This paper asks what the role and responsibility of the architect are in the future of housing in Australia. Three decades of neo-liberal and fragmented policies have resulted in a housing crisis in terms of affordability and suitability. By looking back to the Bauhaus we trace a history of the architects' vision of a future of housing and its often hostile political and public reception. Measures proposed by Gropius and Meyer around 'new ways of living', namely the potential of prefabrication, standardisation and industrial reform in particular were received with great criticism. In the Australian context, a century on, the role of the architect in the discourse on the future of housing is astoundingly undervalued and contested. With an ecology of factors contributing to the current capitalist housing free-market – driven by developers, the financial sector, spatial regulation and the market itself (passively accepting a one-fit housing product tailored to the 'nuclear family'), the architects' skill in spatial innovation to solve the aforementioned crisis is seemingly bound.
This paper is based on a research project recently undertaken for the New South Wales Government's Housing Agency, Landcom. Specifically, the research considered how Sydney's housing crisis in affordability (which is most visible) is coupled to a crisis in diversity (which is interrelated but less visible in the public discourse). With the housing industry in Sydney delivering a single product; a standard apartment differentiated only by the presence of one, two, or three bedrooms - the market finds itself unable to accommodate the expanding set of 'family types' now prevalent in contemporary society. Our research addresses this demographic 'diversity gap', identifying those stranded between formal social housing (which they cannot qualify for) and the market itself (which they cannot afford), and simultaneously unpacks how spatial knowledge, while central, is but one contributor in a...