Housing assistance

1 in 5

(20%) CRA recipients received income support through the DSP (June 2019).

1 in 3

(31%) income units receiving CRA with at least 1 person on DSP are in housing stress.

6 in 10

(62%) social housing households with at least 1 person with disability are single-adult households.

On this page:


Introduction

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:

In addition to mainstream housing assistance, several initiatives are aimed specifically at people with disability. This includes Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) provided though the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This refers to accommodation for people who require specialist housing solutions due to extreme functional impairment or very high support needs. An estimated 6.5% of NDIS participants will require SDA (NDIA 2019). At 31 March 2020, nationally 13,944 active participant plans include SDA (NDIA 2020).

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 those focused on housing. These include home modifications and Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA), which is accommodation for people requiring specialist housing solutions, including to assist with delivery of supports.

Funding is only provided to a small proportion of NDIS participants who meet specific eligibility criteria and have extreme functional impairment or very high support needs. See SDA on the NDIS website for more information.

SDA funding is for developing new, high quality dwellings for use by eligible NDIS participants. It does not refer to the support services themselves. SDA may include specialist designs for people with very high needs. It may have a location or features that make it feasible to provide complex or costly supports for independent living (NDIA 2019).


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).

Rent assistance

Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA)

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. In 2018–19 over 1.2 million income units received CRA (DSS 2020).

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 2018–19, PRA was provided to 91,800 households. Bond loans (72,200 households) were the most common type of PRA followed by one-off rental grants (32,900 households) (AIHW 2020).

At June 2019, 20% of CRA recipients receive the Disability Support Pension (DSP) (DSS 2020). Other common income support payments, relevant to people with disability, received by CRA recipients are:

  • Age Pension (22%)
  • Newstart Allowance (20%)
  • Carer Payment (5.4%) (DSS 2020).

Rental stress

Rental stress is defined as spending more than 30% of gross household income on rent. At June 2019, 31% of income units receiving CRA, that include at least 1 person on DSP, paid more than 30% of their income in rent after receiving CRA. Without CRA, 72% of these income units would be in rental stress. This compares with 41% in rental stress after receipt of CRA and 69% in rental stress without CRA for all income units receiving CRA (DSS 2020).


Social housing

More than 146,000 social housing households have at least 1 person with disability (at June 2019). This makes up 41% of all social housing households (where disability status is known). Public housing has the highest proportion of households that have at least 1 person with disability (44% or 117,000) (where disability status is known).

What is social housing?

Social housing is 1 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 2020 collected from 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 1 person with disability
  • a main tenant younger than 25 years or 75 and over (50 and over for SOMIH)
  • at least 1 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:

  • homelessness
  • 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 2020).

Newly allocated public housing households

Almost 4 in 10 (39%) newly allocated public housing households have at least 1 person with disability (where disability status is known). These households make up over half (52%) of newly allocated households with special needs in public housing.

Over 4 in 5 (83%) newly allocated public housing households that have at least 1 person with disability are households in greatest need. Common main reasons are:

  • homelessness (46%)
  • health condition aggravated by housing (19%)
  • life or safety at risk in accommodation (17%).

Newly allocated SOMIH households

Around 3 in 5 (58%) newly allocated SOMIH households that have at least 1 person with disability are households in greatest need. Common main reasons are:

  • homelessness (39%)
  • health condition aggravated by housing (17%)
  • life or safety at risk in accommodation (14%).

Household characteristics

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 1 person with disability (where disability status is known) (Figure ASSISTANCE.1):

  • the majority are single-adult households (62% or 90,200), higher than households that do not have a person with disability (54% or 114,000)
  • 1 in 5 (20% or 28,800) are group or mixed composition households (16% or 33,700 without disability)
  • 1 in 12 (8.2% or 12,000) are single-parent households (19% or 40,100 without disability)
  • almost all (99% or 115,000) are low-income households (98% or 143,000 without disability) (where low-income status is known)
  • 1 in 10 (10% or 11,700) are classified as Indigenous (11% or 19,200 without disability) (where Indigenous status is known). A household is classified as Indigenous if any member of the household identifies as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin. Note that 76,700 households have Indigenous status ‘not stated’.

Figure ASSISTANCE.1: Household composition, by disability status and social housing program, at 30 June 2019

Bar chart showing household composition in 3 social housing programs for households with at least 1 person with disability and those without a person with disability. The reader can select to display the chart by housing program, including public housing, State Owned and Managed Indigenous Housing, community programs, and all programs. The chart shows households with at least 1 person with disability living in public housing are more likely to include a group and have mixed composition (21%) than a couple with dependent children (3.1%).

Main tenants of households that have at least 1 person with disability:

  • are more likely (44% or 63,500) to be male than those without disability (33% or 69,400).
  • are less likely to belong to the youngest age groups or the oldest age group (Table ASSISTANCE.1). Note that with the exception of single-adult households, the main tenant may or may not be the person with disability.
Table ASSISTANCE.1: Age of main tenant(a) by household disability status, at 30 June 2019 (%)(b)

Age of main tenant

With disability(c)

Without disability

Disability status not stated(d)

15–24

1.4

4.0

3.8

25–34

5.8

11.1

13.1

35–44

13.2

14.3

16.9

45–54

24.6

16.8

19.0

55–64

31.6

15.9

17.9

65 and over

23.5

37.8

29.3

(a) With the exception of single-adult households, the main tenant may or may not be the member with disability.

(b) Per cent calculation excludes age not stated.

(c) Household where 1 or more person is identified as having disability.

(d) 10% (or 41,027) main tenants have a household disability status of ‘not stated’

Source: AIHW National Housing Assistance Data Repository; see also Table ASTN8.

Benefits of living in social housing

While most households with at least 1 person with disability experience some benefits from living in social housing, they are less likely than households without a person with disability to have a positive experience (Table ASSISTANCE.2). For example, households that have at least 1 person with disability are less likely to enjoy better health; and feel less able to:

  • improve their job situation
  • start or continue with education and training
  • cope with life events.
Table ASSISTANCE.2: Benefits of living in social housing, 2018

Benefits of living in social housing

With disability(a)

Without disability

Feel more settled

94.3

95.2

Enjoy better health

77.8

82.9

Feel more able to cope with life events

83.8

88.9

Feel part of the local community

76.4

81.4

Able to continue living in this area

89.3

90.8

Able to manage rent/money better

91.5

95.0

Feel more able to improve job situation

56.7

69.1

Feel more able to start or continue education/training

62.7

72.4

Have better access to services

84.4

86.5

Have better access to public transport

81.6

86.4

(a) Household where 1 or more person is identified as having disability.

Note: Respondents could report more than 1 benefit of living in social housing.

Source: AIHW 2019: Table S2.6.

National Social Housing Survey

Data in this section are sourced from the 2018 National Social Housing Survey (NSHS). This biennial survey of social housing tenants complements administrative data collected by social housing providers. It includes information on tenants and their social housing experiences.

Participants are randomly sampled from social housing programs—public housing, state owned and managed Indigenous housing, community housing and Indigenous community housing.

Households with a member with disability are defined as households in which at least 1 member:

  • always or sometimes needs assistance with self-care activities, body movement activities or communication
  • needs assistance because of ‘long-term health condition lasting 6 months or more’ or ‘disability’.

For information on access to services and facilities for social housing tenants, see Housing-related needs.