Project summary

Project funding

The Chief Investigators of the project, Dr Lesley Instone and Dr Kathy Mee, applied for and were awarded a grant from the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) under its Climate Change Adaptation Research Grants Program.

Objectives of the project

  1. To employ an asset-based approach to climate change resilience in the rental housing sector in Newcastle, NSW
  2. To identify the adaptive capacity of tenants to respond to climate change
  3. To identify the adaptive capacity of housing managers (private and public) and landlords to respond to the challenge of climate change in the rental housing sector
  4. To link the capacities of tenants and housing managers/landlords to adapt to climate change
  5. To identify productive entry-points for interventions which enhance adaptation responses in the rental housing sector.

Significance of the project

Housing is a significant site of greenhouse gas emissions, and for adaptation to climate change. The research in Australia so far has focused on home owners, neglecting the 27% of households in rental accommodation. Low-income renters are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and already face significant housing and utility stress (particularly in the private sector).

This project seeks to understand adaptation possibilities from the point of view of public and private tenants. We are seeking tenants' and managers' insights into the potential for the rental sector to contribute to sustainability and to better adapt to climate change.

What is a pro-poor asset-based approach?

The project emphasises the positive assets which tenants and landlords/housing mangers bring to the issue of climate change adaptation. An 'asset' can be social, physical, financial, natural or human. The asset-based approach, rather than focusing on vulnerability of tenants, looks at ways of strengthening and empowering tenants and landlords/housing managers to adapt more effectively to climate change.

Asset-based approaches have been widely used elsewhere, in both developed and developing countries. In particular, Pro-poor Asset-Based Adaptation is applicable to any context where disadvantaged groups are encountering the challenges posed by climate change.

Project methods

The project will involve collecting stories of adaptation and barriers to adaptation from tenants and housing managers/ landlords.  (Objective 1).

The research will be conducted in two sites in Newcastle, NSW. Inner-Urban Newcastle contains a significant number of low-income, medium-density rental properties potentially under flood risk due to climate change. The Toronto district of Lake Macquarie contains low income, low-density housing properties. The housing stock of these two locations – houses, terraces and flats – are typical of most housing in Australian cities. These case studies therefore allow insights into the possibilities for adaptation elsewhere in Australia.

Interviews will be conducted with a number of renters from each location ( meeting Objective 2). Interviews will be conducted with housing managers/landlords, including real estate agents or private rental property managers/landlords in each location and Housing NSW staff (Objective 3).

During the interviews a number of tenants and housing managers will be invited to participate in a video about their current adaptation strategies. These videos will be used to compile You-Tube clips which will be publicly available.  The video clips will also be used as stimulus material for the focus groups.

In focus groups tenants and landlords/housing managers will work together to devise more effective strategies for adaptation (Objective 4).

Interview and focus group material will be transcribed in full, and provided to participants on request. Our analysis of the transcripts will identify the best areas for intervention, and will inform future action elsewhere in Australia (Objective 5).

Outcomes of the project

The outcomes of the project will be accessible to a wide range of people including academics, businesses, practitioners, community groups and tenants in order to improve the adaptive capacity of the rental sector. We will achieve this through producing:

  • Best-practice guide:  produced for managers/landlords
  • Community implementation guide: produced for renters and other interested parties
  • You-Tube clips of innovative tenant adaptations
  • Web page: users will be able to access information on the project through the CURS website
  • Email mail out: to our national database of interested groups and organisations.
  • Workshop: held in 2013 that disseminates and publicises the results of the project
  • Academic papers: that discuss the outcomes of the research
  • Final report: containing the results and outcomes of the project, including recommendations

University ethics approval for the project

The Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of Newcastle has approved the proposed research procedures involving tenants, housing managers and landlords, Approval No. H-2011-0381.

A University Safety Clearance has also been obtained for staff working on the project.

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.