Financial assistance

Key findings

  • As at 30 June 2015, more than 1.34 million income units received Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA), receiving a median fortnightly payment of $128.
  • Just over 4 in 10 (41%) CRA recipients were considered to be in rental stress.
  • In 2014–15, Private Rent Assistance (PRA) assisted 123,100 people, over half of these recipients were under 34.

Housing costs are a major expense and for those on low incomes, meeting rental costs or mortgage repayments can be a strain on personal finances. Similarly, for those who aspire to home ownership, saving a deposit and accessing finance can be difficult. Governments help make it easier for people to access affordable housing by providing:

  • Rent assistance through the Commonwealth Rent Assistance program (CRA) and through jurisdictional Private Rent Assistance (PRA) programs.
  • Assistance with buying a home through the First Home Owners Grants (FHOG) and Home Purchase Assistance (HPA) programs.


Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA)

CRA is an Australian Government payment to people on low or moderate incomes who are renting in the private housing market to assist with the cost of housing. CRA is the largest form of housing assistance for Australian households. To be eligible, tenants must first be in receipt of an income support payment or more than the base rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A (FTBA) as well as meet the residency requirements of their pension, allowance or benefit.

CRA is a non-taxable income supplement, payable fortnightly to eligible recipients. CRA is paid at 75 cents for every dollar above a minimum rental threshold until a maximum rate is reached. The minimum threshold and maximum rates vary according to an income unit's household composition, including the number of children.

CRA may be payable to certain social housing tenants, such as those living in community housing or Indigenous community housing and, in some jurisdictions, state owned and managed Indigenous housing (SOMIH).

CRA is not payable to public rental housing tenants, as these housing authorities separately subsidise rent for eligible tenants.

Payment of CRA continues as long as recipients meet income and asset tests for their primary payment and CRA eligibility conditions.

Between 2010–11 and 2014–15, the Australian Government's nominal expenditure for CRA increased by 35%, from $3.1 billion to $4.2 billion. Over time, expenditure has remained highest in New South Wales, followed by Queensland (Productivity Commission 2016).

As at 30 June 2015, more than 1.34 million income units received CRA. This is an increase from 1.32 million in 2014. The number of income units receiving CRA has risen by 43% since 2000 (up from 937,100 income units). The median CRA payment was $128 per fortnight, and the median rent was $415 per fortnight.

Of the CRA recipients (the person in the income unit to whom the CRA is paid) in 2015:

  • two in five (41%) were aged 30–49 and one quarter (25%) were aged 60 and over
  • only 12% were aged 24 and under (almost 155,000 income units)
  • most were single with no dependent children (54%), followed by those who were single with one or more dependent children (21%)
  • 22% were receiving Newstart Allowance, 20% were receiving a Disability Support Pension and 18% were receiving the Age Pension
  • 5% were Indigenous (almost 64,000 income units)
  • 69% would have paid more than 30% of their income on rent if they were not assisted by CRA payments.


In 2015, New South Wales had the highest number of CRA recipients (437,800), followed by Queensland (339,800) and Victoria (306,500). Tasmania (36,300) had more than 3 times as many CRA recipients as the Australian Capital Territory (11,900), despite having a population that is only 25% larger than the Australian Capital Territory. This primarily reflects differences in average household incomes with proportionally less demand for CRA in the Australian Capital Territory, and conversely confirms the high levels of welfare dependency in Tasmania.

Rental stress

Rental stress is defined as spending more than 30% of gross household income on rent.

As at 30 June 2015, 69% of CRA recipients would have paid more than 30% of their income on rent if CRA were not provided. However, with CRA provided, this proportion was reduced to 41% of CRA recipients.

Between 2010 and 2015, the proportion of income units paying more than 30% of their income in rent after receipt of CRA remained steady at around 40%. Among special needs groups, such as those aged 24 and under, those aged 75 and over, and those receiving a disability support pension, young people were the most likely to be paying more than 30% of their income in rent after CRA.

The proportion of older Australians (75+ years) experiencing rental stress after receiving CRA decreased from around 30% in 2010 to 26% in 2015.

Young people (24 and under) were the most likely to experience rental stress despite receiving CRA. This has increased from around 55% in 2010 to 58% in 2015.

Private Rent Assistance (PRA)

PRA is financial assistance provided directly by 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 2014–15, PRA assisted more than 123,100 recipients, compared to 117,800 in 2012–13. Of PRA recipients in 2014–15:

  • nearly one third (31%) were aged 25–34, and almost one-quarter (21%) were aged 24 and under
  • 12% were from an Indigenous household
  • 62% were earning a gross income of less than $700 per week
  • only 19% reported employee cash income as a source of income.


In 2014–15, South Australia reported the highest number of households receiving PRA, with almost 49,000 recipients (40%). This was followed by Queensland (26,300 or 21%) and New South Wales (22,000 or 18%). The Northern Territory reported the lowest number of households receiving PRA, with fewer than 300 recipients (less than 1%).

In 2014–15, 3 in 5 (60%) of households receiving PRA were households in Major cities, with 23% in Inner regional areas, 15% in Outer regional areas and around 2% in Remote and Very remote areas.

Some households received multiple types of assistance during the 2014–15 year. Bond loans were the most common type of PRA, assisting 81,000 households, followed by rental grants, subsidies and relief (almost 38,100).

Home buyers

There are two main types of government housing assistance available to home buyers:

  • First Home Owner Grant (FHOG), a scheme funded by the states and territories.
  • Home Purchase Assistance (HPA), administered by states and territories.

First home buyers

The national First Home Owner Grant (FHOG) scheme was introduced on 1 July 2000 and is funded by the states and territories and administered under their own legislation. Under the scheme, a one-off grant is payable to low-income first home owners who satisfy eligibility criteria.

Despite the introduction of the FHOG, the number of dwellings financed by all first home buyers has fallen over time, from around 12,900 in 2009 to 7,600 in 2014. Similarly, the percentage of all dwellings financed by all first home buyers has fallen from 25% in 2009 to 15% in 2014.

In line with the fall in the number of dwellings financed by first home buyers, the average loan amount has increased over time. In November 2009, the average loan amount was $286,300. This increased to an average loan amount of $327,600 in November 2014 (up 14%).

Table FA.1: First home buyer’s dwellings finance, 2009–20141
Year First home buyers—
dwellings financed (count)
First home buyers—
% of all dwellings financed
First home buyers—
Average loan size ($000)
2009 12,859 24.8 286.3
2010 8,009 17.1 286.1
2011 9,972 20.2 284.6
2012 8,929 17.8 292.8
2013 8,760 15.7 307.8
2014 7,627 14.6 327.6

Note: These figures include all first home buyers, not just low-income first home buyers receiving a FHOG.

1. The figures refer to 30 November 2014 as that is the most current data available at the time the report was prepared.

Source: ABS 2015.

Home Purchase Assistance (HPA)

HPA is administered by each jurisdiction and provides a range of financial assistance to eligible households to improve their access to, and maintain, home ownership.

HPA can include:

  • Direct lending
  • Concessional loans
  • Mortgage relief
  • Interest rate assistance
  • Deposit assistance
  • Other assistance grants

In 2014–15, states and territories provided home purchase assistance to around 44,000 recipients across Australia (Table FA.2). This compares to around 40,300 recipients in 2012–13.

Of HPA recipients:

  • almost half (49%) were aged 25–44
  • 27% were earning a gross income of less than $700 per week
  • only 1% were identified as being Indigenous.

The number of households receiving HPA in the form of direct lending has increased slightly between 2010–11 and 2014–15 (from 37,600 to 38,600). The number receiving interest rate assistance and 'other' types of assistance has also increased over the same period.

Table FA.2: Home purchase assistance provided to households, 2010–11 to 2014–15 (a,b)
Type of assistance 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15
Direct lending 37,620 36,844 35,001 38,853 38,638
Interest rate assistance 3,070 3,350 3,290 3,288 3,420
Other(c) 1,753 1,892 2,022 2,038 1,975
Total 42,443 42,086 40,313 44,179 44,033
  1. The data includes all households that commenced receiving home purchase assistance in the financial year, all households that commenced receiving an ongoing form of home purchase assistance in a previous financial year that continued to receive assistance in the financial year and all households that had outstanding balances remaining on repayable assistance for some portion of the financial year.
  2. Total number of instances of assistance. This does not equal the total households assisted because households may receive multiple types of assistance.
  3. ‘Other’ includes mortgage relief, deposit assistance and other assistance.

Source: AIHW National Housing Assistance Data Repository 2014–15.


In 2014–15, the highest number of households that received HPA were in Western Australia (21,400), followed by South Australia (18,700). The Australian Capital Territory reported the lowest number of households receiving HPA (55—or less than 1% of all households assisted).

While 68% (29,700) of households that received HPA were in Major cities in 2014–15, 16% (6,900) were in Outer regional areas and 1 in 8 (13%, or 5,800) were in Inner regional areas. Very few were located in either Remote (3%) or Very remote (less than 1%) areas.


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2015. Information Paper: Changes to the method of estimating loan commitments to first home buyers, 2015. 5609.0.55.003. Table 9a.
  2. Productivity Commission 2016. Report on Government Services 2016. Volume G: Housing and Homelessness. Canberra. ACT.