Thinking Outside The Box In Designing Affordable Housing


Housing affordability is one of the biggest problems in Australia. 

Consequently, a new exhibition at the University of Sydney that opened on October 6 will look at housing projects from around the world, which could provide solutions to reducing the cost of housing.

The exhibition, Designing Affordability: Quicker, Smarter, More Efficient Housing Now, presents more than 20 case studies of houses and apartments internationally, alongside exemplary housing projects in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

“It has been interesting to learn that Sydneysiders are experiencing many of the same issues as New Yorkers where, simply put, development costs are exceeding what most people’s budgets can afford,” said exhibition curator Marc Norman.

Sydney’s housing to income ratio makes it one of the most expensive cities in the world, with housing prices on par with New York.

“A goal of the exhibition is to look at innovative designs for affordable housing, but also look at the broader issue of housing affordability for housing types and populations," said Mr Norman.

“The best solutions are those projects where design, finance and housing policy are working in unison and creating replicable models for tackling the housing crisis."

Through case studies, the exhibition shows how architects, engineers, planners, policy makers, tenants and homeowners are crafting new ways to reduce project costs by rethinking how to build and maintain houses, in addition to rethinking the way people live.

From reimagining public housing models, leveraging land and building incrementally, to reconsidering the home and deploying technology, the exhibition looks at different approaches to reducing housing costs.


University of Sydney Associate Professor Mathew Aitchison said the most striking aspect of the projects in the exhibition is the breaking of conventional boundaries of architecture, planning, property development, finance and construction.

"It shows a brave, optimistic, inclusive and wide-ranging attitude to innovate, experiment and improve housing solutions," he said.

The case studies feature varied solutions for a range of housing types from large, publicly-owned housing projects typical during the 1920s through to the 1970s, to privately-owned multifamily buildings, micro units and row homes.

The case studies are also expected to reveal innovative models that integrate sharing, communal facilities and economic development opportunities, and show a behind-the-scenes look at how major portions of government land are under used, valued and developed.

The exhibition will also highlight new breakthroughs in technology that produce hyper-efficient, ‘smart’ apartments that can make city living more affordable, productive and adaptable to lifestyles.


exhibition will run until November 18.

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