Commonwealth Rent Assistance program profiled in new report

Recipients of Commonwealth Rent Assistance and the program's effects on housing affordability for people on low income are profiled in the latest publication released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Commonwealth Rent Assistance, June 2002: A profile of recipients, states that for the fortnight ending 14 June 2002, the reference period for the report, a total of 909,062 eligible individuals and families received assistance through the program, representing about 23% of all Centrelink clients.

Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA), a non-taxable income supplement, is paid through Centrelink to eligible recipients of a Centrelink pension or allowance, or an amount of Family Tax Benefit over the base rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A, who rent in the private rental market.

Head of the AIHW's Housing Assistance Unit, David Wilson, said of all Centrelink clients, single parents with one or two children were most likely to receive CRA.

'In this group, 41% received the supplement, representing the largest proportion of any recipient type,' David Wilson said.

'However, the largest numbers of CRA recipients in absolute terms were single people without children, representing 55% of all recipients. '

In examining the effect of CRA on housing affordability, the report compares the proportion of income that recipients spent on rent both before and after CRA was received.

'CRA aims to help people on low income with meeting their private housing rental costs by reducing the proportion of their income spent on housing, thereby improving affordability,' David Wilson said.

'Before CRA payments, 28% of all recipients spent more than half of their income on rent. This figure fell to 9% spending this proportion on rent, after receiving CRA payments.'

Notable differences between the proportions of income spent on rent by different recipient groups, before and after CRA was paid, were reported. For instance, 42% of single people without children spent more than half of their income on rent before CRA, compared with 13% after CRA was received.

David Wilson pointed out that CRA recipients could use the supplement to pay expenses for a variety of accommodation types, including private rental, board and lodgings, lodgings only, caravan sites, boat marinas and retirement villages.

'Most recipients - 80% -paid private rent for a dwelling. A further 9% paid for board and lodgings accommodation, 6% for lodgings only, with the remaining 5% paying caravan site and boat mooring fees, or fees for nursing homes or retirement villages.'

28 May 2004

Further information: Diane Gibson, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1190, or mobile 0409 466 058.
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032.