City Futures Research Centre Arts, Design and Architecture

Addressing Concentrations of Disadvantage

Urban dynamics have led to growing spatial polarisation of wealth and housing conditions in Australian cities. While slums and ghettos may be absent, concentrations of poverty and disadvantage can be found in every major conurbation and in many larger regional centres. These are often associated with poorer living conditions and local amenities. However, the geographies of social-spatial polarisation have shifted over time. As shown in our earlier research, the locations of social disadvantage have shifted decisively outwards in Australian cities in recent decades. What was once largely seen as an inner city issue is now very much a problem of middle and outer suburban areas.

Beyond the assumed benefits of consolidation and densification, the metropolitan strategies for Australia’s cities offer little to address the complex issues faced by some areas of spatial disadvantage. Thus there is a pressing need for better synergies across government, including through a more considered understanding of the inherently spatial nature of government policies and their impacts. This research project seeks to fill this gap.

This research focused on the role of housing, housing policies and programs in how we understand and, where appropriate, address challenges presented by spatial concentrations of disadvantage.

The main issues addressed by the study were:

  • How concentrations of social disadvantage have been conceptualised and how this relates to our broader understanding of the operation and impacts of housing and urban systems.
  • The impacts of spatial disadvantage, and the importance of housing and place in mediating its incidence, as well as the consequences of living in disadvantaged areas for the residents concerned.
  • How policy, practitioners and communities can respond to spatial disadvantage in ‘best for people, best for place’ terms.


Pawson H; Herath S, 2015, Disadvantaged places in urban Australia: Residential mobility, place attachment and social exclusion, AHURI Final Report No. 243, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited, Melbourne,">

Hulse K; Pawson HR; Reynolds M; Herath S, 2014, Disadvantaged Places in Urban Australia: Analysing socio-economic diversity and housing market performance (AHURI Final Report No 225), Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Melbourne,

Cheshire L; Pawson H; Easthope H; Stone W, 2014, Living with Place Disadvantage: community, practice and policy (AHURI Final Report No. 228), Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia,

Groenhardt, L 2014, Understanding the spatial impacts of direct and indirect government housing expenditure, Final Report no. 234, AHURI, Melbourne.">

Pawson H; Gethin D; Vizel I, 2012, Addressing concentrations of disadvantage: Policy, practice and literature review, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia,

Leading organisation

University of New South Wales

Funded by

Australian Housing and Urban Research Institutue (AHURI)

Collaborating partners

Swinburne University of Technology
University of Queensland

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