Defining a Housing Strategy and Identifying Objectives

Housing strategies provide a comprehensive framework for responding to population change and housing market trends. Strategies typically combine an evidence base, a policy platform and a series of strategies or measures for implementation and monitoring outcomes. The evidence base identifies housing needs and demand (demographic trends as well as other relevant socio-economic data), the condition of the existing housing stock and future trajectories (in terms of housing type, tenure, costs and market trends). The policy section identifies aims and objectives in relation to local community aspirations as well as objectives that might be set by higher levels of government. The strategy component includes concrete interventions to implement these objectives and measures for monitoring outcomes (Goss and Blackaby 1998; Gurran 2003a).

In concrete terms, local and regional housing strategies can provide a basis for identifying potential sites for new residential development and redevelopment in response to existing and projected housing need, the location, characteristics and capacity of the existing housing stock, and the wider urban and regional policy objectives of the locality. In practice, however, it is often the case that a housing strategy will inform rather than directly drive the process of land use allocation and planning. Housing strategies should coordinate housing responsibilities across all relevant sectors of a local authority and sometimes between local authorities at the regional level. Additionally, the housing strategy can provide an impetus for specific housing projects which respond to defined local or regional needs, in partnership with the development industry, affordable housing providers and other levels of government.

Comprehensive housing strategies combine overarching objectives for a particular region or locality, and set a framework for monitoring and responding to changing community needs. Housing strategies might also respond to particular issues—such as the need to identify new opportunities for residential development in response to forecast economic and population growth, or a desire to provide more diverse housing types. They may be contained within a stand-alone document or be embedded within other local or regional strategies or plans. While there are pros and cons of both the approaches, what is essential is that the two plan documents are consistent.

Consultation with community members, housing providers and the development industry is an important part of the housing strategy development process. This consultation must canvas both the overarching objectives for the strategy as well as the most appropriate strategies for delivery. However, authorities should guard against too much dominance of such consultation by ‘insiders’—existing residents versus potential future residents of a new neighbourhood—or by producers (versus consumers).

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