The key to improving housing affordability may be “disruptive” thinking, according to RMIT researcher Dr Andrea Sharam.
Housing costs, including both purchase and rental, are at crisis levels - which is why Sharam is approaching the problem from a fresh perspective.
The senior lecturer at RMIT’s School of Property, Construction and Project Management has a research grant from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute to investigate disruption in the property market.
“I’m taking a very different approach to property. It’s a conceptual and theoretical look at how housing market ‘design’ could change,” Sharam said.
As part of the project, Sharam is investigating how “two-sided matching markets” could ease housing supply and affordability pressures.
Airbnb and Uber are notable for being two-sided matching markets and “disrupting” traditional markets. Each aggregates players on both sides of the market to match supply and demand more efficiently.
While two-sided matching markets are far from new, Sharam says the internet enables vastly more efficient matching and is driving change.
The question is “how can we apply the lessons of Uber and Airbnb to housing? I can foresee private rental being disrupted and apartment development being disrupted because these are not efficient markets currently”.
Sharam is also eager to investigate new models of tenure and ownership.
“Putting housing consumers in control rather than investors and developers will change our cities for the better,” she said.
“Affordable housing is central to our wellbeing and for access to opportunities.
“A key aim of my research is to provide aspiring homeowners the opportunity to develop affordable, quality, sustainable apartments for themselves as a part of cooperatives or syndicates that cut out speculative developers.”
Sharam originally studied a Graduate Diploma in Planning, Policy and Landscape at RMIT while working for a community organisation that was heavily involved in planning and policy issues.
She chose RMIT “because of the community engagement of its academics”.
“I was learning a lot from them outside of the university, so I had confidence that their formal teaching would be relevant and beneficial.”
Story: Jane Kenrick