Integrated Communities: Australian Unity and Summer Foundation

Australia is experiencing a dire social infrastructure gap in housing and services with government expenditure on housing increasing only 1% between 2011 – 2018.  2011 Australian of the Year and Chair of Summer Housing Simon McKeon and a panel of leading experts from government, industry and the research sectors discussed what can be done. 

On Wednesday 3 July Australian Unity and Summer Foundation shared their models and thoughts for addressing the current social infrastructure gap in housing.  

The event kicked off with two keynote speakers, Simon McKeon AO, Chair – Summer Housing, Chancellor – Monash University and Beverly Smith, Executive General Manager Residential Communities. Simon shared the innovative market-based approach adopted by Summer Housing to deliver housing for Australians with disabilities forced into aged care facilities. He pointed to a recent article in The Age which showed public housing expenditure increased by only 1% whilst other infrastructure spending had increased by a least 25% between 2011 – 2018 as a symptom of the challenge in housing. Beverly, on behalf of Australian Unity, presented the ‘Better Together’ promise which seeks to create a humanised approach to housing for ageing Australians. Both speakers emphasised the importance of building housing that was integrated into communities, adopted innovative approaches and was close to amenities. 

In the panel discussion which followed, Simon McKeon, Simon Phemister, Secretary - DJPR, Ryan Banting, Head of Social Infrastructure – Australian Unity and Associate Professor Rebecca Bentley from Melbourne University observed that there is a need to shift the conversation about housing to a dialogue which encompasses the social and economic benefits of housing projects, to ensure it is treated as essential infrastructure spending. The importance of ensuring amenity and jobs around housing which is affordable was also extensively discussed by the panel. 

Committee for Melbourne will be working with Australian Unity and Summer Foundation to produce a policy paper based on this conversation which we will share with members.  We also encourage members to contact us if they are interested in reviewing our draft housing report. If you wish to know more or have any questions please contact David Prior.