Unison Housing Research Lab 

A unique education and research collaboration between RMIT University and Unison Housing

The Unison Housing Lab ran in partnership with RMIT from 2017 – 2024.

The Unison Housing Research Lab (Lab), was a unique education and research collaboration between RMIT University and Unison Housing, established to inform housing and homelessness best practices and policy. It is the largest program of its kind in Australia. 

What does the Lab do?

Research program

The Lab's multi-disciplinary research program focuses on creating new empirical and conceptual knowledge about:

  • What actions can be taken to develop social housing that creates vibrant communities, improves tenancy sustainability and satisfaction, and maximises their impact on tenants’ social, economic, and health outcomes.
  • The effectiveness of homelessness program interventions.
  • Approaches that help translate research into policy and practice.

The team oversees work undertaken under three priority research areas: sustainability and satisfaction, program evaluation, and data-driven decision-making.

Australia's first homelessness and housing course

The Lab developed and delivers an integrated teaching program that provides RMIT University students with Australia's first dedicated course on homelessness and housing.

The course offers a cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary approach to education that integrates homelessness theory, policy and practice. The course provides students with the knowledge and resources to support careers in the homelessness and housing sector.

How does the Lab work?

Our work is guided by six principles:

  1. Responsive
  2. Critical
  3. Policy and practice relevant
  4. Excellence
  5. Collaborative
  6. Capacity building.


The Lab's research and education program are undertaken in collaboration with academics who are part of the Housing and Homelessness research cluster, other educational institutions, housing and welfare providers, and policymakers. The Lab focuses on contributing to building Australia’s housing research capacity by supporting a team of PhD students. 

Meet the Unison Housing Research Lab team

Guy Johnson

Professor Guy Johnson

Guy is a Professor of Urban Housing and Homelessness at RMIT University and the inaugural Director of the Unison Housing Research Lab; an industry-led partnership that aims to address the ongoing issue of housing insecurity and homelessness in a way that looks at both the current failings in the housing system and preventative measures to help alleviate disadvantage.

He has been involved in precarious housing and homelessness for more than three decades, initially as a practitioner and for the last 15 years as a researcher. Guy has extensive knowledge of existing homelessness research and current policies and is well acquainted with the housing and homelessness service systems.

Drawing on an innovative mix of methodologies, including longitudinal studies, randomised controlled trials, and in-depth qualitative work, Guy's research investigates theoretical and applied questions relating to the dynamics of homelessness and housing. 

His research has contributed extensively to government policy and agency practice that addresses the housing and support needs of disadvantaged and low-income households. 

He has co-authored several books, more than 80 reports and refereed papers, and eight book chapters. He has served on numerous Government committees and advisory bodies and is a regular presenter at public and policy forums. He has been awarded grants from the ARC and AHURI and has conducted numerous research projects with industry partners, including The Salvation Army, HomeGround Services, Sacred Heart Mission and Melbourne Central Mission. 

Guy is recognised nationally and internationally as a leader in innovative policy and practice-relevant research. In 2014 Guy spent 12 months at the University of Pennsylvania as a Visiting Scholar and was an Honorary Principal Research Fellow at The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne between 2012-2018.

Fiona Carey

Fiona is a PhD Candidate within the Unison Housing Research Lab at RMIT University.

Fiona has a background working in social work, housing and homelessness. Her research looks at ontological security and place-making within community housing settings, and how this relates to tenant well-being.


Godwin Kavaarpuo


Godwin is a research fellow at RMIT University/Unison Housing Research Lab, Australia. He is also affiliated with  the Melbourne School of Design, the University of  Melbourne, where he undertook his doctoral studies in Property Economics. His teaching, research interests and publications are in the broad areas of housing markets and affordability, spatial analytics, real estate development and sustainability, and real estate innovation, with a geographic focus on Africa and Australia.

He has 7+ years of housing and urban development experience and consulted for clients, including the Africa Development Bank, Global Communities, Center for Affordable Housing Finance, Inclusive Business Action Network and Ministry of Works and Housing (Ghana).       

At Unison, Godwin applies various econometric and machine learning techniques to understand housing and  homelessness better to inform services provision and policy decisions in Victoria, Australia.




Abigail Lewis

Abigail is a PhD Candidate within the Unison Housing Research Lab at RMIT University.

Abigail is a policy research and advocacy professional whose work focuses on social policy, social security, social housing, and social justice




Susan McCallum

Susan is a PhD Candidate within the Unison Housing Research Lab at RMIT University.

Susan is a social worker with 20 years of experience in a range of non-government and educational settings. Her research looks at the process of settling in and making a home in social housing, and the relationship between  housing and a 'good life'.

Research reviews

The Research Review Series is a Lab initiative. Each month we review a new book or recently published paper. Reviews will be short but informative, encouraging readers to seek the original research.

Click on the links below to dowload the reviews.


Social housing after neo-liberalism: new forms of state-driven welfare intervention toward social renters by Cameron Parsell, Lynda Cheshire, Zoe Walter and Andrew Clarke (2022).


Research reports

The Lab publishes research reports annually to inform housing and homelessness best practices and policies. Research involves an in-depth analysis of administrative data collected by Unison and specific projects developed to address identified needs to drive decision-making and program development.

Click on the links below to dowload the reports.


Longitudinal study of new social housing tenants - 30-month results (September 2023)

Longitudinal study of new social housing tenants - 12-month results (February 2023)



Improving Impact: Research translation through an academic-industry partnership (October 2022)

Living in subsidised affordable rental housing - Tenant experiences (September 2022)



Is permanent supportive housing permanent? The Common Ground study (November 2021)

Mobilising academic industry partnerships:Social work education and homelessness (November 2021)

Making home or making do: A critical look at homemaking without a home (June 2021)

Sustaining Social Housing. Profiles and Patterns (May 2021)



Longitudinal study of new social housing tenants-Baseline results - Full Report (Nov 2020)

Staying Home? Examining longer-term housing outcomes of the Private Rental Access Program - Full Report (June 2020)

Sustaining tenancies: Issues and challenges Report 2 (February 2020)

Sustaining tenancies: Issues and challenges Report 1 (February 2020)



Capabilities and Housing:Questions of Application (November 2019)

Service use patterns at a high-volume homelessness service - Full Report (Sept 2019)

What's changed? Comparing occupancy patterns at Unison 2014-2016 (March 2019)

Who stays, who leaves and why? Occupancy patterns at Unison Housing 2014-2016 (Feb 2019)



Diversity and Complexity: homelessness in Melbourne's west (Aug 2018) 




Think Pieces, opinion pieces and articles

The Lab regularly publishes Think Pieces, opinion pieces and other thought leadership articles. The series critically examines theories and evidence influential in social housing and homelessness.

Click on the links below to download the Think Pieces.


Academic‑Industry Collaboration to Advance Social Work Homelessness Education (March 2022)

Using Discretion When Evicting Social Housing Tenants (March 2022)

Sustaining tenancies: Issues and challenges for social housing providers (Paper 1 of 2 commissioned by the Social Housing Regulation Review panel) (February 2022)

Sustaining tenancies: Measuring performance (Paper 2 of 2 commissioned by the Social Housing Regulation Review panel (February 2022)




Social Work Education and Homelessness: Mobilising Academic-Industry Partnerships to Create a Homelessness Subject - Research Paper Summary (November 2021)

Staying in Place: Social Housing and Support Services (April 2021)

The Productivity of Unemployment and the Temporality of Employment-to-Come: Older Disadvantaged Job Seekers - Research Paper Summary (Jan 2021)



The great disruption: How COVID-19 might help us to end homelessness (Aug 2020)

Creating Community: Tenant and Staff Perceptions of Formal and Informal Processes in Mixed‑tenure Community Housing (July 2020)

Tenancy Sustainment: Four Research Projects at Unison Housing (July 2020)

Making and Unmaking a Rooming House: Unison and ‘Marj Oke’ (July 2020)



Does tenue mix work? (March 2018)



Does Place Matter? (Dec 2017)



Seminars and videos

Sustaining Social Housing Report Launch and Discussion



Maximising Impact: Baseline report findings



The Myths and Truths of Homelessness



Parliamentary submissions

Submission to the Federal Parliamentary Inquiry into homelessness in Australia (June 2020)

Submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into homelessness in Victoria (February 2020)