Housing the creative workers: a comparative study of Shanghai and Melbourne


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This joint PhD project is based at the University of Melbourne with a 12-month stay at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The key questions of this project are:

  • What are the housing consumption behaviours and desires of creative workers and why?
  • How does the housing market respond to the consumption and desires of creative workers and why?
  • How do the housing demand-supply interfaces and dynamics impact creative workers?
  • How do the current planning and urban governance models accommodate the creative housing demand and supply, and how can they be improved?

The details

Attraction and retention of creative workers (CWs) are crucial for leveraging innovation, boosting productivity and revitalising urban economies. Yet the supply and demand of their most fundamental needs – an inspiring and affordable place to live (and often work) – have been downplayed.

Even in leading markets such as US and Canada, where fit-for-purpose housing for CWs has been formalised in the planning codes, studies recorded a long waiting list of up to 10 years (Murray 2011), indicating an acute supply shortage. Barriers to such low supply, however, are under-explored worldwide, calling for systematic and robust investigations.

This has caused inefficient and fragmented policy interventions in Australia and China. Like others, Australia and China have devoted substantial investment in creative industries to strengthen resilience and national confidence (Chinese government 2019; Parliament of Australia 2013). This heightened competition to attract CWs should have kick-started the creative housing market.

But in reality this sub-market has never really taken-off in both countries. A lack of knowledge on the spaces needed by CWs, and the inhibiting role of planning governance that is still largely based on mono-functional building classification systems, are central to this (Gao et al. 2020). A thorough policy evaluation is therefore urgently needed if Australia and China want to leverage KE for fast economic recovery and sustainable growth post-COVID.

This research project aims to propose a more effective talent attraction policy by investigating the housing demand-supply interfaces and dynamics for creative workers.

Shanghai and Melbourne are chosen as the representative creative hubs for a comparative study. Surveys and interviews will be the primary methods for data collection.

The project will be complemented by the project on 'The structure, growth and governance mechanisms of regional innovation systems: a comparative study of Yangtze River Delta, China and the State of Victoria, Australia' and the collaboration will ensure the successful completion of both projects.

Supervision team

University of Melbourne supervisor:
Dr Julie Tian Miao

Shanghai Jiao Tong University supervisor:
Professor Zhiwei LIan

First published on 29 August 2022.

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