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Demand for housing assistance remains high, particularly as the number of households experiencing 'housing stress' rises, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Housing assistance in Australia 2013, presents information on the range of programs that are provided to assist households struggling to meet housing costs.

It shows that the number of Australian households experiencing housing stress (defined as spending more than 30% of gross household income on housing costs, such as mortgage repayments or rent) rose from 15% to 18% between 2007-08 and 2011-12.

Of these, 2 in 5 (42%) were low income households (those whose income is in the bottom two-fifths of the population).

'A large number of renters are receiving financial assistance to reduce rental stress,' said AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.

'In June 2012, about 1.2 million recipients were receiving assistance under the Commonwealth Rent Assistance Program, and states and territories provided private rent assistance to about 107,000 households in 2011-12.'

The average cost of buying a house has increased substantially over the past decade (from $169,000 to $417,500 between 2001 and 2011) and many low income households and first home buyers have received help to purchase their homes.

'In 2011-12, 104,000 people received a First Home Owner Grant and nearly 41,000 households received support under state and territory home purchase assistance programs ,' Mr Neideck said.

The report also shows demand for social housing remains high, and while more social housing dwellings have been built, supply is not keeping up.

'By March 2013, 19,600 new social housing dwellings had been built under the Social Housing Initiative funded by the Commonwealth Government and about 80,000 dwellings had benefited from repairs and maintenance,' Mr Neideck said.

In 2011-12, there were 35, 667 households newly assisted in social housing, but over 200,000 households were still on public housing, state owned and managed Indigenous housing and community housing waiting lists, across Australia as at 30 June 2012.

'Social housing continues to be provided mostly to people in greatest need,' Mr Neideck said.

'For example, in 2011-12, social housing created a pathway out of homelessness for more than 13,000 households and provided accommodation to 160,000 households with a member with disability.

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, 6 November 2013

Further information: Geoff Neideck, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1163, mob. 0439 878 933

Full publication: Housing assistance in Australia 2013