Architects push for $4bn First Nations housing boost

The Australian Institute of Architects has called for the acceleration of First Nations housing development to keep pace with the Closing The Gap initiatives.

The nation’s peak body for the architectural profession, representing more than 14,500 members, said an additional $4 billion investment should go to the Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) for a specific $4bn fund for First Nations codesigned social housing.

In its submission to the 2024 Australian Government Budget, the Institute proposed the First Nations-specific funding should be within an additional $10bn of social and affordable housing to double HAFF’s investment pool.

The Institute’s National President Stuart Tanner said the Productivity Commission’s recent Review on Closing the Gap highlighted the fundamental changes required on housing delivery and policy.

“Australia needs better and more culturally appropriate housing for our First Nations people,” Mr Tanner said. “A codesign process together with First Nations peoples can support communities to build and maintain housing and local economies through construction and skills development.”

He said the needs of First Nations Australians should be prioritised to overcome the current failing of one in five dwellings inhabited by Indigenous people not meeting an acceptable standard, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The Institute believes better outcomes for First Nations peoples through projects and initiatives will come from codesign and local collaboration.

Broadly, the Institute said the Australian Government’s initial $10bn investment in the HAFF last year was welcomed but insufficient to meet the real and growing need for social housing.

“A safe, secure and sustainable home has become out of reach for many households,” Mr Tanner said. “We need to increase the supply of housing to change the dynamics and provide the human right of shelter to all Australians.

“This is a core role of the government, which rightly established the HAFF to reinstate appropriate funding for social and affordable housing and meet community needs.”

The Institute has set out a comprehensive pre-Budget submission to the Australian Government that also seeks energy efficiency, decarbonisation of construction, accessibility and greater design oversight for housing and the built environment.

It states social and affordable housing should be overseen by design professionals to ensure dwellings are liveable, to budget and minimise costs, with minimum standards for HAFF-funded housing conditional on development approval by multi-disciplinary design review panels, a minimum 8-Star energy efficiency standard, no gas appliances and design by an architect.

Further, pre-approved architect designs to meet quality, light, airflow, energy and other requirements – subject to proper orientation and implementation – could enable faster approvals and cost reductions.

The Institute has sought a national competition to commission such designs in a social housing “pattern book”.

The Institute has recommended a fund seeded with $500 million to enable net zero building materials research, assist universities and TAFE sectors to commercialise such products, and support local manufacturing, in a bid to accelerate low carbon buildings.

Further, a $50m advance for targeted professional development and skills training in energy efficiency and condensation mitigation and a $10m plan to research and develop guidelines for adaptive reuse and retrofitting of government buildings could support decarbonisation and landfill waste.

Improved data collection and risk maps for climate change should also be a priority. Funding for gender inclusion and equity, as well as practical design requirements to improve accessibility for people living with disabilities has also been requested by the Institute.

Summary of recommendations

Aim Recommendation
Designing and delivering low carbon buildings Invest $50 million for targeted professional development and skills training across a range of disciplines in energy efficiency and condensation mitigation.

Invest in a $500 million fund to:
• fund net zero building materials research
• assist the University and TAFE sectors to commercialise their research into net zero building materials
• support the investment required for the local manufacture of net zero building materials.

Invest $10 million to research and develop a specific design guideline to promote adaptive re-use and retrofitting of existing government buildings to reduce carbon emissions and landfill waste.
Critical data for climate change adaptation Invest $50 million to fund the Australian Climate Service to develop Improved national datasets and detailed maps of natural disaster and climate-related events risks across Australia.
Housing as a priority Invest $4 billion over four years to 2028 to fund a co-designed national housing deal with First Nations communities, delivering 8,000 new indigenous social housing dwellings.

Housing Australia to be tasked with developing a database on suitable and available Federal Government land that can be earmarked for new housing.

Fund an additional investment of $10 billion in the Housing Australia Future Fund.

Ensure Housing Australia funding is conditional upon:
• Development approval by multi-disciplinary design review panels
• Minimum 8 Star energy efficiency standard
• No gas appliances
• Design by an architect.

Housing Australia fund $10 million to commission a social housing pattern book via a design competition.
Ensure Australia has a diverse and experienced architect workforce in 2030 Invest $120 million in diversity, inclusion and equity training.

Invest $500 million over 5 years to fix the gender pay gap, improve the representation of women in design and construction, and retain female participation in the design and construction workforce.

Invest $50 million over 5 years in education to encourage First Nations Australians to embark on a career in built environment design through courses in planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design.
Make public buildings accessible for people with disabilities Commit funding of $150 million over three years for a national accessibility upgrade program to retrofit existing public use and community buildings.

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