Affordable housing, urban renewal and planning: Emerging practice in Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales

Gethin Davison*, Nicole Gurran, Ryan Van Den Nouwelant, Simon Pinnegar, Bill Randolph

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


This report reviews and compares emerging approaches to planning for affordable housing in Australia, with a focus on models being applied in urban renewal contexts in Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney. The report examines the factors that shaped the design and introduction of these models, their effectiveness to date, their integration with other available affordable housing policies, incentives and subsidies, and the potential for them to be made more effective. The research presented here was funded by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) and the City of Sydney Council. Policy context for the study: Delivering affordable housing in urban renewal contexts is one of the key urban growth management challenges facing policy makers in Australian cities. As metropolitan planning has increasingly stressed the need to contain population growth within established urban areas at higher densities, infill development and urban renewal have become important vehicles for new housing supply. However, there are some major challenges associated with affordable housing provision in urban renewal contexts. Renewal processes themselves can bring about the displacement of existing residents as lower-cost housing is lost to redevelopment, stimulating or advancing gentrification. In higher value markets, land values and the costs associated with site assembly and remediation can also increase overall development costs, making the delivery of affordable housing more challenging. Emerging approaches to planning for affordable housing in Australia: In response to these challenges, there has been increasing use of the planning system to secure affordable housing in Australia in recent years, through a variety of voluntary incentives and mandatory schemes, in the context of the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) (COAG 2009), and new Commonwealth imperatives to address housing affordability in capital city strategic plans (COAG Reform Council 2009). These initiatives can be categorised as: → housing supply levers, designed to generate new housing development opportunities by releasing sites for residential development → barrier reduction strategies to overcome regulatory constraints to developing affordable or diverse homes → preserving and offsetting the loss of low-cost housing → incentives to encourage new affordable housing to be built by the private sector (with or without subsidy) → levers for securing dedicated affordable housing in new development. (Gurran, Milligan et al. 2008) Across ACT, WA and NT, targets for affordable housing inclusion in new residential release areas have been introduced or foreshadowed, while in NSW and Qld, the focus of planning initiatives for affordable housing has been on existing urban areas. In SA, practice is mixed, with dual approaches applying across all new development and redevelopment settings, in the context of a state-wide affordable housing target of 15 per cent. Approaches to planning for affordable housing in urban renewal contexts are currently most advanced in Qld, SA and NSW. Queensland: The Queensland Government has pursued site-specific affordable housing initiatives in recent years under the auspices of its Urban Land Development Authority (ULDA), established in 2007. The ULDA has applied a combination of land supply, barrier reduction, affordable housing incentivisation and inclusionary zoning to large renewal sites in Brisbane. South Australia: In 2006, landmark amendments to South Australia's Development Act 1993 enabled local plans to include provisions for affordable housing. This operationalised a state affordable housing target announced in 2005, for achieving 15 per cent affordable housing in new development areas, including 5 per cent high needs housing. The planning provisions were initially restricted to the redevelopment of government sites, but are increasingly applied when major new residential areas are released or rezoned to allow higher density development. New South Wales: The government introduced State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) (Affordable Rental Housing) in 2009, incorporating a number of existing provisions relating to retention or provision of low-cost or special needs housing, as well as some measures to encourage affordable housing development, including a streamlined planning process and density bonuses. The City of Sydney has also sought to secure affordable housing on urban renewal sites through inclusionary zoning and negotiated planning agreements. Research approach: Within this evolving policy environment, this research aimed to review and assess emerging approaches to affordable housing inclusion in urban renewal areas, focusing on examples from Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane. The specific questions guiding the research were: 1. What is the current state of Australian practice in planning for affordable housing inclusion within urban renewal contexts? 2. What factors impact on the translation of planning led incentives that have been used to generate affordable housing supply within renewal areas of Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney? 3. What is the relative effectiveness of these various approaches to planning for affordable housing? 4. How do these approaches integrate with other Commonwealth, state or local investments or subsidies for affordable housing and how might they do this better? 5. What are the policy implications in terms of more effective outcomes through better integration of planning and housing policy in urban renewal contexts and more widely? Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane were selected for the study because each offered potential to review approaches that: → are specifically applicable to urban renewal contexts → demonstrate the use of different planning levers → are already in place, so offer some opportunity for reviewing outcomes achieved to date. In each city, a series of case study schemes were identified to allow detailed assessment of each approach in practice, as well as their development outcomes. Following a comprehensive scoping exercise across the three states, the following case studies were selected for the study: → Brisbane: Northshore Hamilton, Bowen Hills and Woolloongabba Urban Development Areas. → Adelaide: Cheltenham Racecourse, Woodville West and Bowden. → Sydney: Harold Park, Telopea and Ermington. Once the case studies had been selected, the team used a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods to address the research questions. Literature and practice in planning for affordable housing was reviewed and semi-structured interviews were undertaken with local and state government officials, for-profit and not-for-profit (NFP) developers and special interest groups in each city. The team also analysed quantitative and qualitative data on case study scheme outcomes to date (dwellings delivered, type, financing etc.). Key findings: Australian practice in planning for affordable housing: The review of national practice found that: → Most Australian jurisdictions have introduced specific planning initiatives for affordable housing since 2008. Nationally, there is a focus on supporting the growth of a new affordable housing sector and the potential role of the planning system in facilitating access to development opportunities for affordable housing providers. → There is increasing use of government land or development authorities to facilitate land for housing supply in urban renewal contexts, with varying levels of mandate for including dedicated affordable housing for low and moderate income earners as well as wider affordabibility goals. → At least three jurisdictions (NSW, Qld & SA) have introduced planning system incentives or bonuses to encourage affordable housing development, and this is foreshadowed in Western Australia (Housing WA 2010). → Five of the eight Australian states and territories refer to affordable housing, or housing diversity in their overarching planning legislation, opening the door for affordable housing to be considered when plans are made and proposals assessed, although further work is needed to operationalise specific planning mechanisms in most instances. → Nationwide, this study has identified at least 20 specific urban renewal sites on which the planning system has contributed to the procurement of affordable housing for low and moderate income earners to rent or purchase. In NSW, a total of 3964 affordable dwellings have been delivered in urban renewal contexts through the planning system from 1995-2012, and schemes in Qld and SA have been steadily gaining traction. New models identified in this practice review appear to be achieving far more than what might be termed Australia's "first generation" affordable housing schemes, which for the most part have simply provided a modest revenue for affordable housing development funds via specific development contribution requirements. Rather, the new models ensure that: → Affordable housing is well located and integrated within the overall development process. → Affordable housing products are generally more diverse (across the spectrum of low-cost home ownership through to subsidised social housing), which require varying levels of additional subsidy to meet the needs of target groups. → The planning process is contributing to the overall strategy of supporting and growing Australia's affordable housing sector. Design and Implementation: Analysis of individual schemes in renewal areas of Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney highlighted several design and implementation factors that may influence the delivery of affordable housing for low and moderate income households.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAHURI Final Report
Issue number195
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2012, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute. All rights reserved.


  • Affordable housing
  • Emerging practise
  • Planning
  • Urban renewal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Urban Studies
  • Public Administration


Dive into the research topics of 'Affordable housing, urban renewal and planning: Emerging practice in Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this