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How AI and blockchain could revolutionise the property market

By Tim Neary
25 October 2018 | 9 minute read
fintech global blue reb

With Australian housing prohibitively expensive for so many, emerging blockchain technology could enable property development to be crowdfunded, allowing micro investors and helping first-time participants, a new academic report has found.

With blockchain technology, micro investors could own small parcels or shares in the development while providing those investors with real-time information to help them make the best investment decisions. This could help some investors to enter the property market for the first time, but it will also likely contribute to further price inflation, exacerbating affordability issues for those seeking to buy an entire property.

This is just one of many potential disruptions to the housing market examined in a newly released AHURI report, Understanding the disruptive technology ecosystem in Australian urban and housing contexts: a roadmap, undertaken by researchers from UNSW Sydney, RMIT University and Swinburne University of Technology.

It provides a wide-ranging and critical review of how different emerging digital and disruptive technologies are being incorporated into the housing, housing welfare and planning systems, and how they might lead to greater efficiencies and new opportunities but also create new challenges and complexity.

Professor Christopher Pettit, from the University of New South Wales and lead author of the report, said that the research has uncovered both new opportunities and potential challenges.

“The promise of some of these emerging technologies is that they have the potential to simplify the processes involved in siting, constructing, tenanting, selling and maintaining properties,” Professor Pettit said.

“This simplification may come through automated contracts, access to large databases of information that can predict changes in a geographical area, or tracking the housing careers of people receiving housing benefits.”

Professor Pettit said that machine learning algorithms, which are capable of analysing long-term data gathered from planning decisions across Australia, may soon be sophisticated enough to automate much of the statutory land use planning process in the urban planning sector.

“Capacity now exists for digital planning systems to do initial assessments of planning proposals, particularly for smaller developments, which — with the proper oversight in place — could vastly improve the efficiencies of the planning process.”

But the professor added that these emerging disruptive technologies can have huge impacts on the housing and associated legal systems.

“While much work has been done in opening up property data assets, significant work is required on data standards, privacy standards and protocols for data sharing across government, industry and the non-profit sectors,” Professor Pettit said.

He added that while automated systems offer the promise of reducing costs and increasing efficiency, they raise legal and ethical concerns.

“Having tenants’ data readily available may potentially disadvantage vulnerable individuals in the private rental market,” Professor Pettit said.

“Particularly if they had trouble keeping up with rental payments due to unstable employment, or if they have special needs, such as grab rails and level access that may require some modification to the dwelling, that some landlords may discriminate against.”

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