Evaluation and learning in public housing urban renewal

Christian Nygaard, Simon Pinnegar, Elizabeth Taylor, Iris Levin, Rachel Maguire

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4 Citations (Scopus)


This report analyses how evaluation and learning from public housing renewal is informing policy development and delivery to maximise financial returns and socio-economic outcomes. The research was conducted pre-COVID-19. • Public housing renewal provides an opportunity for policy makers to give direction to urban reconfiguration processes. Since the 2000s public housing renewal has increasingly become part of a policy discourse that places emphasis on 'unlocking' under-utilised sites (i.e. public housing estates) for jobs, investment and urban renewal. In this intersection with urban renewal processes, mixed-tenure public housing renewal, in practice, becomes public housing urban renewal. • This research highlights a consistency of views across stakeholders (often on pragmatic grounds) regarding 'how public housing renewal works'. It is thus possible to conceptualise learning and evaluation in public housing renewal policy-making within an advocacy coalition framework (ACF). • An ACF framework focuses on the alignment of the beliefs, actions and interest of a range of stakeholders with respect to how policies work, or can work. Our use of the ACF is grounded in a consistency of views about 'how public housing renewal works', given the prevailing institutional and financial constraints, and the implication of this for the role of evaluation and learning, rather than any suggestion of a formal or informal actual coalition, or collusion, in agenda setting or public policy objectives. • Interviewees perceived evaluation to be one of several integral parts to the policy formation process. However, evaluations have frequently been summative, rather than formative in nature. In addition, stakeholders also relied on personal and institutional experience to inform policy development and decision-making. These learning dynamics have, over time, reinforced key aspects of the policy core belief within the advocacy coalition. • The policy core belief guiding public housing urban renewal is characterised by a shared belief in the instrumental role of land values and land value change as a means of reconciling multiple asset- and people-based outcomes, while controlling the cost of public policy to public budgets. Mixed tenure, housing density and the strategic leveraging of land are policies that also extract land value for public housing reinvestment and other public policy goals. • The central role of land and land value has raised concerns amongst tenants, groups external to the advocacy coalition, but also some of the interviewees that public housing renewal is increasingly driven by asset-based viability considerations and reduced government exposure to risk. While risk related to physical reconfiguration (public housing stock renewal) in this respect is reduced, other objectives (such as wider social and economic benefits for tenants) increasingly become shaped by - rather than shaping urban reconfiguration processes. • Core members of the public housing renewal advocacy coalition are state governments and private developers. Additional members are (in some cases) community housing providers (CHPs) and local governments. Policy formation within advocacy coalitions is shaped by multiple factors. This includes evaluations, but also reacting to external events and internal stakeholder dynamics. • In the contextual analysis in this research, change in relative income is used as an indicator of social and economic reconfiguration. Apart from Adelaide, census collection districts (CCD) subject to public housing renewal experienced little improvement in relative income status (1996-2016). • Citywide drivers (such as economic restructuring, urban sprawl containment, population growth) and neighbourhood drivers (such as economic obsolescence, relative incomes) are specific drivers of social and economic reconfiguration. These are evident in all three capital cities, leading to the potential to 'unlock' value through mixed tenure and public housing renewal. • Policy options exist that can unlock more inclusive conceptualisations of value, and shift the reliance on land value in the program logic of public housing renewal. The design of public housing renewal tenders, and strategies for implementation, offer considerable opportunity for policy experimentation; identification and evaluation of assumed causal relationships and benefits. A social infrastructure perspective provides a framework for 'unlocking' additional and renewal project-specific values. A number of tools already exist to estimate the (equivalent) monetary value of wider social and economic benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-104
Number of pages104
JournalAHURI Final Report
Issue number358
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Evaluation
  • Learning
  • Public housing
  • Social infrastructure
  • Urban renewal

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