The value of social housing developments in Australia is complex and goes beyond standard business cases commonly applied to other infrastructure such as road or rail, a new report has found.

In the latest report undertaken for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, researchers from RMIT investigated a range of business case frameworks for funding of social housing with the aim of developing stronger analytical methodologies.

It found that many previous analyses based around cost-benefit considerations either focused on specific benefits arising out of housing or omitted flow-on benefits which are not readily quantifiable in financial terms.

These include well-being, security of tenure and social inclusion.

Where cost-benefit analysis is used, the research found that several questions need to be answered in order to establish a framework around which the analysis can be conducted.

These include whether or not specific social housing supply provides a better outcome than rental subsidies, where the social housing project should be located, which combination of housing types and built forms (apartments, stand alone houses, townhouses etc.) should be delivered and what benefits to which groups would be provided as a result of the new housing.

As well, the research found that alternatives to cost benefit analysis also exist.

One approach, known as ‘avoided cost’, estimates whole of government savings in terms of health, justice and social services which occur when those at risk of homelessness are provided with housing.

Another method known as ‘housing adjusted life years’ considers lack of housing or homelessness to be a public health issue which reduces life expectancy and quality of life.