Housing assistance can provide vital support for people with disability who live in a household that cannot meet the costs of accessing or maintaining housing.
Housing assistance can be short or long term and can vary depending on the needs of the person and/or household. It is generally provided through:
Commonwealth Rent Assistance
CRA is a non-taxable Australian Government income supplement made to eligible people renting in the private housing market or community housing to assist with their cost of housing. See Commonwealth Rent Assistance on the Department of Social Services website for details about eligibility. It is the most common form of housing assistance received by Australian households overall. At 26 June 2020, 1.7 million income units received CRA (AIHW 2021a).
Private rent assistance (PRA)
PRA is financial assistance provided directly by all state and territory governments to low‑income households experiencing difficulty in securing or maintaining private rental accommodation. Private rent assistance is usually provided as a one-off form of support and includes bond loans, rental grants, rental subsidies and relief, and payment of relocation expenses. In 2019–20, PRA was provided to 92,600 households. Bond loans (73,900 households) were the most common type of PRA followed by one-off rental grants (35,100 households) (AIHW 2021b).
National Disability Insurance Scheme and housing
The NDIS is Australia’s first national insurance-based scheme for people with disability (see Specialist disability support services and the NDIS website for more information). It funds supports for participants, including supports focused on housing. These include home modifications and Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA), which is accommodation for people with very high needs who require specialist housing solutions, including to assist with delivery of supports.
SDA funding is provided to only a small proportion of NDIS participants who meet specific eligibility criteria and have extreme functional impairment or very high support needs. 15,700 active NDIS participants have SDA supports in their plans as at December 2020 (NDIA 2019).
SDA funding helps to produce high quality, contemporary, accessible, well-designed housing for participants. It does not fund the support services themselves. SDA may include specialist designs for people with very high needs. It may have a location or features that help residents live more independently and allow other supports to be delivered better or more safely. See SDA on the NDIS website for more information.
Active NDIS participants may also receive funding for home modifications to enable safe access and comfortable mobility in frequently used areas within their homes. Generally, these include:
- design and construction
- installation of fixtures or fittings
- changes to structural and non-structural components of the home (NDIA 2021b).
In addition to housing assistance, several initiatives are aimed specifically at people with disability. This includes Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) supports provided though the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
At 30 June 2021, nationally 3.4% (or 16,000) of active participant plans include SDA (NDIA 2021a).
At 31 December 2020, 1 in 15 (6.7% or 27,900) participants aged under 65 received supports for home modifications. This included 1 in 17 male participants (5.8% or 15,000) and 1 in 12 female participants (8.3% or 12,600).
Home modification supports varied by gender and age. Of the 27,900 participants who received supports for home modifications:
- more than half (54% or 15,000) were males and 46% (or 12,600) were females (excluding gender not stated)
- around 3 in 5 were aged 45–64 (59% or 16,500) compared with 1 in 14 aged 0–18 (7.2% or 2,000) (NDIA 2021c).
Commonwealth Rent Assistance
Appropriate housing for people living with disability can often be difficult to get or maintain without additional financial assistance, such as Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA).
At 26 June 2020, 16% of CRA income units received the Disability Support Pension (DSP) as their primary payment type (AIHW 2021a). Other common income support payments, relevant to people with disability, received by CRA income units as their primary payment type are:
- JobSeeker Payment (38%)
- Age Pension (18%)
- Carer Payment (4.5%) (AIHW 2021a).
At 26 June 2020, 266,000 income units received both DSP and CRA. Of those:
- 2 in 3 (64% or 171,000) lived in private rental properties (including community housing), compared with 80% (or 1.1 million) of CRA income units who did not receive DSP
- the remaining 1 in 3 (36% or 94,600) had other types of rental arrangements including board and/or lodging, Defence Force housing, maintenance fees for nursing home or retirement village, mooring fees, other housing organisations, respite care fees, site fees, and other rent types
- 1 in 2 (50% or 132,000) paid less than $200 rent per week, compared with 36% (or 518,000) of CRA income units who did not receive DSP
- 33% (or 87,000) paid $200 to less than $300 and 17% (or 46,500) paid $300 or more
- most (92% or 245,000) received less than $70 rent assistance per week, compared with 81% (or 1.2 million) of CRA income units who did not receive DSP
- the remaining 7.9% (or 21,000) received $70 or more, compared with 19% (or 272,000) (AIHW 2021a).
Rental stress is defined as spending more than 30% of gross household income (excluding CRA) on rent (after CRA is deducted from rent). At 26 June 2020:
- 32% (or 84,000) of income units receiving CRA and DSP were in rental stress after receiving CRA. Without CRA, 72% (or 190,000) of these income units would be in rental stress
- 29% (or 488,000) of all CRA income units were in rental stress after receipt of CRA and 55% (or 919,000) in rental stress without CRA
- 29% (or 404,000) of CRA income units who did not receive DSP were in rental stress after receipt of CRA and 52% (or 729,000) in rental stress without CRA (AIHW 2021a).
It should be noted that the 2 comparison groups (all CRA-receiving income units and the CRA-receiving income units who do not receive DSP) include income units outside the income support system who receive CRA with Family Tax Benefit (FTB) only. This group generally has higher incomes and better housing affordability outcomes.
Around 141,000 social housing households have at least one person with disability (at June 2020). This makes up 39% of all social housing households (where disability status is known). Public housing has the highest proportion of households that have at least one person with disability (42% or 110,000) (where disability status is known).
What is social housing?
Social housing is one of the main forms of housing assistance provided in Australia. It is rental housing owned or managed by the government or a community organisation, let to eligible people.
Social housing rents are generally set below market levels and are influenced by household income (AIHW 2019).
Data in this section are sourced from Housing assistance in Australia which reports on the 3 main social housing programs in Australia:
- public housing
- State Owned and Managed Indigenous Housing (SOMIH)
- community housing.
Each state, territory or organisation that provides social housing determines its own priorities for allocating its stock according to need. Priorities typically fall across ‘special needs’ and ‘greatest need’ categories.
Special needs households include households that have:
- at least one person with disability
- a main tenant younger than 25 years or 75 or over (50 or over for SOMIH)
- at least one person who identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
Disability in social housing programs is defined as an impairment of body structure or function, a limitation in activities, and/or a restriction in participation.
Greatest need households are low-income households in which, at the time of allocation, members are experiencing:
- risk to life or safety in their accommodation
- aggravation of their health condition due to their housing
- housing inappropriate to their needs
- very high rental costs.
Households may be identified as greatest need or special need or both (AIHW 2021b).
Newly allocated public housing households
More than 1 in 3 (36% or 5,300) newly allocated public housing households have at least one person with disability (where disability status is known). These households make up over half (51%) of newly allocated households with special needs in public housing.
More than 4 in 5 (82% or 4,300) newly allocated public housing households that have at least one person with disability are households in greatest need. Common main reasons are:
- homelessness (48%)
- health condition aggravated by housing (19%)
- life or safety at risk in accommodation (16%).
Newly allocated SOMIH households
Around 1 in 4 (26% or 150) newly allocated SOMIH households have at least one person with disability (where disability status and greatest need status are known). Of them, 3 in 4 (73% or 110) are in greatest need. Common main reasons are:
- homelessness (37%)
- health condition aggravated by housing (18%)
- life or safety at risk in accommodation (16%).
Household characteristics include the composition of the household, income status, and Indigenous status, as well as demographic information relating to the main tenant.
Household composition is based on the relationship between household members. Of households that have at least one person with disability (where disability status is known) (Figure ASSISTANCE.1):
- the majority are single-adult households (62% or77,700), higher than households that do not have a person with disability (57% or 108,000) (where household composition is known)
- 1 in 5 (20% or 24,900) are group or mixed composition households (17% or 31,300 without disability) (where household composition is known)
- 1 in 14 (7.3% or 9,100) are single-parent households (16% or 31,200 without disability) (where household composition is known)
- almost all (99% or 108,000) are low-income households (98% or 146,000 without disability) (where low-income status is known)
- 1 in 10 (10% or 12,000) are Indigenous (12% or 22,500 without disability) (where Indigenous status is known). A household is considered to be Indigenous if any member of the household identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. Note that 68,900 households have Indigenous status ‘not stated’.