01 August 2023

MichaelLennon2-web.jpgAmid Australia’s housing crisis that is contributing to significant levels of housing stress particularly among low-income earners, the University of South Australia has appointed its first Chair in Regional Housing and Planning.

Former Managing Director of Housing Choices Australia, Professor Michael Lennon has been a leading figure in housing and planning and joins UniSA with 30 years of experience in senior roles in executive management, governance and policy development.

Prof Lennon, who is also the Deputy Chair of the Federal Government’s Interim National Housing Supply and Affordability Council, has provided high-level counsel to governments across all tiers, regularly leading or providing input to a wide range of inquiries and advisory bodies.

His expertise comes at a time when millions of families are experiencing mortgage stress, spiralling household expenses and a diminishing supply of vacant rental properties.

“Australia has a long-term structural challenge with housing costs and affordability. During and post pandemic this has worsened,” Prof Lennon says.

“Home ownership rates have been falling for more than a decade, fastest among young to middle-aged cohorts. Social housing has been static or in decline. Almost a third of Australians now call the private rental market home, with rental costs escalating way beyond inflation.”

Prof Lennon says for people seeking social housing – public or community – the situation is dire.

“Waiting lists everywhere are counted in years. Major and long-term investment is required, both public and private. This will almost certainly involve new and complex commercial financing,” he says.

“South Australia’s prosperity has long been associated with affordable housing provision. In the regions of the state especially, land and housing has been considered critical infrastructure in the productivity of the state, whether in agriculture, mining, horticulture or manufacturing.

“The regions face new challenges in terms of skills and labour shortages – notwithstanding major capital inflows in new and emerging industries. Housing supply and affordability is cited consistently by industry, local government and regional bodies as a key constraint to growth and prosperity.

“It is in this area, in particular, I hope to make a contribution working with property, finance and development industries as well as government and local government.”

UniSA Business Executive Dean Professor Andrew Beer has congratulated Prof Lennon on his appointment as the Chair in Regional Housing and welcomed him to UniSA.

“This is a difficult time for so many everyday Australians affected by consecutive interest rate hikes and a crippling shortage of affordable housing, particularly in regional areas of our state where vacancy rates are at a low and rent prices have surged,” he says.

“Prof Lennon will provide expertise and informed commentary on regional housing affordability in South Australia and his appointment will be an asset for government, the media and South Australians as a whole.”

Professor Lennon’s appointment builds upon his distinguished career working in government and the private and not-for-profit sectors. He is an internationally experienced CEO and has advised governments at all levels, including as Chair of the South Australian Planning Commission, overseeing the state’s new planning system.

Nationally, Prof Lennon has chaired the Community Housing Industry Association – the peak body in Australia which oversees national community housing. During this period (2016 to 2019), he brought together 170 registered housing associations and all state-based peak bodies under national leadership.

On an international level, Prof Lennon has served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Housing New Zealand Corporation (2000 to 2003) and Chief Executive of the Glasgow Housing Association from 2003 to 2007.  He was the driving force behind the largest transfer of public housing stock in Europe, raising an impressive sum in private funding and establishing a 10-year program of urban renewal.

Media contact: Melissa Keogh, UniSA Media Centre M: +61 403 659 154 E: Melissa.Keogh@unisa.edu.au

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