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Government programs, such as rent assistance, home purchase assistance and social housing, continue to improve access to affordable housing among those on low incomes, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Housing assistance in Australia 2014, presents information on trends and issues in housing policy, housing affordability, the housing assistance provided to Australians with financial or other needs, and the benefits this assistance provides.

It shows that Government assistance can have significant positive impacts on reducing the proportion of people in rental stress.

'Many low-income earners are in 'rental stress'-with a high  proportion of low-income earners paying more than 30% of their income in rent,' said AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.

In 2007-08, 37% of low-income households were in rental stress compared to 44% in 2011-12.

'Commonwealth Rent Assistance has a major impact on households' rental affordability, with a 27 percentage point reduction in the number of low-income recipients in housing stress after receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance,' Mr Neideck said.

'Breaking into the housing market is becoming more challenging for younger Australians and low-to-moderate-income earners.'

In 1981, 61% of people aged 25-34 were purchasing or owned their homes; by 2011 it was 47% and many low-income households and first home buyers received help to purchase their homes.

In 2012-13, 92,000 people received a First Home Owner Grant. Additionally, around 40,000 Australian households received support from Home Purchase Assistance Programs.

At 30 June 2013, 414,000 households were living in social housing, and almost half of social housing tenants report social and economic participation benefits as a result of living in social housing.

Social housing continues to be targeted to people in greatest need. In 2012-13, 77% of allocations to public rental housing and 65% to State Owned and Managed Indigenous Housing were for greatest need applications (households that are either homeless, in housing inappropriate to their needs, in housing that is adversely affecting their health or placing their life and safety at risk, or households that have very high rental housing costs).

However, waiting lists for social housing continue to grow and supply is not keeping up. As at 30 June 2013, there were over 217,000 households on waiting lists for social housing.

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 October 2014

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

Full publication: Housing assistance in Australia 2014