About the Urban Housing Lab


Profound global demographic and economic shifts - particularly international flows of people and capital - are reshaping the urban system. These shifts impose new burdens on the ageing urban infrastructure of 20th Century cities, which have struggled to accommodate population growth and change. Economically successful global cities which attract high income earners for their unique amenity and accessibility, face particular challenges as housing values rise, displacing younger knowledge and keyworker groups. While many global cities including New York and London, regard affordability as a critical component of urban infrastructure, in Sydney, affordable housing has struggled to gain policy traction. Wider questions about the capacity for the existing housing stock - particularly larger homes in outer suburban locations - to accommodate population growth and change - remain unanswered.

In this context, Urban Housing Lab will build a research agenda to inform urban and housing policy. Research fostered within the Lab will examine how critical urban governance frameworks, policy decisions, and planning processes shape housing outcomes; relationships between urban form, transport, and housing affordability, and new policy approaches and levers to deliver a better mix of housing options that respond to changing demographic needs and affordability constraints.


  • Professor Nicole Gurran
  • Dr Somwrita Sarkar
  • Dr Jennifer Kent (Research Fellow)
  • Catherine Gilbert (Research Associate, PhD candidate)
  • Sha Liu (PhD candidate)
  • Sachinkumar Wasnik (Research Associate, PhD candidate)
  • Hanley Weng (Research Associate)
  • Stacey Miers (Research Associate)
  • Dr Danika Wright (Sydney Business School, Finance and Real Estate advisor to Urban Housing Lab@Sydney)

Professor Nicole Gurran

Professor Gurran’s research focuses on the intersection between urban policy, planning, and the housing system. She has undertaken numerous studies for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute and has led a recent Australian Research Council funded project on relationships between urban planning regulation, housing supply, and affordability. Her book Australian Urban Land Use Planning, (Sydney University Press, now in its second edition, explains the complex policy and legal frameworks characterising Australia’s state and territorial planning systems in their wider national and international context. Her current research extends this analysis to the housing market, asking how differences in urban policy and planning frameworks influence patterns of new housing production and affordability trends, at local and regional scales. She is also examining the ways in which “property politics” delimit housing policy and planning outcomes.
Visit Nicole's staff profile.

Dr Somwrita Sarkar

Somwrita is a Lecturer of Design and Computation at the Design Lab, Faculty of Architecture, Design, and Planning at the University of Sydney. Previously, she completed her post-doctoral studies with the Complex Systems Group at the School of Physics, University of Sydney, and her doctoral studies at the Design Lab.

Somwrita's research is primarily interdisciplinary and concerned with the mathematical modelling of complex systems and networks in various domains, and developing algorithms and methods to better understand them. In her PhD, she developed optimal design decomposition algorithms for complex engineering systems. Her post-doctoral work focused on relationships between human brain (spatio-temporal) network structure and its observed functional dynamics. She was awarded the Faculty of Architecture, Design, and Planning, University of Sydney Exceptional PhD Achievement Award, and was a finalist for the Rita and John Cornforth University of Sydney PhD Medal. Somwrita's work has been published in Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Research in Engineering Design, Physical Review E, PLOS One, Journal of Mechanical Design, and several other leading journals and international conferences, including best paper awards.

Her principal emerging foci are city science research and urban computing, looking at cities as interacting spatio-temporally embedded social, economic, and technological complex systems. She aims to develop novel data analytics and mining methods for urban economics and planning research, especially focused around the social and economic dynamics of housing in the city. This work is informed by her previous and continuing work in developing matrix algebra methods to detect modularity, clustering and community structure in complex networks, and methods for network structure discovery through the system's functional dynamics.
Visit Somwrita's staff profile.

Dr Jennifer Kent

Dr Jennifer Kent is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Urban and Regional Planning program at the University of Sydney. Prior to joining the University of Sydney, Jennifer was a Lecturer at Macquarie University and Research Associate at the Healthy Built Environments Program at the University of NSW. She has also worked as a town planner in NSW in both local government and as a consultant.
Jennifer's research has two key themes. The first relates to day-to-day mobility, with an explicit mandate to record and theorise shifts away from private car use towards more sustainable transport modes in car oriented cities. The second is on the general links between the built environment and health. The various health impacts of transport, including the detrimental health implications associated with private car dependency, exist as the nexus between these two research themes.
Jennifer publishes regularly in high ranking scholarly journals and her work has been used to inform policy development in NSW and Australia, including Sydney's most recent metropolitan strategy. Her research was recognised at the pre-eminent conference on urbanism in Australia – the State of Australian Cities Conference – where she was awarded the Peter Harrison Memorial Prize for the best paper submitted by a PhD student in 2013.

Catherine Gilbert

Catherine has a background in planning policy and housing market research, with a particular focus on affordable housing. From 2009-11, Catherine worked for Three Dragons Consultancy in the UK, where her work examined the economic viability implications of different housing policy positions for organisations including the Welsh Assembly Government, the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit, the House Builders Association and the Zero Carbon Hub. She has worked with local and regional planning authorities across the UK on studies to support the development of inclusionary housing policies. Since joining the University of Sydney in 2011, she has provided research assistance on numerous projects, including an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project and three Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) funded projects. This research work has focused on comparing systems of land use regulation; examining evidence of relationships between planning policy settings and housing market outcomes; and, approaches to planning system performance monitoring. Her PhD research, which commenced in 2015, focuses on recent planning system reforms designed to improve the rate and responsiveness of new housing supply in Australia, Canada and the UK. In the context of ongoing policy debate over the impact of planning on patterns of new housing supply, this research seeks to critically examine the range of claims that have been made about the impact of planning on housing markets; to examine and compare the structure and aims of recent planning policy changes designed to leverage increased private sector housing provision; and, to examine whether and how such regulatory changes have impacted new development in different submarket contexts.

Sha Liu

The increasing integration of the globalized financial market and real estate has resulted in growing levels of international investment in property markets. Housing, as a non-tradable social good in the past, is becoming a kind of investment asset, which can be supplied locally and demanded internationally. Consequently, the changes of one country’s domestic housing policy will not only create impacts on its domestic housing market, but may also produce direct and indirect repercussions on international real estate arenas. Under this context, Sha’s research focuses on analyzing the growing interactions between domestic housing policies and international housing markets. In her current research, China, the housing market of which has been intervened excessively in recent years by Chinese Central Government, has been utilised as an example. Through analyzing China’s recent interventional policies and Chinese increasing outward investment in global real estate markets, Australia in particular, her research attempts to answer how individual investors and developers responded to the policy changes distinctively; how housing measures pushed investors out to seek alternative opportunities overseas; what the underlying drivers of foreign investment in real estate or the motivations of individual investors and development firms can be concluded, and what kind of observable impacts and policy implications on investment influx countries can be drawn. In the current research, Sha is using interdisciplinary methods, incorporating insights from behavioral economics to examine investors’ behavior, and recent econometric applications to model potential market impacts.

Sachinkumar Wasnik

Sachin is a Phd Student at the Design Lab, Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Sydney. He is a computer science engineer, and prior to commencing his Phd, he worked for Large Hadron Collider (ATLAS Project), IBM Software Labs Tivoli Autonomic Computing and Belfast e-Science Centre, UK. His research interests include Cloud Computing, Big Data, Machine Learning, Social Network Analysis.

His PhD project is about understanding the role of social media in housing market information dynamics. It is well acknowledged that dynamics in any market are critically dependent on the available information and its controlled or uncontrolled flow. With the growing popularity of the Internet and social media, it is now possible to capture the dynamics of information and influence transfer in the housing market. Machine learning models can be used to understand the co-variance of information dynamics on social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, newspaper articles) and housing price dynamics. Sachin's work focuses on studying distributed or decentralized factors of communication, information transfer and influence that affect the housing market: all the effects that arise from millions of people communicating and interacting in the housing market.

Stacey Miers

Stacey Miers has over 30 years' experience in urban planning, housing and social policy. She has undertaken projects for the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure, the NSW Local Government Association, City of Sydney Council, Leichhardt Council, Willoughby City Council, Parramatta City Council and Newcastle City Council. Her work crosses different sectors which provide her with a good understanding of urban planning, housing supply policy and affordable housing issues from varying points of view.

In addition, Stacey has a solid understanding of the development industry through her position as a specialist advisor to an Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel (IHAP) providing technical advice on complex or controversial land development proposals. She also has experience in assisting the growth and development of affordable housing products from inception through to construction.