School of Design

Postgraduate research student profiles


Francesca Perugia

Phone: (+61 4) 5700 5530

Start date

Mar 2013

Submission date

Apr 2017

Francesca Perugia

Francesca Perugia profile photo


Design matters. Targeting appropriate design in affordable housing for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse migrant groups.


Most of the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) migrants entering Australia have limited financial resources and rely on social housing when seeking accommodation (REF). However, the demand for social housing exceeds the supply, leaving no options for CaLD migrants other than affordable private housing opportunities in a rental market where affordability represents only a marginal share (REF). The current private rental market in Australia is failing to supply affordable housing that “is reasonably adequate in standard and location for a lower or middle-income household; and does not cost so much that such a household is unlikely to be able to meet other basic living costs on a sustainable basis”(Disney 2007) . The private market does not just have a low availability of affordable housing but often it does not offer suitable housing for CaLD migrants in term of size and location (San Pedro 2001, 4).

What are migrants’ housing choices and settlement patterns in times of increasing shortages of affordable housing?

Within Australia, various projects have attempted to respond ad hoc to the housing needs of CaLD migrants groups. These projects, mostly contained within the public housing sector, tend to address issues like accommodating large families or provide housing close to services and facilities. However, “Each migrant group brings with it a certain set of cultural expectations with regards to living patterns and spaces” (Penoyre and Prasad 1998), and this is especially true in relation to the private sphere of the house. The distinctive set of migrants’ expectations, related to their values, ideas, images, norms and attributes, produces a different approach to the concept of environmental quality (Rapoport 2001) impacting their housing choices.

What can we learn from the reading of migrants’ housing choices that will help design and plan future interventions?

Moreover, most of the existing projects addressing migrants needs do not consider the housing design, in terms of layout and amenity beyond a social norm, as an important factor. In particular, in both the public and private housing sector “the archetype of the English cottage remains dominant; apparently meeting the needs of all groups” (Findlay 2009, 10).

What is the impact and role of architecture and related disciplines - the so called ‘design’ disciplines- when providing housing able to meet people’s need that “reflect present demands while being able to adapt to future needs and make the best use of local resources and skills and be capable of incremental improvement” (C.4(b),United Nations 1976)?

Settled within the Western Australian (WA) context, and further limited to the Perth metropolitan area, the study investigates new opportunities in terms of design responses when accommodating the housing needs of CaLD migrant groups that arises from the understanding of migrants’ housing choices and settlement patterns. Within the CaLD migrant groups, this research will concentrate on humanitarian and refugee entrants. Existing literature recognises as a fundamental milestone in the refugee migrants’ settlement process the opportunity to find the right accommodation that suits the family needs (Fozdar and Hartley 2012). In particular, the research has engaged with the Sudanese migrants community, one of the fastest growing of humanitarian and refugee entrants in WA.

Why my research is important

The research explores the role that architecture can play in addressing housing needs of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) migrant groups. In particular, the study contributes to the debate around future effective responses in terms of policies and design when providing affordable housing. It argues that while an immediate response is needed to overcome the current housing crisis, increasing the housing stock available in the market cannot be considered the single conclusive answer when, in addition, there is the need to respond to the social challenges being faced by those seeking housing today. It is proposed that socially responsive design can help guarantee achieving more accurate long-term responses to those challenges.


  • APA - Australian Postgraduate Award
  • UWA Top-up Scholarship
  • Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) Top-up Scholarship