The Housing and Homelessness Research Program (HHRP) has a national and international reputation for innovative, policy-relevant research.

Drawing on different disciplinary perspectives including sociology, economics, social work, and political economy, our researchers apply a range of methodologies – from in-depth qualitative work to modelling longitudinal datasets – to generate evidence to inform policy and practice reform.

Many of our researchers are former practitioners and draw on their substantial knowledge of policy and service delivery environments to deliver high quality research that is relevant, grounded and accessible.

Key research interests

  • Health and well-being of disadvantaged populations
  • Program and service evaluation – social and economic impacts
  • Policy analysis
  • Homelessness and housing market dynamics
  • Gender
  • Stigma
  • Drug Use
  • Homelessness enumeration
  • Homeless groups – young people, chronically homeless, women and families

RMIT and UNISON Research Partnership

An important part of the Urban Housing and Homelessness Research Program is the Unison Housing Research Lab, a five year partnership between RMIT University and Unison Housing. The partnership takes a unique industry-led approach to address the ongoing issue of housing and homelessness. The program is the largest of its kind in Australia and houses a team of six dedicated research staff who pursue a program of applied research tailored to support the needs of Unison Housing.


Read more about the Unison Housing Research Lab.



Recent Publications



Watson, J. Young Women, Youth Homelessness and Survival Sex: Intimate Relationships and Gendered Subjectivities (2018), Routledge: London and New York.


Journal Articles

Casey, S. & Watson, J. (2017) The Unpalatable-Palatable: Celebrity Feminism in the Australian Mainstream Media, Outskirts, 37.

Chamberlain, C., & Johnson, G. (2017). ‘Counting rough sleepers’, in Parity, 30 (3).

Cigdem, M.,Ong, R.,Wood, G. (2017). A new look at the channels from housing to employment decisions In: AHURI Final Report, 275, 1 – 68

Hurley, J.,Wood, G.,Groenhart, L. (2017). Long run urban analysis using property records: A methodological case study of land use change In: Urban Studies, , 1 – 16

Johnson, G. & Horn, M. (2017). ‘Last resort housing: What can it achieve and would it really save money’, in Parity 30(3).

Johnson, G., & Pleace, N. (2017) ‘The Homelessness Outcomes Star: A brief response to criticism of our paper’, in European Journal of Homelessness, 11(1) pp. 1-3.

Johnson, G.,Watson, J. (2017). International commentary: The implications of the family options study for family homelessness in Australia In: CityScape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research, 19, 215 – 221

Kertesz, S.,Johnson, G. (2017). Housing first: lessons from the US and challenges for Australia In: Australian Economic Review, 50, 220 – 228

O’flaherty, B.,Scutella, R.,Tseng, Y. (2017). Using Private Information to Predict Homelessness Entries: Evidence and Prospects In: Housing Policy Debate, , 1 – 25

Ong, R.,Dalton, T.,Gurran, N.,Phelps, C.,Rowley, S.,Wood, G. (2017). Housing supply responsiveness in Australia: distribution, drivers and institutional settings In: AHURI Final Report, , 1 – 5

Jefferson, T.,Austen, S.,Ong, R.,Haffner, M.,Wood, G. (2017). Housing Equity Withdrawal: Perceptions of Obstacles among Older Australian Home Owners and associated Service Providers In: Journal of Social Policy, 46, 623 – 642

Scutella, R.,Johnson, G. (2017). Psychological distress and homeless duration In: Housing Studies, , 1 – 22

Scutella, R.,Tseng, Y.,Wooden, M. (2017). Journeys Home: Tracking the most vulnerable In: Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 8, 302 – 318

Smith, S.,Cigdem, M.,Ong, R.,Wood, G. (2017). Wellbeing at the edges of ownership In: Environment and Planning A, 49, 1080 – 1098

Watson, J. & Cuervo, H. (2017) Youth Homelessness: A Social Justice Approach, Journal of Sociology, 53(2), pp. 461-475. DOI: 10.1177/144078331770520

Wood, G.,Ong, R. (2017). The Australian Housing System: A Quiet Revolution? In: Australian Economic Review, 50, 197 – 204

Commissioned Reports

Johnson, G. & Watson, J. (2017). Does place matter? Unison Housing. Melbourne

Murray, S., Bullen, J., Watson, J. & Theobald, J. (2017) Profiling Women and Children Experiencing Family Violence who Require a Crisis Supported Response. Department of Health and Human Services, Victorian Government.


Casey, S., Simic, Z. & Watson, J. (2017) Feminism: more than sartorial statements, Victorian Women’s Trust, 7/3/2017

Johnson, G., Ribar, D. & Zhu, A. (2017) ‘Women’s Homelessness: International Evidence on Causes, Consequences, Coping and Policies’ Melbourne Institute Working Paper No 7/17. The University of Melbourne: Melbourne.

Perusco, M. & Johnson, G. (2017). The Federal Budget 2017: Housing and Homelessness. ProBono News, May 10.

Watson, J. & Johnson, G. (2017) ‘Mixing Academia and Industry to Solve “Intractable” Problems: The Unison Housing Research Lab’, Parity/HousingWorks, 30(7), pp. 7-8.   


Book Chapters

Johnson, G.,Grigg, S.,Tseng, Y. (2016). Using a randomised controlled to evaluate an innovative homelessness intervention: the J2SI pilot In: Creating and Implementing Public Policy, Routledge, United Kingdom

Commissioned Reports

Johnson, Gb,Cook, K.,Sesa, S. (2016). Engaging young people: Using the pathways young people take in and out of homelessness as the foundation for a person centred service culture In: Melbourne City Mission Melbourne, Australia

Rowe, J.,Harris, L. (2016). ‘Get up, stand up!’ – giving people the means to respond to opioid overdose In: The Salvation Army Melbourne Australia

Journal Articles

Cobb-Clark, D.,Herault, N.,Scutella, R.,Tseng, Y. (2016). A journey home: What drives how long people are homeless? In: Journal of Urban Economics, 91, 57 – 72

Herault, N.,Johnson, G. (2016). Homelessness in Australia: Service reform and research in the 21st century In: European Journal of Homelessness, 10, 127 – 144

Johnson, G.,Pleace, N. (2016). How do we measure success in homelessness services? Critically Assessing the rise of the outcomes star In: European Journal of Homelessness, 10, 31 – 51

Johnson, G., Cook, K. & Sesa, S. (2016) Dealing with diversity: Understanding young people’s entry into and experiences of the homelessness system. Melbourne City Mission, Melbourne.

Watson, J. (2016), Gender-based Violence and Young Homeless Women: Femininity, Embodiment and Vicarious Physical Capital, The Sociological Review, 64: 256–273. DOI: 10.1111/1467-954X.12365

Wood, G.,Ong, R.,Cigdem, M. (2016). Housing tax reform: Is there a way forward? In: Economic Papers: A journal of applied economics and policy, 35, 332 – 346

Wood, G.,Sommervoll, D.,De Silva, A. (2016). Do urban house prices converge? In: Urban Policy and Research , 34, 102 – 115





Housing Establishment Fund: Does financial assistance help secure permanent accomodation?

Originally, intended to assist disadvantaged household’s secure permanent housing, the Housing Establishment Fund (HEF) is increasingly used to assist people experiencing homeessness into temporary accommodation.

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Transitional Housing

Utilising administrative data held by Unison and the AIHW this project will provide insights into who gets into transitional accommodation, and whether they successfully exit the homelessness service system

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Private Rental Access Program

This project will examine what works, and what does not and for whom.

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Understanding social housing tenants better

This project will examine if it is possible to use existing tenancy data to create a meaningful tenancy typology based upon tenancy duration.

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Homeless and ‘at risk’ households: The IAP Study

The project will examine the IAP administrative database to develop a clearer understanding of who presents to the IAP service, the different needs of various cohorts, and trends in demand over time.

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Education and Employment

To examine the experience of looking for work, and of engaging in education and learning, for disadvantaged job seekers living in social housing.

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Making Home

This PhD project is a qualitative study of how formerly homeless individuals make the transition into permanent housing.

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Unison Housing Research Lab

The Union Housing Research Lab (UHRL) is a unique education and research collaboration between RMIT University and Unison Housing, Victoria’s largest social housing provider.

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Young people and the homelessness service system: effective response

The project provides an opportunity to learn more about young people's pathways into the homeless service system (HSS).

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The inter-relationship between structural factors and individual risk factors in explaining homelessness

Researchers and policy makers have long hypothesised that homelessness results from interactions between structural conditions and individual characteristics.

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The Role of the Street to Home Program in Providing Pathways out of Homelessness for Adult Rough Sleepers

One of the headline goals in the Australian Government’s White paper 'The Road Home' is to offer supported accommodation to all rough sleepers who want it by 2020.

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The Housing Security Consequences of Underemployment

This research project aims to provide an Australia-wide analysis of the consequences of underemployment for housing security.

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Journeys Home: Longitudinal study of factors affecting housing stability

This is the first large-scale longitudinal study assessing a broad sample of Australians who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

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Journey to Social Inclusion (J2SI): A randomised controlled trial

The aim of this four year randomised control study is to assess the effectiveness of the Journey to Social Inclusion program to break the cycle of chronic homelessness.

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Breaking the Cycle: the Role of Housing and Support in Resolving Chronic Homelessness

This is a longitudinal study of formerly chronically homeless people who are residents in a supportive housing facility in inner Melbourne.

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Key People

Lead researchers

Professor Guy Johnson

Professor Guy Johnson

Professor of Urban Housing and Homeless

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Dr Juliet Watson

Dr Juliet Watson


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Dr Sharlene Nipperess

Dr Sharlene Nipperess


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Kaye Stevens

Kaye Stevens

Research Fellow

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Emeritus Professor Chris Chamberlain

Emeritus Professor Chris Chamberlain

Emeritus Professor

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Dr Rosanna Scutella

Dr Rosanna Scutella

Senior Research Fellow

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Professor Gavin Wood

Professor Gavin Wood

Emeritus Professor

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Dr Cameron Duff

Dr Cameron Duff

Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow

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Dr James Rowe

Dr James Rowe


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Dr Kathryn Daley

Dr Kathryn Daley

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Associate Professor Suellen Murray

Associate Professor Suellen Murray

Deputy Dean (Research) in RMIT's School of Global, Urban and Social Studies

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Higher Degree Research Students

Collaborators within RMIT

Key Industry Partners

  • UNISON Community Housing
  • Sacred Heart Mission
  • HomeGround Services (now Launch Housing)
  • The Salvation Army Crisis Services
  • Melbourne City Mission
  • Victorian Department of Health and Human Services
  • The Royal District Nursing Service
  • Department of Social Services (formerly FaHCSIA)

External Collaborators

  • Dr Yi-Ping Tseng
  • Professor Dan O’Flaherty
  • Professor Stephan Metraux
  • Dr Cameron Parsell
  • Associate Professor Stefan Kertesz
  • Dr Julie Moschion
  • Dr Nicolas Herault
  • Dr Marcus Knutagard
  • Associate Professor Phillip Mendes
  • Professor Susan Smith
  • Associate Professor Kristin Natalier
  • Professor Keith Jacobs
  • Dr Sharon Parkinson
  • Dr Jessica Gerrard
  • Dr Jacqui Theobald
  • Professor Alison Young
  • Dr James Petty
  • Claire Collie  

University Partnerships

  • Columbia University
  • Flinders University
  • Lund University
  • Monash University
  • Swinburne University
  • University of Science
  • University of Queensland
  • University of Alabama
  • University of Melbourne
  • University of Tasmania
  • York University

Related Content

News & Blog

Introducing Doctoral Candidate: Melissa Laing

Keeping the family together: Recognising the human-animal bond in family violence situations

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PhD Scholarships on Offer in Social Housing

Seeking highly motivated and qualified applicants for two PhD scholarships to undertake an ethnographic study of two mixed tenure communities

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New evidence suggests we may need to rethink policies aimed at poverty

Fewer people who were homeless or at risk of being homeless exited poverty than in the general population.

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PhD Scholarships on offer in Urban Homelessness and Housing Program

SGSC and Unison Housing, Victoria's largest social housing provider join forces to explore community, public, affordable and transitional housing.

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Homeless on the Streets: Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Invisible homeless people on our streets are the symptom of a much larger and hidden homelessness problem

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Where did the Lucky Country Go? Homelessness and Housing Affordability

Guy Johnson, Urban Housing and Homelessness Research Program Lead reflects on the housing crisis gripping Australia

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New approach to address increasing rates of homelessness

A new partnership between Yarra Community Housing and RMIT will combine academic research and street smarts to improve the lives of the more than 650,000 Australians facing housing issues.

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How the desire for masculinity might drive some disadvantaged young men to substance abuse

Awareness of social factors, such as society's perpetuation of masculinity, are critical to understanding the interconnections between trauma, disadvantage and substance abuse in young men.

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Member highlight: Professor Guy Johnson

Australia's first Professor of Homelessness and leader of the UNISON Housing Research Program, Guy Johnson has been involved in the area of homelessness for two decades, initially as a practitioner and more recently as a researcher. He currently is the Coordinator of the Urban Housing and Homelessness Research Program.

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Study finds 1.4 million Australians have slept rough

A staggering one in 10 Australians have been forced to sleep rough at some stage in their lives, with research by RMIT University revealing the true plight of the homeless.

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Home help

Guy Johnson was only 24 and fresh out of university when he walked into his first boarding house to scenes that would change him forever.

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