It’s still difficult to comprehend that in the 21st Century, with Australia being one of the wealthiest countries on earth, that we have an ongoing housing crisis. Australia is seeing soaring rental prices, escalating homelessness and increasing unaffordable mortgages. In addition, many of Australia’s old residential stock isn’t being properly maintained, and so many new residential developments are designed and built in a way that minimises sustainability and liveability.
The situation haunts many of us in the New Economy Network Australia. Why are things the way they are? How do we understand the complex interaction of economic issues causing these problems? What can we do to help? To encourage dialogue and collective problem solving about our shared housing crisis, in 2021 members of the Housing Hub, within the New Economy Network Australia (NENA) created ‘NENA Housing Week’. We hosted a very successful first week of webinars and discussions in 2021, and a held a similar week of webinars and discussions in 2022. We’re looking forward to hosting our Housing Week webinars again this year, later in 2023.
We structured NENA Housing Week to explore the issues, problems and opportunities we face, through a series of different sessions that, taken together, weave the stories of housing in Australia at the moment. As someone who cares about housing issues – but is not an expert in this area – I personally found the week of webinars extremely helpful in understanding key issues, and hearing about positive solutions.
The week began on Monday 7 November, with an introduction to the housing crisis in Australia by Elena Pererya, Co-Housing Australia, and Sara Motta, from the NENA Women’s Hub. That afternoon we held a session with Sue Gilbey and Megg Evans, focusing on the disproportionate impacts of homelessness and housing affordability on women.
On Tuesday 8 November, we explored creative ownership and tenure options for housing in Australia, with Jasmine Palmer, Karl Fitzgerald and Sidsel Grimstad. That evening we had an important discussion with Professor Louise Crabtree-Hayes, titled ‘Why are Australian property prices so out of control? A deep dive into property prices, real estate and ‘value’. Louise’s talk unpacked some of the key conceptual foundations of western society that contribute to the endless escalation of property prices and ideas of ‘value’ – in particular, our belief in ‘linear time’ and our notions of ‘progress’ and modernity. I strongly recommend her presentation to anyone trying to understand why housing issues in Australia are so deeply connected to neoclassical economics and notions of wealth and success.
On Wednesday 9 November we heard about finance options for housing alternatives, from Linda Seaborn, Tim Riley and Emma Spano. That evening we discussed the role of governments in housing, with Anitra Nelson and Peter Phibbs.
The following day, Thursday 10 November, we looked at innovative building approaches with Martin Freney, Peter Hickson and Ray Trappel, and that evening we discussed sustainable housing, with Adam Russell, Andy Marlow and Ananya Majumda.
On Friday 11 November we held a Roundtable Discussion, featuring our speakers from throughout the week, and other members of NENA. Issues discussed included: the need for more people to engage with the problems of the housing market and to challenge the roots of greed and profit within the system; the need for more people with the relevant know-how to step up and support new housing options; and the importance of showcasing new ways of financing, building, living and co-housing together.