Housing affordability and environmental sustainability: what is the right thing to do?

Meyrick, B 2013, Housing affordability and environmental sustainability: what is the right thing to do?, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global, Urban Studies and Planning, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Housing affordability and environmental sustainability: what is the right thing to do?
Author(s) Meyrick, B
Year 2013
Abstract In the 2007 Australian federal election campaign, then Opposition leader Kevin Rudd denounced the threat of climate change as the greatest moral, economic and social challenge facing our generation. Taking steps to address climate change is likely to require changes to how we are housed, including how housing is designed, constructed, and how it is used. Yet, whether it is celebrated as the ‘great Australian dream’ and Australia as a ‘home owning democracy’ or derided as ‘the great Australian nightmare’ or the ‘great Australian ugliness’, how people are housed, and private home ownership in particular, holds an elevated and almost folkloric status in Australian policy and narratives of Australian national identity. This thesis explores the tensions that thus arise in policy debate over housing affordability and climate change, as presented in Australian housing and environmental policy. It casts these tensions as problems for social justice, and questions what Australian governments should do with respect to housing, affordability and climate change. Its theoretical foundation is drawn from the work of the late American political philosopher John Rawls and his rights-based Justice as Fairness theory, as well as that of Amartya Sen and Michael Sandel. This literature provides both substantive principles of justice against which to assess the various claims about what is at stake and who matters that have arisen in Australian policy debate over housing and climate change. At the same time, a core theme for Rawls, Sen and Sandel is that determining what is just, involves evaluation of the process of public reasoning, which gives voice and legitimacy to these claims and principles in the first place. The thesis argues that housing affordability is the dominant paradigm in Australian housing policy, which casts what matters about housing as its cost. This economistic paradigm not only conceals a range of other claims about what is important when it comes to how people are housed, but is also an inadequate basis for making judgements about justice. What is required, it argues, is a process of public reasoning in which citizens are encouraged to act on behalf of and are stewards of the better interests of others who cannot do the same in return. As such, the contribution of this thesis is not an account of what particular policy setting is more or less just. Rather, it offers a proposal for how we might think differently about housing as a policy problem, as well as insights into what answers this different approach may yield.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global, Urban Studies and Planning
Keyword(s) Housing
climate change
environmental sustainability
social justice
distributive justice
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Created: Thu, 13 Feb 2014, 10:51:39 EST by Brett Fenton
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