Housing assistance remains important for many Australians as affordability pressures grow

Housing assistance remains important for many Australians, particularly with increasing households experiencing 'housing stress', according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The demand for social housing (rental housing provided by government or not-for-profit community organisations) continues to be high and waiting lists remain long.

The report, Housing assistance in Australia 2012, shows that the number of Australian households experiencing moderate 'housing stress' (defined as spending more than 30% of gross household income on housing costs) increased from 900,000 (or 14% of all households) in 1995 to 1.4 million (17%) in 2010.

'The number of households in severe housing stress (defined as spending more than 50% of gross household income on housing) also increased-from 300,000 (4.6% of all households) in 1995 to more than 460,000 (5.5%) in 2010,' said AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.

Over half a million of these households are low income households (those whose income is in the bottom two-fifths of the population).

Government housing assistance is provided under the National Affordable Housing Agreement, which aims to ensure that all Australians have access to affordable, safe and sustainable housing.

Over the last decade, support has increasingly been focused on those in the greatest need, including groups such as Indigenous Australians, young and older Australians and people with disability. Support is also focused on people who were homeless, whose life or safety was at risk in their accommodation, whose condition was aggravated by their housing or who had very high rental costs.

The main type of assistance continues to be Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA), provided to more than 1.1 million 'income units' (a single person or couple, with or without dependent children) in June 2011, up slightly from 2010. More than nine in ten (92%) CRA recipients were classified as low income. A further 159,000 households were provided with private rent assistance from state and territory governments.

In June 2011, there were 421,100 social housing dwellings, which represent less than 4% of Australian housing stock. Around 331,400 households were in public rental housing, down from 333,400 in 2010 and 345,300 in 2004.

'The report shows a significant  increase in the availability of mainstream community housing, that is, housing  managed by community organisations and supported through a variety of funding methods, including government funding. This rose from about 26,800 households in 2004 to almost 58,000 in 2011,' Mr Neideck said.

There has been a slight fall in the number of households supported by home purchase assistance programs (44,210 in 2010 to 44,060 in 2011).

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.


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