Home to 1 in 10 Australians, the need for social housing is real.

As the cost of living in Australia continues to rise, more and more Australian’s from all walks of life surprisingly will call social housing home at some stage of their lives. Previously, it was estimated that 10% of Australian’s have relied on the support of social housing facilities in the last 20 years and more recently pre-COVID 19, it has been said that Australia will potentially need to triple its social housing by 2036.

While this figure is confronting, given the current circumstances surrounding COVID 19, as of June 2020, government have confirmed that unemployment rates have jumped to 7.1% and will most likely raise further. The unfortunate reality is that once you combine these factors, inevitably pressure on social housing will too rise exponentially.

The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) conducted a study showing that the groups most likely to continuously live in social housing included females generally with an average age of 60 and most with age pension and disability benefits.  However, the group likely to enter and never return included females with an average age of 50 who reaped unemployment and disability allowances. The other group who entered and usually remained in social housing included refugees and people born overseas with unemployment and disability allowances as the most prevalent government support. More than a quarter of pathways, housed younger Australian’s who were more likely to be Indigenous and served as a transitory measure involving multiple entrances and exits.

Evidently, social housing does more than just provide a home for the elderly, sick and disadvantage people in our society. Given one in four people who enter social housing use it as a launchpad to more stable employment and entering the property market, shows the vital role it has in stabilising lives and raising prosperity.

With this in mind, VIA Architects is excited to be partnering with clients, Tas & Eleni Michaelidis, to help deliver the new Caulfield Community Development located at 1 Bond Street, Caulfield North. Throughout the past 8 years, Tas and Eleni have run the rooming house at this location and have experienced firsthand the needs and requirements their community seek.

In the 2019 City of Glen Eira rooming house strategy plan, the demand for these services continues to grow as affordability in Melbourne steadily rises. Glen Eira has one of the lowest ratios of social housing across Victoria.

Together with our clients, VIA is committed to creating a new benchmark for the Australian Social Housing. Our vision is to provide a unique solution that is environmentally and socially sustainable and economically viable.

40ft shipping containers will be incorporated into the development at Bond Street, an innovative approach initially brought to our attention by our clients, Tas and Eleni. Given their wealth of knowledge within the social housing sector, Tas strongly believes that the use of containers would not only provide an economically viable solution but would allow residents to have their own space; potentially up to 300% more space than a typical 10 m2 room and also prevent the many associated problems which can arise from the use of shared kitchens and bathrooms within these types of facilities. Maintaining budgets and ensuring costs are kept to a minimum during construction provides our clients with the opportunity to not only bring this particular model to market but importantly enables them to essentially provide affordable social housing to those most in need.

Providing a good living experience which incorporated both privacy and a sense of community was at the forefront of our design. We understand that whilst people value their privacy, there is also a need in environments such as these for strong community engagement. To quote one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century. Densie Scott Brown stated, “architecture can’t force people to connect, it can only plan the crossing points, remove barriers, and make the meeting places useful and attractive.”

Over the last decade, energy bills across the nation have increased by 117% and by 2029, Australian households could be paying in excess of $1,000 more than they do today for energy. Therefore, when it comes to our design work, there is a strong focus on sustainability, as we aim to create innovative building designs that lessen the impact of urban development on the environment. Using a combination of energy-efficient technologies and renewable materials allows us to create spaces that seek to preserve the environment whilst also minimising energy costs.

Our goal is to raise the bar and deliver a new standard in Australia for social housing. We seek to better the industry by creating social housing spaces that are visually appealing yet environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. Places in which tenants can feel safe and ultimately allow them the opportunity to live dignified and respectful lives.