a partnership between philanthropists, churches, community housing providers and government to deliver well-designed, low-cost, permanent housing in North Fremantle for 18 older, homeless women. 


Each of these projects delivered well-designed, cost-effective housing. They were driven by architects, government and community housing providers.


To really address housing affordability and the supply crisis in community housing, we need government support for community-led projects underpinned by good design, durable and cost effective materials.


We need to harness the goodwill of these community partners because they have demonstrated they have the commitment and focus to actually deliver outstanding results.


Samantha Reece is AAA director and a passionate driver of change.


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