Housing types - an explainer

Sep 8, 2023

In discussions about access to housing, we often hear the words ‘affordable’, ‘social’, ‘public’, and ‘community’. But what do they mean?

Here’s a quick guide to different kinds of housing - and where Nightingale fits in. 

Public housing

Public housing is owned and managed by state and territory governments, and leased to tenants on a long-term basis. In Victoria, rent is capped at 25% of gross household income. Public housing falls under the broader category of ‘social housing’ - alongside community housing. 

Community housing

Community housing falls under the umbrella of ‘social housing’. Unlike public housing, community housing is owned or managed by not-for-profit community housing providers. These are registered, regulated organisations offering long-term rental accommodation at different rates based on tenants’ income. They also often provide wrap-around support services personalised to tenants' specific needs.

While Nightingale Housing is not a community housing provider, we aim to include 20% community housing in each project. These homes are sold at a reduced price to community housing providers such as Women’s Property Initiatives and Housing Choices Australia, and made available to people like Tiffany and Val

Affordable housing

This term has different meanings in different contexts, and can apply to rental arrangements or home ownership. Government bodies have defined ‘affordable’ as being accessible for low or moderate income earners. However when used in an industry setting, the term could refer to prices that are below market rate - which will not necessarily be accessible for people living on low to moderate incomes. 


This is a collaborative housing model, in which households work together to create their own community through shared spaces and self-governance practices. Urban Coup is a local example: after working together towards their cohousing goal for 14 years, in 2022 they moved into a 29-apartment building that they’d co-designed to suit their needs. Their extensive shared spaces include a community kitchen and dining hall, laundry, rooftop, multi-purpose spaces, guest rooms and a bath house.

Nightingale Housing is not a cohousing organisation, although our approach does share similarities like shared laundries and rooftops, and an emphasis on community connections. 

Market housing

This term refers to the private ownership and tenancy markets, where the majority of homes in Australia are sold or leased. 

This is mostly what we do at Nightingale: we sell homes to owner-occupiers.  

There are some exceptions, including the homes we sell at a discount to community housing providers. There are also specific projects where partnerships have enabled us to deliver more rental properties. Nightingale Bowden in SA is a 50-50 split of leased community housing and affordable homes for purchasers, while Nightingale Marrickville in NSW is a one-off build-to-rent project which is owned and managed by Fresh Hope Communities.

Across our projects, we have various strategies to try to make our homes equitable. As a not-for-profit, we do not add meaty profit margins to our projects but instead sell them at cost at set prices, via a ballot process. We sell homes to owner-occupiers rather than investors, to help create a sense of community within each building and avoid speculation. We aim to reduce ongoing living costs in our homes by designing for thermal efficiency and including shared facilities. 

Sources: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Victorian Public Tenants Association, Homes Victoria, Urban Coup

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