Influential Leaders

Rachel Ong ViforJ

John Curtin Distinguished Professor
Recognition Year(s): 2024
Area of Impact: Policy
School: Curtin Business School, Curtin University
Location: Australia

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Rachel Ong ViforJ is a John Curtin Distinguished Professor at Curtin University and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow. She has dedicated her career to making contributions to public service via evidence-based policy advice. For 20 years, she has conducted extensive research into housing policy challenges in order to shape economic and social change in Australia and internationally. She is fiercely committed to translating her academic research findings into a form that is easily accessible by end users and by the public through media channels, policy blogs, and industry presentations.

Description of Research Impact

ViforJ is the co-designer of Australia’s first and only dynamic housing policy simulation model. The model is uniquely configured to predict housing and budgetary outcomes under alternative policy scenarios. Its chief innovation is the integration of an extensive range of taxes and transfers—affecting homeowners, property investors, and renters—into a series of interconnected modules that allow for the modeling of policy changes using Australia’s Household, Income, and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. The model has been used to inform Australian government policy decisions in the following ways: simulations of changes to tax settings on housing affordability in Australia’s Future Tax System Review (known as the Henry Tax Review), simulations of the effects of minimum energy standards on housing affordability in Victoria’s rental sector, and simulations of initiatives to improve the affordable housing supply across Australia.

ViforJ’s 2020 to 2024 Future Fellowship funding is being used to deliver new evidence on the drivers of intergenerational housing wealth inequality. ViforJ is generating new knowledge on the ways in which baby boomers manage housing wealth and also shedding light on their experiences of using wealth transfers to improve their children’s housing outcomes. ViforJ’s hope is that her work will provide major benefits in Australia by promoting a shift away from the short-term policy planning that unintentionally set generations against each other, toward a more holistic policy perspective that meets the needs of co-existing generations.

As a result of her impactful research, ViforJ was appointed to the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council (NHSAC) in late 2022 to provide direct advice to the Australian government on matters relating to housing supply and affordability. The NHSAC is a key advisory body in developing the Australian government’s National Housing and Homelessness Plan, a 10-year strategy that will establish a vision to inform future housing and homelessness policies in Australia. The NHSAC’s first report, Barriers to Institutional Investment, Finance, and Innovation in Housing, was released in September 2023 with 11 recommendations for government consideration. At a major speech on September 12, 2023, the minister for housing announced the implementation of a number of these recommendations.

ViforJ is also a highly prolific academic media commentator on housing issues in Australia. She is frequently invited to examine housing issues through outlets including television, radio, and written media. She has been featured twice in The Conversation Yearbook, which showcases standout articles from the organization’s selected “top thinkers” of the year.

Select Publications

ViforJ’s published reports include the following:

  • Australian Government, Interim National Housing Supply and Affordability Council, Barriers to Institutional Investment, Finance, and Innovation in Housing, July 2023, This is the first NHSAC report. The Australian government has committed to implementing some of the recommendations immediately and is considering the others.
  • Rachel Ong ViforJ et al., Precarious Housing and Wellbeing: A Multi-dimensional Investigation (Melbourne: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited, 2022), This report has been downloaded at least 770 times.
  • Rachel Ong ViforJ et al., Financing First Home Ownership: Modeling Policy Impacts at Market and Individual Levels (Melbourne: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited, 2023), In the week after its release, this publication was reported on by multiple media outlets, with a potential reach of 547 thousand people. The report has been downloaded at least 675 times.

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