BCEC PhD scholar examines the impact of gentrification on housing affordability

ContactsChristopher Phelps, BCEC PhD Scholar
Published2 May 2017

Christopher Phelps, 23, from Perth was successfully awarded a BCEC PhD Scholarship in 2016. Christopher shares insights into his journey conducting research within the Centre, over the past year.

Tell us why you chose to apply for the BCEC PhD Scholarship.

It was both a chance to gain a competitive edge against other graduates if I decided to pursue a job outside of academia, and the opportunity to continue into academia if I enjoyed the process of full time research.

Tell us about something interesting you are working on.

I am currently beginning the first stage of my PhD thesis which explores variations in house price growth in Australian cities, and its link to the concepts of gentrification.

Gentrification is the sudden influx of high income households into low income areas. While it’s a hot topic internationally, there exists almost no research into the gentrification of Australian cities. As a PhD scholar at BCEC, I have the opportunity to conduct this research for the first time under the tutelage of some of Australia’s top housing researchers.

My honours thesis explored housing preferences, trade-offs and choices in Perth. The project used data to analyse the trade-offs Perth residents were willing to make between housing types to access their desired neighbourhoods.

Tell us about why you’re interested in housing pathways and affordability.

Housing is vital to a person’s security and happiness, and it is also the biggest investment they will make in their lives. What else do we buy or rent that has so much impact? I guess I find the impact of housing fascinating, whether that be on an individual or the economy as a whole.

BCEC Deputy Director Professor Rachel Ong is your mentor within the Centre. What is it like working under her tutelage?

I am very lucky to be supervised by one of the few housing economics researchers in Australia, as well as someone so well respected among her peers. Along with my other supervisors, Professor Gavin Wood, Associate Professor Steven Rowley and Professor Mark Harris, I have a massive pool of knowledge and experience to draw from.

What other supports do you have to enable the success of your study within research?

The other PhD students currently at BCEC, Jaslin Kalsi and Toan Nguyen, provide another support network. It’s always nice to have people going through the same things that you can relate to, instead of going at it alone.

Are you working part-time?

I have been a casual research assistant at Curtin University while undertaking my PhD. This has given me the opportunity to participate in research projects relevant to my research, learn important skills such as research techniques and statistical programs , all while getting paid for it!

How do you manage to juggle all your commitments?

Besides the occasional meeting or deadline, the advantage of being a PhD scholar, is being able to work from home when you need, and shuffle around your work time to suit you. If ‘life stuff’ needs attention I can go back to PhD progress later – I don’t have to worry about being at work on time. I guess it’s all about finding the right balance! There is definitely time in a PhD to maintain a normal and healthy social life, which I think is very important. Sometimes coming up to a deadline you might have to put socialising and hobbies aside, but it is nothing out of the ordinary. Other than the regular exploits of a young adult, I am an avid sports fan, so I’m often keeping up with the AFL, cricket, NBA and also participating in sports myself.

Your family must be extremely proud of your drive and dedication?

Yes indeed! My parents didn’t have the opportunity to go to university, or even dream about obtaining a PhD. My Dad is very proud that I now have the chance to reach such heights and they are very supportive of my endeavour to be the best researcher I can be.

Tell us about some of the highlights working within BCEC?

There are many well-respected researchers working at BCEC, so it is a privilege to be among such company. Through BCEC, I have been able to attend several major report launches which has given me the opportunity to see how impactful research can be. I get to see firsthand how research can generate good discussion and contribute towards the momentum of affecting change.

Where do you see yourself in the future? What career path do you wish to pursue?

I hope to continue into a career of academia and continue my housing research.

What advice or words of wisdom would you share with others interested in applying for the BCEC PhD Scholarship?

What do you have to lose? You are getting the opportunity to work with some of the most respected researches in the State, the tax free scholarship is generous, and there are always opportunities to pursue casual research assistant work or teaching work at the University while you study. I would much rather be conducting my own original research on my own schedule, than battling to please a boss each day at a graduate position.