Event contactStephanie Holt
In the last few years the urgency of the debate about housing in Australia has escalated. Use of the term ‘housing crisis’ is now widespread. But what form does this crisis take? Is it a ‘crisis of affordability’ for first home buyers, a so-called ‘crisis of the middle class’, or have rising rents and high occupancy ratios made access to any form of housing even more precarious for low-income Australians? How do age and gender shape the way the effects of ‘housing crisis’ are experienced? And what role does Australia’s long commitment to the concept of a ‘home of our own’ play, both in defining the crisis and proposing solutions? In this seminar three eminent scholars consider the housing crisis, in the context of both past and present, and reflect on the implications for Australia’s future in the longer term.
Prof. Janet McCalman (The University of Melbourne)
The lure of migration to an Anglophone settler colony was the chance to own land—a farm of course, but for most it was urban, residential land. Migrants, whose families had been tenants for generations, could now become landlords, and if they lived off rents, gentlemen and ladies.
The easiest way then and still, to make money, is to buy property, which, even if unimproved, would make you a profit in time.
The changing expectations and fortunes of the landlord class in Australian cities, have determined the availability and quality of affordable housing. And the great divide in this country—the fundamental class conflict—is between those who own land, and those who don’t. To come to grips with the housing crisis afflicting us, especially the young, we need to think about landlords and how they got us here. And in doing that, see some remedies and incentives to open housing to the next generation.
Janet McCalman AC is the author of four award-winning social histories and remains fascinated by the interplay between private life and the public course of history.
Prof. Anne O’Brien (The University of NSW)
Blind spots and paradoxes in housing history
Journalists and advocates have been framing homelessness as a ‘crisis’ for well over a decade, but more recently the language of crisis has come to embrace housing. This paper historicises Australia’s current housing crisis, identifying the subjects of previous crises, and asking how and why homelessness emerged as a ‘problem’ in the post-war years, discrete from the project of ‘housing the nation’. Drawing out the blind spots and paradoxes that past crises illuminate, the paper suggests how an historical perspective can enrich current conversations.
Anne O’Brien is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of New South Wales. She has written widely on the history of poverty, welfare, gender, religion and Indigenous rights. She is currently completing a history of homelessness and people experiencing homelessness in Australia, from the late 19th century to the present.
Prof. Kath Hulse (Swinburne University)
How did we get here? The rental crisis in Australia
Why do have a rental crisis in Australia in 2023/4. To answer this question, I look at some factors over the last three decades which, cumulatively, have led to this situation. It is a story of the ‘boiling frog’, a metaphor for failing to act despite problematic signs until a crisis is reached by which time conditions are dangerous and difficult to change. It is a tale of misplaced optimism, policy inertia and failure to understand the place of the private rental market in the Australian housing system.
Kath Hulse is Emeritus Professor of Housing Studies at Swinburne University of Technology. Her work explores the relationship between the political economy of welfare and housing systems, drawing on her background in social policy, urban and regional planning, and public policy. She researches and publishes on a broad range of contemporary issues which currently include housing market dynamics, growth and change in private renting, access to home ownership, spatial patterns of socio-economic disadvantage and inequalities in income and wealth. Prior to her academic career, Kath worked as a senior executive in policy, planning and operations in government and also has extensive experience as a Director on the board of not for profit companies.
The seminar is part of an ongoing series, Making Public Histories, that is offered jointly by the Monash University History Program, the History Council of Victoria and the Old Treasury Building. Each seminar aims to explore issues and approaches in making public histories. The seminars are open, free of charge, to anyone interested in the creation and impact of history in contemporary society. Click HERE to learn about other events in the series.
Posted by on July 18, 2023