Carolyn Whitzman believes affordable housing has the power to save lives.
Recalling the story of a once homeless woman whose new home freed her from a deep depression and thoughts of suicide. “Just having a safe and secure place to live saved her,” says Whitzman, a professor at the University’s Melbourne School of Design. Whitzman is passionate about developing housing policies that will help communities thrive.
It’s a big challenge. Due to Australia’s rapid population growth, the country’s major cities will soon start bursting at the seams, with skyrocketing house prices and rents making urban living increasingly unaffordable for disadvantaged families.
Whitzman says the answer lies in collaboration between the academic and private sectors and government. That’s why she formed the Transforming Housing project, an interdisciplinary group of researchers, developers, community organisers, planners and government figures, aimed at driving efforts to increase and improve affordable housing.
The project’s major funding partners include the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, the City of Melbourne, Launch Housing, the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Melbourne Social Equity Institute at the University of Melbourne.
Affordable housing is just an absolute human need, the question is how can we collectively meet that need.
Whitzman says the group has also been working with the Victorian Government on developing its forthcoming affordable housing strategy. “We will then work with local governments, developers, community housing and investors to help support that strategy,” she says.
This year, the Transforming Housing project will release three major policy briefs intended to help non-profit organisations and city planners have productive conversations with property developers.
“Our goal is to draw on the expertise that we have with the University, then put it in the hands of the people who are on the ground.”