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What Future for Evidence Based Housing Policy Under Neoliberalism? Insights from Australian Experience Andrew Beer Centre for Housing Urban and Regional Planning The University of Adelaide
Agenda • Australia as a neoliberal nation • Housing under neoliberalism • Australian housing policy under neoliberalism • Case study one: the National Rental Affordability Scheme • Case study two: (Re)counting the homeless • The future of evidence based policy • Conclusions
Australia as a Neoliberal Nation • Australia • A ‘liberal’ welfare regime (Epsing Anderson 1990) • And a Federation, not a unitary state • Deregulation of the economy and working conditions from the mid 1980s under the Hawke/Keating Governments • Election of the deeply conservative Howard Coalition Governments from 1996-2007 • Limited political or Treasury ‘buy in’ to housing programs and assistance despite the programs of the Rudd Labor Governments from 2007-10 • Australia therefore as a model for the UK, post the Cameron election
Australia as a Neoliberal Nation: Public Sector Outlays as a Percentage of GDP
Australia as a Neoliberal Nation • Key dimensions of Australian neoliberalism • A preference for market based solutions to questions of economy and society • Eg outsourcing of employment services • A ‘workfare’ state that does not accept persons out of paid employment • Larner (2005) notes that neoliberalism does not reduce public sector outlays, simply reshapes those outlays • Importantly, a reliance on the housing market to accommodate the population, and limited direct intervention • Unless forced by politics • Public housing as anathema, as seen to discourage labour force participation
Australian Housing Policy Under Neoliberalism Where Have all the Houses Gone?Mal Brough, Minister for Family and Community Services, 2007
Where Have all the Houses Gone?Mal Brough, Minister for Family and Community Services, 2007
Australian Housing Policy Under Neoliberalism • Significant policy failures: • Reduction in social housing supply and escalating waiting lists • Rampant affordability problems in the major Australian capital cities • Significant under-supply of housing relative to need/demand (NHSC 2009 & 2011) • Indigenous housing • Overcrowiding • Home ownership rate half that of non Indigenous Australians
Policy Failure:Percentage of Households in the Bottom 40 Per Cent of the Income Distribution Paying 30 Per cent or More for their Housing
Policy Failure: Percentage of Households in the Top 60 Per Cent of the Income Distribution Paying 30 Per cent or More for their Housing
Australian Housing Policy Under Neoliberalism • Neoliberalism only allows one solution • But what happens when that solution fails? • Productivity Commission (2004) noted structural causes underpinning affordability problems • But rejected by Treasury • Anne Tiernan and Terry Burke • Kingdon’s Garbage-Can theory of policy • But who is to take out the garbage? • Who is to replace the garbage?
Australian Housing Policy Under Neoliberalism • Case study - the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) • Government subsidies to private landlords to provide new rental properties at 80% of market rent • Subsidies for 10 years • Loosely based on an Australian interpretation of European models • Much researched topic – Gavin Wood, Nicole Gurran etc
Australian Housing Policy Under Neoliberalism • NRAS • Product of a coalition of industry groups, academics and social welfare activists who united under the title “Australians for Affordable Housing” • Fronted by Julian Disney • Kevin Rudd in 2007 committed to providing 50,000 NRAS dwellings by 2010 • Added another 50,000 as part of the Nation Building Economic Stimulus package of 2008-09 • With Treasury as the leading proponent
Australian Housing Policy Under Neoliberalism • High level of take up of NRAS properties • Pressure to extend the scheme and concerns over the 10 year time horizon • But current pressure comes from outside government, not from internal voices • Current priority of the Federal Government is to return the budget to surplus (May) in 2012-13 • But other opportunities for initiatives will arise in later fiscal years, especially 2013-14 as the government moves to elections
Australian Housing Policy Under Neoliberalism ‘Homelessness as a national shame’ Addressing homelessness as part of a social inclusion agenda Substantial commitment of funds under the NAHA A specific National Partnership - $800m The Road Home – aims to halve overall homelessness Which raises some very interesting policy challenges around enumeration
Australian Housing Policy Under Neoliberalism • (Re) Counting the Homeless • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) releases an estimate of homeless population on Census night using a method developed by Chamberlain and McKenzie • Conventionally around 100,000ish, in 2006 – 105,000 • ABS has always worked hand in hand with Chamberlain and McKenzie and publish the estimates • The Road Home brings that estimate into greater focus • From 2009 the ABS began to revisit the homelessness numbers • Produced a new methodology and estimate based on the 2006 Census of 64,000 persons
Australian Housing Policy Under Neoliberalism • Recounting the homeless creates a policy conundrum: • 64k or 105k who knows? But many care • For the Gillard Labor Government it looks like ‘lies, damn lies and statistics’ • Recounting the homeless emphasises the political context of research findings • The recount is a liability for the Gillard Labor Government • But potentially and asset for an Abbot Coalition Government
The future of evidence based policy • Context • Neoliberalism contains an embedded paradox: the more it emphasises market based solutions, the more likely public expenditure decisions will be based on political imperatives • Neoliberal governments enter government with ideological positions that fail • There is no Plan B
The future of evidence based policy • Where does the future lie for evidence based policy and research in housing: • In being part of the process that takes garbage in and garbage out • HomeStart • Competing and contesting policy agendas • In working with a coalition of like-minded actors • Industry, civil society institutions, academia • In anticipating the deficits in current policy settings and in anticipating the need to both monitor and develop alternatives
The future of evidence based policy • From a researcher’s perspective • It is an environment that is more chaotic but with greater opportunities • Number of housing researchers in Australia has grown • Greater diversity of research partners as ‘big society’ policies generate larger welfare institutions
Conclusions • Neoliberalism changes housing policy • It is not a change for good • It generates new opportunities for researchers • but fewer for policy makers in government service • It is possible to get good outcomes for those in housing need, but the pathways are now more arduous, more complex and require multiple partners