For information about households on the waiting list identified as having greatest need, see Wait list and wait times.
Fluctuations in the numbers of people on waiting 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 (Dockery et al 2008). 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 waiting list and, as such, combined figures are expected to be an overestimate of the total. For further details, see the Data quality statements.
Wait list data for both community housing and Indigenous community housing were unavailable.
Access to social housing is managed using waiting lists, with priority given to those considered to be high priority applicants (see priority applicants section for further information about these groups). At 30 June 2019, the number of households on the waiting list (excluding transfers) were:
- 148,500 households on a waiting list for public housing (down from 154,600 at 30 June 2014)
- 12,100 households on a wait list for SOMIH dwellings (up from 8,000 at 30 June 2014) (Supplementary table HOUSEHOLDS.22).
Of those new applicants on the wait list at 30 June 2019:
- 52,600 households on the waiting list for public housing were in greatest need (or 35%); an increase from 45,800 households in greatest need on the public housing waiting list at 30 June 2018.
- almost 5,700 households were in greatest need and waiting for SOMIH dwellings, up from 4,700 at 30 June 2018.
The waiting times for social housing programs differ between different areas across Australia, with waiting times for particular high demand city areas often being far greater than other areas (NSW government 2018). They can also differ based on the size of the dwelling needed, and differ for people deemed to be in a priority group for social housing (such as those experiencing homelessness or with disability).
Time spent on the waiting lists for social housing can be measured by looking at newly allocated households and can be differentiated according to greatest or special needs status. 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. For the new special needs households, the waiting time represents the period from the housing application to the housing allocation.
Of all newly allocated public housing households in 2018–19, 38% spent less than six months on the waiting list, including 26% who spent less than three months (Supplementary table HOUSEHOLDS.18). For SOMIH, over half (58%) of newly allocated households spent less than six months on the waiting list, including 46% who spent less than 3 months.
Waiting time data for both community housing and Indigenous community housing were unavailable.
Greatest need and waiting times
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. For more detailed information, see Priority groups: greatest and special needs.
In this analysis, total waiting list times for newly allocated households 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. Households in greatest need may have already spent time on the waiting lists before the greatest need determination.
In 2018–19, among new allocations to greatest need households, the majority (72%, or 10,800 households) received public housing within one year of the household being on the waiting list (Figure WAITLIST.1). By contrast, far fewer other households who were not in greatest need (38% or 1,800) were allocated housing within a year on the waiting list. Almost half (48%) of newly allocated households not in greatest need, spent more than 2 years on the waiting list before public housing allocation (Supplementary table HOUSEHOLDS.17). For those in greatest need, 14% spent more than 2 years on the waiting list for public housing, including 10% who spent between 2–5 years.
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 2018–19, 87% of newly allocated SOMIH households in greatest need spent less than 12 months on waiting lists (Figure WAITLIST.1). This includes 55% who spent less than 3 months. In comparison, 51% of newly allocated households not in greatest need were on the SOMIH waiting list for less than 12 months, including 22% spending less than 3 months (Supplementary table HOUSEHOLDS.17).