international housing association

Global goals

HIA’s seat at the IHA table gives us the chance to learn from shared experiences with the wider international building community.


Kristin Brookfield

What became apparent at the latest International Housing Association (IHA) meeting in August is housing affordability is not just a national problem but a global one. 

Across four days in Taipei, Taiwan, HIA – as Australia’s representative of the residential building industry and current IHA chair – met with other member countries to compare economies, industry pain points and solutions. While the majority of members revealed housing affordability was poor within their own countries, a number of home ownership assistance programs were also identified as either being considered or were already rolled out. Many of these schemes focus on improving affordability for groups such as first home buyers and key workers.

Those in attendance for the interim meeting included the US, Canada, Norway, Japan, Taiwan, Myanmar, Ireland, England and Malaysia. In the case of Malaysia, for example, ‘rent to buy’, shared ownership and build-to-rent programs are currently being worked out. Taiwan has committed to a new program for social housing and is considering reverse mortgages for older residents. Ireland and England currently have ‘help to buy’ that provides shared ownership to enter the housing market, while the US and Canada offered details of build-to-rent and other home ownership programs at previous meetings.

international housing association
Vice President of Taiwan, Chen Chien-Jen, speaking at the IHA interim meeting

For the US and Canada, both countries suggested they experience a shortfall of homes every year (around 1 million and 30,000 respectively). This is compounded by an emerging concern that the homes being built are not what, or where, people want them. The IHA flagged this concern with the International Monetary Fund, which has indicated it intends to continue working with the IHA to gather ongoing intelligence on housing issues. 

There are currently seven working groups of which two are chaired by Australia (Building Codes, and Counterfeit and Non-Conforming Building Products). It’s in these groups that much of the activity of the IHA is actioned and progressed. The Housing Affordability Working Group is developing a housing manifesto based on the European experience that will identify why we’re seeing this trend, the types of government actions and policies that negatively impact affordability, and recommendations for reform. Further updates on this are expected to be shared at the next meeting.

Another main agenda point discussed among the member countries was skilled trades – an issue that’s clearly not unique to Australia. What was interesting to hear was an insight from the US experience. Many young Americans are not resonating with the idea that they can ‘be their own boss’ and that instead this is frightening them off from moving into the industry. HIA shared insights from our recent skills summit, and the marketing presentation from Banjo Advertising that suggested potential campaigns could focus on selling the advantages of earning more with a trade and earning a wage sooner than compared to following the path of a university qualification.

Further to this the Skills Trades Working Group presented a package of information that can be used by all member countries to promote the industry as a career choice, which HIA has already begun to adopt. 

IHA’s annual meeting will be held in March in the US. 

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