Social housing supports over 800,000 Australians

More than 800,000 Australians were living in the nation’s three main social housing programs and 1.31 million individuals or families were receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance in 2017-18, according to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, Housing assistance in Australia found that the number of social housing dwellings remained relatively stable in 2017-18 at 436,200 — an increase of less than 1% over the previous 12 months.

The report also details the continued trend of an increasing proportion of social housing stock being managed by community housing organisations.

‘The number of community housing dwellings more than doubled between 2008-09 and 2017-18 from 39,800 to 87,800, partly due to the transfer of ownership or management of public housing dwellings to community organisations,’ said AIHW spokesperson Mr Matthew James.

The number of public housing dwellings decreased from 336,500 in 2008-09 to 316,200 in 2017–18.

While the stock of social housing has increased 6% since 2008-09, it has not kept pace with the growth in the number of households. The number of social housing dwellings per 100 households declined from 5.1 per 100 households in 2007-08 to 4.6 in 2017-18.

There are a range of housing assistance programs in Australia, provided by Commonwealth and state and territory governments as well as community based organisations. Housing assistance includes public and community housing, financial assistance with rental costs and home purchase as well as provision of services to assist in obtaining accommodation or sustaining tenancies. Social housing includes public housing, community housing and state-owned and managed Indigenous community housing (SOMIH).

In 2017-18 children aged 15 years and under and people aged 55 years and over made up around 50% of all social housing tenants.

In 2018, 4% of public housing and 4% of community housing households were considered to be overcrowded dwellings where there were insufficient bedrooms for the number of occupants. Another 17% of public housing and 10% of community housing households were considered to be underutilised dwellings, where a dwelling contained more than one bedroom surplus to the needs of the household occupying it.

'About 1.31 million individuals or groups of related persons received Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA), with a median fortnightly payment of $135,’ Mr James said.

‘Of those receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance, four in 10 (40%) were considered to be in rental stress, where housing costs are more than 30% of the gross household income. If not for Commonwealth Rent Assistance, almost 7 in 10 (68%) would have been considered to be in rental stress.’