Financial assistance


Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA)

CRA is an Australian Government payment, received by people on low or moderate incomes who are renting in the private housing market, to assist with the cost of housing. CRA is the most common form of housing assistance received by 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 (or ceiling) is reached. The minimum threshold and maximum rates vary according to the household or family situation, including the number of children.

Certain social housing tenants are eligible for CRA 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 generally payable to public rental housing tenants, as state and territory housing authorities already subsidise rent for these tenants.

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

Between 2011–12 and 2015–16, the Australian Government’s real expenditure on CRA increased by around 23%, from $3.6 billion to $4.4 billion. Over time, expenditure has remained highest in New South Wales, followed by Queensland [3].

In June 2016, around 1.35 million income units received CRA. This is an increase from 1.34 million in 2015. The number of income units receiving CRA has risen by 44% since 2000 (up from 937,100 income units). This could be attributed, in part, to eligibility changes following the introduction of the FTBA in 2000 from the formerly Family Allowance payment plan [1]. The median CRA payment in June 2016 was $130 per fortnight, and the median rent was $437 per fortnight (see supplementary tables for details).

Around 1.35 million units received CRA payments in 2016, an increase from 1.34 million in 2015.

Of the CRA recipients (the person in the income unit to whom the CRA is paid) in June 2016:

  • two in five (41%) were aged 30–49 and just over one quarter (26%) were aged 60 and over
  • only 11% were aged 24 and under (almost 149,800 income units)
  • most were single, with no dependent children (54%), followed by those who were single with one or more dependent children (21%)
  • almost two-thirds were receiving an income support payment—22% were receiving Newstart Allowance, 20% were receiving a Disability Support Pension and 19% were receiving the Age Pension
  • 5% were Indigenous (almost 67,400 income units)
  • almost 7 in 10 (68%) CRA recipients would have been in rental stress (paying more than 30% of their income on rent) were it not for the CRA received.


In June 2016, New South Wales had the highest number of CRA recipients (430,000), followed by Queensland (344,500) and Victoria (305,200). Tasmania (36,600) had more than 3 times as many CRA recipients as the Australian Capital Territory (11,600), 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 higher level of income support recipients in Tasmania.

Two-thirds (66%) of income units assisted with CRA were located in Major cities, with 23% in Inner regional areas, 10% in Outer regional areas and just over 1% in Remote and Very remote areas [3].

Rental stress

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

In June 2016, 68% 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 2016, 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 over 75, 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 (aged 75 and over) experiencing rental stress after receiving CRA decreased from around 30% in 2009 to 27% in 2016.

Young people (aged 24 and under) were the group most likely to experience rental stress despite receiving CRA. This has increased from around 55% in 2009 to 58% in 2016.

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 2015–16, PRA assisted more than 128,100 recipients, an increase from 123,100 in 2014–15. Of PRA recipients in 2015–16:

  • nearly one third (31%) were aged 25–34, and almost one-quarter (22%) were younger recipients (aged between 15 and 24)
  • 14% were from an Indigenous household
  • 62% were earning a gross income of less than $700 per week (or around $36,400 p.a.)
  • only 1 in 5 (19%) reported employee cash income as their primary income source.


In 2015–16, South Australia reported the highest number of households receiving PRA, with over 49,300 recipients (39%). This was followed by Queensland (27,600 or 21%) and New South Wales (22,900 or 18%). The Northern Territory reported the lowest number of households receiving PRA, with 380 recipients (less than 1%).

In 2015–16, nearly 3 in 5 (59%) households receiving PRA were households in Major cities, with 24% in Inner regional areas, 15% in Outer regional areas and around 2% in both Remote and Very remote areas.

Households received multiple types of assistance during the 2015–16 year. Bond loans were the most common type of PRA, assisting 83,900 households, followed by rental grants, subsidies and relief (40,200 households).

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 and administered under their own legislation.
  • Home Purchase Assistance (HPA), administered by states and territories.

Dwellings financed by first home buyers decreased from 29% (18,300 dwellings) in 2009 to 13% (7,900 dwellings) in 2017.

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 more than halved over time, from around 18,300 in 2009 to 7,900 in 2017. Similarly, the percentage of all dwellings financed by all first home buyers has fallen from 30% in 2009 to 14% in 2017 (Table FA.1).

Table FA.1: First home buyers’ dwelling finance, March 2009 – March 2017(a)

Year First home buyers
dwellings financed (count)
First home buyers
per cent of all dwellings financed
First home buyers
Average loan size ($000)
2009 18,271 29.9 283.4
2010 8,436 18.0 286.8
2011 7,766 17.4 285.3
2012(b) 7,902 16.6 281.8
2013 7,663 16.3 293.9
2014 8,078 16.1 311.1
2015 8,180 14.5 313.2
2016 7,295 12.9 317.0
2017 7,946 13.6 316.3
  1. Table refers to most current data available during report preparation.
  2. Data from October 2012 to present revised to include all first home buyers, not just those receiving a First Home Owner Grant. Comparisons with earlier years should be made with caution.

Source: [2].

In line with the fall in the number of dwellings financed by first home buyers, the average loan amount has increased over time. In March 2009, the average nominal loan amount was $283,400. This increased to an average loan amount of $316,300 in March 2017 (up 12%).

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 2015–16, states and territories provided home purchase assistance to around 42,800 recipients across Australia (Table FA.2) — a drop from 44,000 recipients in 2014–15.

Of HPA recipients:

  • almost half (49%) were aged 25–44
  • 26% were earning a gross income of less than $700 per week (or $36,400 p.a.)
  • only 1% of recipients identified as being Indigenous.

The number of households receiving HPA in the form of direct lending has been steadily decreasing from 38,900 in 2013–14 to 37,400 in 2015–16. The number receiving interest rate assistance and ‘other’ types of assistance has generally been increasing over time from 2010–11 through to 2015–16.

Table FA.2: Home purchase assistance provided to households, 2010–11 to 2015–16(a)(b)

Type of assistance 201011 201112 201213 201314 201415 2015–16
Direct lending 37,620 36,844 35,001 38,853 38,638 37,415
Interest rate assistance 3,070 3,350 3,290 3,288 3,420 3,581
Other(c) 1,753 1,892 2,022 2,038 1,975 1,763
Total 42,443 42,086 40,313 44,179 44,033 42,759
  1. The data include all households that received transfers of assistance in the financial year through home purchase assistance programs. This includes those households that commenced receiving assistance during the financial year; those households that commenced receiving an ongoing form of assistance in a previous financial year that continued to receive transfer(s) of assistance in the current financial year; and those households that had monies outstanding on repayable home purchase assistance provided in a previous period at the commencement of the 2015–16 financial year.
  2. The sum of households assisted by each type of assistance does not equal the total households assisted (42,140) 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, 2015–16


In 2015–16, the highest number of households that received HPA were in Western Australia (20,800), followed by South Australia (18,300). The Australian Capital Territory reported the lowest number of households assisted by HPA (48—or less than 1% of all households assisted).

Sixty-eight per cent (28,900) of households that received HPA were in Major cities in 2015–16, 15% (6,600) were in Outer regional areas and 1 in 8 (14%, or 5,800) were in Inner regional areas. Very few were located in either Remote (3%) or Very remote (less than 1%) areas. It should be noted that proportions on remoteness would be heavily influenced by the scale of contribution to household counts by Western Australia and South Australia (see supplementary tables for details).


  1. ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2000. Australian Social Trends, 2000. ABS cat. no. 4102.0. Canberra: ABS.
  2. ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2017. Housing Finance, Australia, March 2017. ABS cat. no. 5609.0. Canberra: ABS.
  3. SCRGSP (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision) 2017. Report on Government Services 2017. Vol G. Housing and Homelessness. Canberra: Productivity Commission.