Perry's cover image
Perry

Perry FORSYTHE

Year of Award: 1993 Award State: New South Wales Transport And Infrastructure > Urban Planning And Design
The A.V. Jennings Churchill Fellowship to study the various methods used for procurement of medium density housing - Netherlands, UK, Sweden, Canada
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Australian housing was becoming less affordable in the early 1990s, and for some, completely out of reach. Perry Forsythe, from New South Wales, wanted to find out why. Travelling to the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Netherlands on his 1993 A.V. Jennings Churchill Fellowship he explored cost-effective yet good-quality housing.

Perry spoke to me about his Churchill Fellowship in his University of Technology office in Sydney’s Ultimo. Australian housing is less affordable than in Scandinavian countries because they operate with a different model. These countries have a policy of having less of a gap between the rich and poor. Perry explained how they have regulations that ensure a fairer distribution of essentials like accommodation and health, whereas Australia relies almost totally on market forces.

The Dutch have a very regulated housing environment, leaving little flexibility for market forces. Sweden’s housing policy concentrates on equally distributing basic standards of housing to all parts of the community.

In Canada, municipalities are legally obliged to ensure that 25 per cent of new housing is affordable (that is, 24 per cent of income as earned by people in the 60th percentile of income distribution). Medium density houses reduce construction costs because of economies of scale and standardisation. This was reflected in all the countries that Perry visited and in their urban planning, policy and regulation requirements. In Australia it is difficult not to notice how rarely these reductions in costs are passed on to house-buyers.

Perry is now Professor of Construction Project Management at the University of Technology, Sydney. He continues his research into housing, working with both industry and academia in Australia and overseas. He is on the Board of Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA). One of Perry’s interests is developing multi-storey timber buildings in Australia – still a new concept for this country – which is good for the environment because of the fact that we can grow more trees, because of carbon capture and the economies of scale involved in prefabricated construction.

Wood is familiar and fond territory for Perry, who began as a carpenter. His Churchill Fellowship broadened his horizons; it was ‘a fantastic opportunity to look at things done in a totally different way to Australia,’ he said. It enabled him to think about things in a different way and be more aware of urban design issues. He said that it widened his scope because the new ideas gave him ‘the vitality to go after new things and expand his research repertoire.’

Excerpt from “Inspiring Australians” written by Penny Hanley (2015)

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