South Australian Housing Trust

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The South Australian Housing Trust (SAHT) was a statutory authority established by the Government of South Australia responsible for providing low-cost rental housing to working people and their families.


South Australia's Liberal and Country League (LCL) government established the SAHT as Australia's first state housing authority in 1936. It was conceived not as a means of improving living standards through improved housing or town planning but as a tool in the government's emerging plan for attracting industrial investment by keeping labour costs below those in the main rival states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria. This role was most developed during Thomas Playford's 26 years as LCL premier (1938–1965). Playford supported the expansion of the SAHT as a major state enterprise and as a key instrument in the economic policies initiated by his predecessor as premier, Richard Butler.[1]

As these policies were principally concerned with promoting industrial development and population growth, their effects were concentrated on Adelaide. Most scholars acknowledge that the main outcome of Playford's administration was a hastened rate of industrialisation. Rather than industrialisation itself, the most tangible outcome of Playford era policies was a new metropolitan Adelaide. A role as urban developer was implicit in the Trust's founding purpose of constructing workers' cottages on a scale sufficient to restrain rents in Adelaide generally and stimulate the private building industry. From its inauguration in 1937, the SAHT board embarked upon a wider metropolitan planning role in its selection of sites for housing estates. These inadvertent urban planning roles became more self-conscious and more extensive from the late 1940s as Playford supported industrial development by creating or greatly expanding State enterprises such as the Electricity Trust of South Australia and the SAHT. The urban policy role of the SAHT was part of the government's strategies of general industrial development. The undertaking of explicitly urban development roles was also due to the restructuring of the SAHT during the mid-1940s, with additional staff and responsibilities, a new chairman (Jack Cartledge) and general manager (Alex Ramsay). Cartledge and Ramsay were highly intelligent and capable men who created the post-war organisation with its pervasive powers and directed the SAHT for the remaining years of the Playford government. Both men were conscious of the role of the SAHT in determining the overall direction of urban growth, and not merely contributing to it.

Post-World War II[edit]

SAHT semi-detached cottages, from the late 1940s at Seaton, showing little exterior modification of the original design

After the Second World War the Trust became one of the most powerful of the State authorities. Many new activities were supported by Playford, which enabled the SAHT to act as a total development authority, so that it could foster new suburban areas, industrial and economic development, and population expansion. The SAHT thus operated as "metropolitan planner" at several levels simultaneously: as formal town planner (at Elizabeth); as de facto metropolitan planner, integrating factory development and housing and extending the suburbs; and as a major State planner, particularly in relation to industrialisation and immigration.[2]

Final years[edit]

The Trust's wide roles as a large-scale developer and public housing authority were curtailed from the late 1980s. The statutory authority also came under departmental control, at first under the Department of Human Services, and from 2004 under the Department for Families and Communities. In its 70th year the SAHT was replaced by Housing SA within that department,[3][4] which has since been included in the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Susan Marsden (1986): Business, charity and sentiment: the South Australian Housing Trust 1936 - 1986 Wakefield Press, Adelaide. ISBN 0949268879
  2. ^ Susan Marsden (1994): Constructing Playford’s city: the South Australian Housing Trust and the transformation of Adelaide, 1936-1966, PhD thesis, Flinders University of South Australia.
  3. ^ Susan Marsden (2011): Business, charity and sentiment: Part Two, The South Australian Housing Trust 1987-2011 Wakefield Press, Adelaide. ISBN 9781862549715
  4. ^ Susan Marsden, Business, charity and sentiment: Part Two, The South Australian Housing Trust 1987-2011 Review by Nic Klaassen. Flinders Ranges Research. Accessed 10 April 2014.

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