Social housing helps over 400,000 households

About 406,000 households were being assisted by social housing nationally in June 2009, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, A profile of social housing in Australia, provides an overview of the different social housing programs that were provided under the most recent Commonwealth State Housing Agreement (CSHA), which was in place from 2003 to 2008, and the first six months of the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA), which was introduced in January 2009. (Most initiatives under NAHA were to take effect after June 2009.)

It shows that, in 2009, 81%of households being assisted by social housing were in public rental housing, while 9% were in mainstream community housing (social housing managed by the not-for-profit sector).

Over the life of the CSHA the number of community housing dwellings increased considerably, while at the same time there was a decline in public rental housing stock. By 2008-09 almost half of the new allocations to social housing were to mainstream community housing, despite representing only about 10% of total stock in social housing.

'In 2008-09, over 170,000 households were on waiting lists for public rental housing,' said Kate Mallen, Head of the Institute's Housing Unit.

'Allocations of public rental housing were increasingly rationed, with over 60% of newly assisted households assessed as being in 'greatest need'-more than double the rate of these allocations in 2003-04,' Ms Mallen said.

The report shows the demographic profile of households in social housing changed little over the course of the CSHA agreement.

'Households were mainly on very low incomes and the majority received a government pension as their main source of income,' Ms Mallen said.

Older single people made up the highest proportion of household types. The median age for tenants in public rental housing is 54 years, and 44 years for tenants in state owned and managed Indigenous housing (SOMIH), compared to the median age of 37 years for all people in the Australian population.

As social housing generally offers affordable rents and some security of tenure, tenants largely report being satisfied and the majority of tenants in public rental and mainstream community housing had lived in the same dwelling for more than 5 years.

Occupancy rates were over 90% across social housing, and higher in major cities, where most social housing dwellings are located.


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