City Futures Research Centre receives $1m to create state-of-the-art housing data lab


Aerial view of Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia

The new Housing Analytics Lab will get the latest modelling and digital solutions tools into the hands of decision makers.

Samantha Dunn
Samantha Dunn,

Amid a national housing crisis, the funding will facilitate a new data analytics lab equipped to assist policy makers with evidence-driven solutions.

The City Futures Research Centre (CFRC) at UNSW Sydney has been awarded a $1 million grant by the office of the NSW Chief Scientist to lead the development of the Housing Analytics Lab (HAL). The lab will be a hybrid physical/digital facility created to support data-driven housing solutions. 

UNSW will lead a consortium of industry, academic, government and not-for-profits to establish this facility, proposed to be located in Tech Central, South Eveleigh.

The two-year grant is part of the Commonwealth Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) Support Program and in partnership with the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN) NCRIS Facility.

NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer, Hugh Durrant-Whyte, said, “We recognise the vital role NCRIS facilities play in supporting the state's research and development sector. These facilities enable the most advanced research and commercialisation opportunities to happen right here in NSW. These activities are a critical driver for innovation in the state's economy.”

Complex cities require data-driven modelling

Professor Chris Pettit, director of the CFRC said, “The Housing Analytics Lab is a continuation of the work the CFRC has done in collaboration with AURIN and others in creating the Australian Housing Data Analytics Platform over the past two years.

“As Australia grapples with housing affordability and supply, academics, government, industry and communities need access to the best available, analytics and insights to inform decision-making,” he said.

Some of the digital tools to be housed at HAL will include: 

  • A database with a map dashboard of all historic and live planning approvals across NSW and Australia.  

  • An AI classifier of planning assessments to understand spatial clusters of current and future housing development activity.

  • A virtual Housing Assistant powered by generative AI and trained on existing housing literature to answer questions such as ‘What are the policy options for delivering affordable housing in different contexts?’  

The HAL will facilitate evidence-driven policy testing across a wide variety of parameters: from the ability to assess housing supply and demand potentials by LGA using AI, to assessing and tracking housing pipelines through data on existing DAs, the HAL will provide the data needed to plan housing policy to match NSW’s needs.   

“Using real-time housing datasets, multiple scenarios powered by big data and machine learning can be rapidly created and compared, allowing decision makers to assess policy options,” Prof. Pettit said.

The Housing Analytics Lab will be able to provide insights into: 

  • Real-time supply pipeline of land zoned for future housing. 

  • New greenfield lots connected to water services and ready for development. 

  • The pipeline and delivery of multi-unit apartment developments from approval to final settlement. 

  • The housing capacity under current and potential zoning within close proximity to a train station. 

  • The current and projected housing requirements for social and affordable housing by local government area. 

  • The numbers on empty properties by local government area. 

  • The spatial distribution and turn-over of both short-term and long-term rentals. 

This will be made possible through government data sharing arrangements. 

UNSW Dean Arts, Design & Architecture, Professor Claire Annesley, said, “The City Futures Research Centre is leading the creation of a lab that will offer the best modelling and digital solutions to the problems of urban planning. This is a huge win for getting the very latest analytical tools into the hands of decision-makers.

“As a university we are committed to our research and technology making an impact on society, and the Housing Analytics Lab is exactly the kind of thing we want to be doing.”

The Housing Analytics Lab will be developed in partnership with Australian Research Data Commons, Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network, Commonwealth Bank Australia, Community Housing Industry Association NSW, FrontierSI, Housing Australia, MIRVAC, PEXA, SGS Economics and Planning, Shelter, and Tenants Union NSW.

CRFC was established in 2005 to provide a training ground for the next generation of urban thinkers, city shapers, and urban scientists. CRFC provide ethical, evidence-based inputs to contemporary urban policy debates and the planning of 21st century cities. With a vision to create a better and more sustainable future, the Centre is committed to the United Nation’s New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

Media contact

Samantha Dunn
Division of External Engagement
(02) 9065 5455