Affordable Housing Requires an Affordable Building Solution

July 9, 2020
Affordable Housing Requires an Affordable Building Solution

By: Simon McCarthy

Photo Credits: Modscape

The Australian community is in urgent need of additional social and affordable housing, with a current deficit of 650,000 homes nationally. [1] Victoria will need 6000 new social housing dwellings to be built each year for the next decade to avoid a homelessness crisis, [2] and according to the Victorian branch of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, [3][4] there are currently 50,000 households on the waiting list for affordable housing in Victoria.

A number of steps are being taken to alleviate this situation. Firstly, the Victorian Government is investing almost $500 million to public and community housing to boost construction jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, CBRE estimates that 12,000 units for the nascent build-to-rent sector are at varying stages of completion in Australia.[5]

However, we are clearly not building enough affordable dwellings!

To attract the attention of developers and increase delivery of new houses, we need to make the prospect of developing an affordable housing project attractive, feasible and viable.

By utilising modern methods of construction, we can show how efficient design and predictable construction techniques can reduce the extent of costly delays and variations prevalent with conventional build methods.

Efficient building techniques can best be achieved by using logical, non-complex framing layouts. Repeatable room configurations, prefabricated frames and proprietary bathrooms can remove the costs associated with regular housing solutions, such as the expensive development of site-specific layouts to give each new building its own identity.

Leave the bespoke design of buildings to projects where affordability is not the issue.


The design of permanent modular type building layouts and repetition of building elements on various sites and/or on multiple levels can deliver significant savings in construction cost and provide an achievable approach to resolving the shortage of construction in social and affordable housing.
The assembly of these single or multi-storey buildings using prefabricated, pre-finished volumetric construction (PPVC) and a production line approach, is successfully and increasingly being adopted in Europe, Japan, Singapore and the U.S. The manufacture of these units in a factory environment provides:

  • A production line process to deliver consistency in construction costs and program duration
  • A coordinated sequence of trades to minimise conflicts, delays or variations
  • An economical solution for repeating the floor plan across different sites
  • An audited system for maintaining a measurable high level of quality workmanship
  • Less waste of building material by adopting standardized building elements, and
  • An indoor environment that delivers safe working conditions and reduced extent of delays due to inclement weather.

The adoption of modular housing layouts allow for repeat floor plans to be built on many different sites, and:

  • Reduces the time for design to be refined
  • Reduces time between site purchase and building completion, and
  • Provides an earlier return on investment.

Three to four social and affordable housing developments on standard residential blocks can be completed in 2 years using modular/offsite construction, compared with one to two of the same buildings using conventional construction.

That’s a minimum 50% increase in efficiency!

At Sensum, we will constantly challenge and create new and improved ways to positively impact people’s lives and their communities.

Sensum are making a difference in the construction industry by transforming the way projects are designed and delivered. We have unmatched experience in the design and delivery of buildings that use offsite construction methods in Australia. We practice continued professional development to offer best-practice approach to our clients and to ensure our advice meets current industry standards and regulations.

If you would like to discuss the adoption of methods raised in the article above, please contact us at:



  1. Urban Developer – Social Housing Fund to Deliver 2,200 units 15 May 2020
  2. 10 year plan by the Affordable Housing Industry Advisory Group
  3. Victorian branch of the Urban Development Institute of Australia
  4. Herald Sun 26 June 2020 (alanah.frost@news.com.au – LinkedIn)
  5. Urban Developer – Developer Launches BTR Melbourne – 18 May 2020
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