Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) Housing assistance in Australia 2019, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 03 February 2023.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Housing assistance in Australia 2019. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/housing-assistance/housing-assistance-in-australia-2019
Housing assistance in Australia 2019. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 18 July 2019, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/housing-assistance/housing-assistance-in-australia-2019
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Housing assistance in Australia 2019 [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019 [cited 2023 Feb. 3]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/housing-assistance/housing-assistance-in-australia-2019
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Housing assistance in Australia 2019, viewed 3 February 2023, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/housing-assistance/housing-assistance-in-australia-2019
Get citations as an Endnote file:
Historically, social housing has been targeted towards low-income families but, in recent years, the focus has shifted towards supporting a highly diverse range of vulnerable groups such as those experiencing trauma, disadvantage and/or financial instability (Groenhart & Burke 2014). As such, the focus of social housing has narrowed to tenants with greater disadvantage and higher and more complex needs than before.
Social housing is allocated according to priority needs, with allocations made on the basis of identifying those people with the greatest need and those with a special need for housing assistance.
An assessment of greatest need status is made of households applying for social housing (public housing, state owned and managed Indigenous housing (SOMIH) and community housing) and largely relates to experiences of homelessness.
Greatest need applies to low-income households if, at the time of allocation, household members were subject to one or more of the following circumstances:
they were experiencing homelessness
Public housing, SOMIH and community housing programs prioritise household allocations by assessing their greatest need status.
Source: SCRGSP 2019.
Housing Assistance in Australia reports on newly allocated households for housing assistance in each financial year, as well as the new allocations to households in greatest need. In 2017–18, there were 20,400 newly allocated households in public housing, 1,300 newly allocated SOMIH households and 15,800 newly allocated community housing households; representing 7% of total public housing households, 9% of total SOMIH households and 20% of total community housing households (Supplementary tables TENANTS.1, PRIORITY.1 and PRIORITY.4, respectively). The majority (76% or 15,600 households) of new public housing allocations were provided to households in greatest need. This proportion has fluctuated between 73–77% from 2009–10 to 2017–18 (Figures PRIORITY.1 and PRIORITY.2). In the 3 years prior, greatest needs households presented a smaller share of all new households.
This data visualisation displays the number of newly assisted greatest need and other households in public housing over time, from 2006–07 to 2017–18.
More than 3 in 5 (63%) newly allocated SOMIH dwellings were provided to households in greatest need in 2017–18; an increase from 56% in 2009–10 but down from a peak of 64% in 2012–13 (Figure PRIORITY.2). In 2017–18, there were almost 400 new allocations to greatest need households (excludes Tasmania and the Northern Territory as greatest need data was not available).
Community housing allocations to households in greatest need have also increased from 63% in 2009–10 to 82% in 2017–18. At this time, there were around 12,900 newly allocated greatest need households in community housing.
The following data visualisation displays the proportion of newly allocated greatest need households in public housing, SOMIH and community housing over time, from 2009–10 to 2017–18.
Many of the newly allocated households in social housing were assisted because they were either experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness (see above box on the definition of Assessing greatest need). Of the 20,400 newly allocated households in public housing:
The main reasons for greatest need have varied over time. In 2017–18, of the 15,600 newly allocated public households in greatest need where the main reason was known (Table PRIORITY.1.1):
In 2017–18, the main reason for greatest need amongst new SOMIH households was similar, albeit comparatively small household numbers (around 400 new greatest need household allocations) with (Table PRIORITY.1.2):
Complete data on reasons for greatest need for community housing were not available due to data quality issues. Based on the available data in 2017–18, of the new households in community housing in greatest need where the main reason was known (Table PRIORITY.1.3):
Total at risk of homelessness
Total new greatest need households
n.a. Not available
(a) Whether the household was a new allocation for housing assistance in the financial year.
(b) A descriptor applying to a low-income household if, at the time of allocation, household members were subject to one or more circumstances (refer to description above for more information).
(c) Where the greatest need reason is unknown or not provided.
(d) Excludes Tas and NT data as greatest need information was not available.
(e) Includes greatest need households where the homeless indicator was known. Greatest need reason (apart from homeless) is not available for community housing. From 2015–16, Qld only reports households who were still receiving assistance at 30 June of the financial year. Excludes NT data which were not available.
Note: Only the main greatest need reason is reported.
Source: AIHW National Housing Assistance Data Repository. Supplementary table PRIORITY.S5.
Households seeking assistance from social housing providers often have members with special needs. Some households may have multiple special needs. The definition of special needs is different for different social housing programs.
Assessing special need
For public housing, special needs households include those with:
As SOMIH is an Indigenous targeted program, Indigenous households in SOMIH are not considered special needs households. For SOMIH, special needs households are only those that have:
In 2017–18, there were 12,400 new public housing households with special needs. Of these:
In 2017–18, of the 500 newly allocated SOMIH households with special needs:
SOMIH includes data for the Northern Territory for the first time in 2017–18.
Greatest needs and special needs categories are not mutually exclusive and tenants may fit into a number of categories within each group or across groups (Figure PRIORITY.3). Households with members that have both greatest and special needs may be some of the most vulnerable households and may require high levels of care and support.
In 2017–18, where the need was stated:
The following diagram displays for public housing and SOMIH, the proportion of newly allocated households that were greatest need, special needs, both greatest and special needs or neither.
Access to social housing is managed using waiting lists, with shorter waiting times expected for priority applicants. Nationally, at 30 June 2018, there were:
Of those new applicants on the wait list at 30 June 2018:
Data for both community housing and Indigenous community housing were unavailable.
Fluctuations in the numbers of those on wait lists are not necessarily measures of changes in underlying demand for social housing. A number of factors may influence the length of wait lists including changes to allocation policies, priorities and eligibility criteria put in place by state/territory housing authorities. Further, some people who wish to access social housing may not apply due to the long waiting times or lack of available options in their preferred location. It is also important to note that in some states/territories applicants may be on more than one wait list and, as such, combined figures are expected to be an overestimate of the total. For further details, see Data quality statement.
In this analysis, total waiting list times for those in greatest need were calculated from the date of greatest need determination to the housing allocation date. For other households not in greatest need, the waiting list time is from housing application to housing allocation.
In 2017–18, among new allocations to greatest needs households, the majority (73%, or 11,400) received public housing within one year of the household being on the waiting list (Figure PRIORITY.4). By contrast, far fewer (33%, or 1,600) other households who were not in greatest need, were allocated housing within a year on the waiting list. Half (50%) of newly allocated households not in greatest need, spent more than two years on the waiting list before public housing allocation.
Similarly for SOMIH, newly allocated households in greatest need were less likely than other households to spend an extended period of time on waiting lists. In 2017–18, 89% of newly allocated SOMIH households in greatest need spent less than 12 months on waiting lists (Figure PRIORITY.4). This includes 62% who spent less than 3 months. In comparison, 71% of newly allocated households not in greatest need were on the SOMIH waiting list for less than 12 months, including 51% spending less than 3 months (Supplementary table PRIORITY.8).
For community housing, data on allocations by the amount of time spent on the waiting list were not available.
The following interactive data visualisation displays the proportion and number of newly allocated households in greatest need or other, for public housing and SOMIH, by time spent on the waiting list, for 2017–18.
For the new special needs households, the waiting time represents the period from the housing application to the housing allocation. The time spent on the waiting list for new special needs households in public housing varied, with around:
Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) play a key role in helping vulnerable people obtain or maintain social housing (AIHW 2018). Social housing can provide a solution to homelessness for many who approach SHS agencies. SHS agencies offer support through the delivery of services to prepare clients prior to commencing social housing tenancies, and also provide ongoing support to ensure tenancies are maintained. Information about the transition of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness into social housing programs is provided in Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18.
We'd love to know any feedback that you have about the AIHW website, its contents or reports.
The browser you are using to browse this website is outdated and some features may not display properly or be accessible to you. Please use a more recent browser for the best user experience.