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Housing assistance programs are helping to ease affordability pressures and are providing an important safety net for Australians, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Housing assistance in Australia 2011, also shows a significant number of Australian households spend unacceptably high proportions of their income on housing.

Housing assistance provided by governments in Australia fall under the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) and is designed to alleviate the financial burden on people purchasing or renting a home.

In 2009-10, 44,000 Australian households received state/territory-administered home purchase assistance, while a further 154,000 households received private rent assistance, such as bond loans.

There were 1.1 million recipients of Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) as at June 2010.

‘Without CRA, 70% of these people, and their families, would be in rental stress—i.e. paying more than 30% of their income on rent,’ said Mr Brent Diverty of the AIHW’s Continuing and Specialised Care Group.

The impact of CRA on housing affordability is notable, with a 40% reduction in the number of recipients in rental stress, however a considerable proportion (41% or almost 440,000 recipients) remain in rental stress even after receipt of CRA.

‘For those unable to secure or sustain affordable and appropriate housing in the private market, the provision of social housing provides an important safety net,’ Mr Diverty said.

‘Almost 400,000 households were being assisted through social housing as of 30 June 2010.’

‘With most of these households on low incomes, the affordable tenure offered by social housing represents a considerable benefit for tenants,’ Mr Diverty said.

As of 30 June 2010, more than 98% of public rental housing and more than 99% of state owned and managed Indigenous housing households were paying less than 30% of their income in rent. The majority (73%) of households in mainstream community housing paid less than 25% of their income in rent.

Social housing continues to be targeted towards those in greatest need. In 2009-10, 75% of new public rental housing tenants were homeless or at risk of homelessness prior to allocation. However, high demand and limited social housing supply meant that almost 250,000 Australian households were on social housing waiting lists as of June 2010.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 15 June 2011

Further information: Mr Brent Diverty, AIHW, tel. (02) 6249 5096, mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032

Full report: Housing assistance in Australia 2011