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  • Lisa Dewberry

Sydney's affordable housing ideas competition could change world housing

Seven entrants have been shortlisted in the City of Sydney Alternative Housing Ideas Challenge which aims to bring global attention to the issue of increasing alternative and affordable housing supply across the city. About 230 people entered the international competition which was open from April to May 2019 to anyone interested in innovation in the housing sector.

What did entrants need to do?

Candidates needed to show innovative housing ideas in at least two areas of either planning, design, ownership, tenancy, management, construction, urban land supply or financing. The challenge saw everyone from property professionals ro planners, designers, researchers and students give ideas. An independent jury selected the seven shortlisted proposals.

They will receive funding to further develop their idea over the next five months. This could help shape Sydney and the world’s approach to housing in future. The shortlisted candidates used housing approaches including new design and delivery methods, innovative financing and ownership options, creative use of space, smart data systems and pop-up housing in unused buildings.

What are the top seven concepts?

* Housing that monitors its’ residents and collects data. The sale of data offsets the cost of housing for occupants providing an affordable housing option for residents in urban neighbourhoods.

* An equity housing model that gives unique finance and ownership types with a mix of lifetime leases in a flexible rental model for moderate to low income earners.

* A community land trust policy that provides permanent housing affordability through alternative housing and development models by community stewardship. This concept focusses on the fact that housing and equity are not design issues, but rather land issues.

* The repurposing of buildings to provide short to medium term crisis and transitional accommodation. Thousands of buildings across cities stand vacant and could be repurposed for minimal cost and used for short-term shelter.

* A model allowing residents to adapt the size and function of their property as circumstances change. It supports DIY renovations to improve home performance and makes it possible for other people to stay in the owner’s dwelling. Downsizing is an option rather than moving house.

* A model of build to rent housing with the potential to shape housing supply by providing a ‘third way’ between renting and owning. Projects would be developed and financed through member equity, low-interest loans and commercial mortgages. It gives greater rental security for residents while locking in below market rent.

* An approach based on a 16 square metre single private room, bathroom and storage area located around shared communal living areas called a pixel. A collection of pixels is an alternative to smaller self-contained homes. A pixel could cost around 30% of annual income with the dwelling located on a site subject to a 100 year land lease held by a company. People can buy shares in the company with the land lease enabling them to scale up or down the number of pixels their household occupies.

What happens next?

Stage 2 of the competition is the proposal development and is taking place from 19 June to 15 November 2019. Once this is complete, Stage 3 of the competition takes place where the public will be able to give feedback on the short-listed concepts in November and December. It is anticipated that these projects will be able to be replicated, scaled and offer lessons for future initiatives.

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