Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom: Innovation and Diversity in
Australian Not-for-Profit Housing Organisations
Dr Tony Gilmour
Associate Professor Vivienne Milligan
City Futures Research Centre, University of NSW
Over the last decade, Australian social housing policy has continued to move away from a traditional
hierarchical public housing model. The not-for-profit sector has expanded through the introduction
of private finance, a tax credit scheme, stock transfers, planning incentives and an economic
stimulus package. This article examines the diverse ways in which leading not-for-profit providers in
Australia have responded to these opportunities, using the concept of organisational hybridity.
Organisational models considered differ in terms of principal ownership and origins (state, private or
community), how they are positioned in the social housing value chain (horizontally or vertically
integrated), how they work together through formal and informal partnerships, and their social
motivations and commercial behaviour. Coverage includes both housing providers and other
emergent third sector organisations that include finance consolidators, development consortia and
cross-subsidisation vehicles. Using information collected from interviews, organisational case studies
and documentation, the paper aims to assess what this variety of organisations reveals about the
characteristics of Australian hybrid housing not-for-profit organisations, and the implications for
future policy settings. Reasons for the development of these types of hybrid organisation are
explored, including the role of housing policy and institutional settings, choice of financing levers,
leadership, competition for funding and learning and adaptation from other sectors and overseas.
The article places the rapid and recent changes in the Australian not-for-profit housing sector within
the broader context of developments in Europe and the United States.