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

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

Project description
Attraction and retention of creative workers are crucial for leveraging innovation, boosting productivity and revitalising urban economies.  Yet the demand and supply of their most fundamental needs – an inspiring and affordable place to live (and often work) – have been downplayed. This has caused inefficient policy interventions in Australia and China. This PhD 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.

Three associated knowledge gaps are identified:

  1. Housing needs of CWs are romanticised: The connections between CWs and their residential choices in Florida (2002, 2012) and followers’ account are highly ambiguous. What have been emphasised are mixed- use urban settings and street-level cultures. But none of these mythologies are robustly supported empirically (Miao 2020a). On a finer grained level, emerging evidence suggests that CWs prefer affordable live-work places (Dolan 2012), whose popularity might be enhanced under the new-norm of ‘working-at-home’ (Liang 2020). Yet although live-work has become common and legally supported in North America (Zukin & Braslow 2011), the extent of its existence, demand, and the effectiveness of its planning and design are still unknown in Australia and China (Doyon 2018).
  2. Supply of fit-for-purpose housing is severely under studied: Miao (2020a) noticed a dearth of studies on the supply-side of the housing market to meet the growth and agglomeration of CWs. 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.
  3. Current policy interventions are inefficient and fragmented: 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.

Research aim:

Proposing more effective interventions to attract and retain creative workers by investigating their housing demand-supply interfaces and dynamics.

Research questions:

  1. What are the housing consumption behaviours and desires of CWs and why?
  2. How does the housing market respond to the consumption and desires of CWs and why?
  3. How do the housing demand-supply interfaces and dynamics impact upon CWs?
  4. How do the current planning and urban governance accommodate the creative housing demand and supply, and how to improve?

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 a successful completion of the project.

Supervision team:

Dr Julie Tian Miao (The University of Melbourne)

Prof Zhiwei LIan (Shanghai Jiao Tong University)

How to apply

If you are interested in this opportunity, read the application guidelines before contacting the lead supervisor.