Within days of arriving in Canberra in January 1943, HC Coombs was discussing with his departmental colleagues the formation of a housing commission.
The Commonwealth Housing Commission was set up under national security regulations in April 1943 to report on all aspects of housing in Australia and to recommend plans for the provision of housing in the post-war years.
In November 1942 Arthur Tange wrote an extensive memorandum on the building industry, in which he suggested a post-war target of 68,000 houses per annum.
His figure took into account such factors as the elimination of slums and likely population growth, as well as the drastic slump in house building since the start of the war.
It estimated that by 1945 there would be a shortage of 300,000 houses and it set a 10-year target of 700,000 houses to overcome the backlog of housing, normal annual replacements and the replacement of slums.
(Construction in 1945–55 came quite close to this figure.) The commission considered that about half the projected construction would need to be financed by governments and would be mainly for rental.
The commissions would also provide houses for purchase or leasing by 'economic' tenants.
Like Barnett and Burt, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Social Security placed a great deal of emphasis on healthy housing and the abolition of slums.
The report influenced two generations of architectural students and town planners, but most of its recommendations were ignored or not implemented by governments.
In its fourth report (May 1942), it recommended that the Commonwealth immediately undertake the task of planning and research towards establishing a national housing scheme.
Soon afterwards the Reconstruction Division began studying the housing problem, encouraged by Barnett and other reformers.
Commonwealth financial assistance was acceptable, but not Commonwealth supervision and administrative involvement.
One consequence of state obstruction was the decision of the Commonwealth in August 1945 to abandon the home purchase provisions.