BA (Hons) (La Trobe University) (1978)
B.Theology (Melbourne College of Divinity) (1984)
MA (Swinburne University of Technology) (2001)
PhD (Swinburne University of Technology) (2012)

Dr Sean McNelis lives in Melbourne, Australia. For the past 40 years, he has lived in rental housing either public housing, private rental housing or a rental housing co-operative. Recently, he and his wife built an extension on their sister-in-law’s house in West Footscray for their retirement.

Currently, Sean works part-time at the Swinburne Centre for Urban Transitions undertaking housing research and teaching.
He has over 40 years experience in housing management, housing policy and advocacy and, housing research having worked as:

  • as a housing manager living on a high-rise public housing estate (1981-1983);
  • as a community development worker managing and developing housing organisations (emergency housing services, housing information and referral services, housing co-operatives and tenant organisations) (1985-1989);
  • as a founding member, director and tenant of an inner-city rental housing co-operative (1985 – 2012);
  • as a housing policy worker and advocate with the Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS) (the peak community organisation in Victoria –, analysing Australian and Victorian government housing policy and in the forefront of community organisations and community housing organisations advocating for better housing policies and developing infrastructure for the newly emerging community housing sector in Australia (1989-1996)
  • as a housing researcher with Ecumenical Housing, a small but nationally influential community housing organisation that provided social housing and advocated for better housing policy (1998-2002); and
  • as an academic undertaking (i) housing research through the Swinburne Institute for Social Research and the Swinburne Centre for Urban Transitions and (ii) teaching (2002- ).

His work has often been at the leading edge, breaking new ground in our understanding of social housing, housing for older persons and linking housing and support services. At VCOSS and Ecumenical Housing, he provided leadership to the community housing sector through his analysis and advocacy around issues such as the development of the sector and its infrastructure, the future of public housing, Australian government and Victorian government funding of social housing, different forms of housing assistance and public housing policy.

Over the past 20 years at Swinburne, he has undertaken a range of housing research projects funded by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) ( including work on:

  • older persons in public housing
  • rental systems in social housing, both in Australia and overseas
  • independent living units for older persons with low assets and low incomes
  • asset management, and
  • the funding of homelessness services and the design of homelessness service system

He has also undertaken local government housing strategies and for many years was the manager of an interactive website which enabled local councils in Victoria to monitor housing affordability in their municipality and to compare themselves with other municipalities by providing them with data on housing affordability and housing data more generally at different geographical levels.

In recent years, his work has focused on the foundations of housing research and policy – how we go about doing housing research – and promoting a new framework for research and policy called Functional Collaboration based on the work of Canadian philosopher, theologian and economist, Bernard Lonergan. (See Making Progress in Housing: A Framework for Collaborative Research.)

His interests include:

  • the economic and philosophic writings of Bernard Lonergan
  • functional collaboration as the new way of understanding and doing housing research and policy
  • the foundations of housing research
  • social housing policy, in particular housing finance and rental systems
  • housing for older persons, and
  • housing co-operatives.