Overcrowded housing looms as a challenge for our cities


Shanaka Herath, SMART Infrastructure Facility at University of Wollongong and Rebecca Bentley, University of Melbourne

Overcrowding is an inevitable and often overlooked result of the affordable housing shortage in our cities.

When a dwelling requires four or more extra bedrooms to reasonably accommodate occupants, the standard commonly used in Australia defines that as severe overcrowding. In 2011, 41,390 Australians lived in severely overcrowded dwellings, an increase of one-third from 2006. This increase occurred mostly in cities where house prices had risen sharply.

Our recent research, to be published soon, examined where overcrowded housing is located in our capital cities. We found:

  • Sydney and Melbourne are most affected by concentrated overcrowding
  • levels of overcrowding are highest in middle-city areas (except in Adelaide)
  • overcrowding overlaps strongly with socioeconomic disadvantage. Continue reading

Beggar bowl politics blocks Federation’s potential

This article was originally published in The Conversation by Garry Bowditch.

Calls to lift the GST rate to placate the states financial challenges will serve to only exacerbate an already severe vertical fiscal imbalance and prolong a deeply unsatisfactory chapter in Australia’s Federation.

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The budget will be big on infrastructure, but we need more than just roads

By Garry Bowditch.

The Abbott government is preparing to give Sydney’s WestConnex road project a A$2 billion boost in this week’s federal budget, part of a broader $10 billion infrastructure package aimed at boosting productivity and private sector investment.

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How to attract foreign firms to do Australian infrastructure

By Garry Bowditch

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Australia’s two biggest construction companies, Leighton and Lend Lease, control a significant share of construction – up to 75% in cases such as major rail projects.

The recent Productivity Commission draft report on public infrastructure found their combined “market shares would appear sufficient to allow them to exercise market power to inflate prices and/or profits”.

At the same time, the Commission noted that no evidence exists to support such a proposition. A more important unanswered question remains – what conditions are necessary to attract foreign firms to help Australia deliver cheaper, faster and better infrastructure?

Looking abroad for solutions can solve some problems, but in the case of infrastructure, Australia must first do some necessary and overdue housekeeping before multinational construction companies would be interested in pursuing a long-term presence in the country.

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Hockey attacks ‘corporate and middle class welfare’ as he outlines G20 agenda

In this article in The Conversation, Garry Bowditch argues:

There are a number of factors required to improve the attractiveness of infrastructure as a long-term investment for private funding

These include high design and construction costs, low asset utilisation owing to poor demand management and a reliance on a narrow revenue base such as user charges.

Read the full piece here.

Should users pay the toll for Australia’s infrastructure problem?

Garry Bowditch writes for The Conversation:

By Garry Bowditch

Australia spends more on infrastructure today than at any stage in its history. Yet governments are unable to meet demand and don’t expect ever to do so. What can governments do to keep up with escalating demand and community expectations for infrastructure?

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Australia’s Infrastructure Cost Conundrum

Garry Bowditch writes for The Conversation:

Infrastructure is about the long-term growth and prosperity of a nation, but Australia will get very little of this benefit if the cost of building it continues to rapidly escalate.

Australia is becoming increasingly uncompetitive in design and delivery of major projects. This is an unacceptable situation, and a newly commissioned multi-state inquiry by the SMART Infrastructure Facility will identify the key causes and make recommendations to help secure better value for taxpayers’ money.
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Don’t wait for science to ‘settle’; decide what society needs

SMART Infrastructure Professorial Fellow Prof. Graham Harris writes in The Conversation:

If you listen to the debate between science and society in most of the West, you get one version or another of the linear model. Science comes first. When it is “settled”, society will know what to do. This is as true in the climate debate as it is in innovation. First comes the “breakthrough” and then the widget gets commercialised. Much of the economic development of the West has been driven by this “knowledge based” worldview.

It worked quite well when the problems were simple and the benefits easily captured – from steam engines to early antibiotics – but the world is changing. Now, the interaction between society, the economy and the environment is much more complex and recursive. Growth and development have changed the world and knowledge of that change is, in turn, changing our response. Knowledge and society interact.

Read the full article.

Apocalypse Not: doomsday thinkers of Oz should get out more

SMART Infrastructure Professorial Fellow Prof. Graham Harris writes in The Conversation:

I sometimes wonder what planet this country of ours is on. The environmental debate we are having seems to be in a parallel universe to the rest of the world. Having spent the last four years running one of Europe’s biggest environmental research laboratories, the Lancaster Environment Centre, I find Australia strangely out of kilter.

All I hear here is apocalyptic gloom and doom: either the planet is done for if we don’t act, or the economy is done for if we do! We have a highly polarised debate and even more polarised reporting; with too much hand-wringing and head-banging but too little rational discussion or consultation about what actually to do. Doing nothing isn’t an option.

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Ecology is failing and needs to be freed from our limitations

SMART Infrastructure Professorial Fellow Prof. Graham Harris writes in The Conversation:

The splendour of nature diminishes day by day despite the strenuous efforts of ecologists and all manner of scientific understandings and interventions. Biodiversity is in decline, and crucial resources become ever scarcer. Meanwhile the human population continues to rise, as do atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and long-term global temperatures.

Governments, corporations, and community groups all over the world invest in conservation and restoration programmes, but to depressingly little end. Obviously far more could be spent and far more could be done, but that would be no guarantee of success – not when our very approach to ecology is fundamentally flawed and wrong-headed.

Read the full article.