The recently-released Housing Locally report presents the outcomes of a survey of Australian local councils about their attitudes, programs and actions for housing. It shows that while many local councils recognise the dire need for affordable housing, they often feel powerless to help.

Out of the nation’s 546 councils, just over 200 (approximately 40 percent) responded to the survey.

Overall, the survey found that the majority of responding councils agree that they should have a role in responding to housing concerns but they often struggle to make an impact due to a lack of leadership from the state and federal governments.

Other findings include:

  • There was a high degree of awareness of housing affordability challenges across Australia but this doesn’t necessarily make it a high priority for councils due to the view that higher tiers of government have more responsibility and fiscal capacity
  • The planning system was recognised as an important tool in providing affordable housing, but local governments felt more could be done to improve the effectiveness of the planning system, including the processes of urban regeneration
  • Approximately 55 percent of respondents reported that their local government has a housing strategy, policy or plan
  • Local governments did not identify immigration as an issue of concern for their housing markets
  • Few local governments set specific housing affordability targets for their council area
  • Many local governments have an involvement in housing markets – for example, funding support services – that extend beyond their legislated minimum obligations
  • Some local governments expressed concern about the impacts of urban sprawl, with a much smaller percentage voicing questions around the impact of higher density living on families and communities
  • Limited resources are seen to be the biggest impediment to addressing housing affordability at the local government level
  • There was limited recognition of overcrowding as an issue within the Australian housing stock, despite this being the most common form of homelessness in the country

There were some significant differences between metropolitan and non-metropolitan regions with respect to housing. Whereas high rates of population growth and unaffordable housing is often the pressing issue in the major cities, elsewhere local governments take action to encourage population growth and the viability of their housing markets. These large-scale differences in housing challenges mean that local governments need to deploy highly differentiated approaches to ensure the sustainability of their housing markets.