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Report on Government Services 2021

Part G, Section 18: LATEST UPDATE: 3 JUNE 2021

18 Housing

Impact of COVID-19 on data for the Housing section

COVID-19 may affect data in this Report in a number of ways. This includes in respect of actual performance (that is, the impact of COVID-19 on service delivery in 2020 which is reflected in the data results), and the collection and processing of data (that is, the ability of data providers to undertake data collection and process results for inclusion in the Report).

For the Housing section, rent freezes due to the impacts of COVID-19 affected affordability indicator data in some jurisdictions. There were also increases in waiting lists due to decreased exits from social housing.

This section presents data on the performance of governments in providing social housing, including public housing (PH), State owned and managed Indigenous housing (SOMIH), community housing (CH) and Indigenous community housing (ICH). The Indicator Results tab uses data from the data tables to provide information on the performance for each indicator in the Indicator Framework. The same data in the data tables are also available in CSV format.

As highlighted in the Report's performance indicator framework all the current indicators reported in this section have comparability and/or completeness issues. Consequently, caution is required when comparing across jurisdictions or within a jurisdiction over time. The commentary in this section and footnotes accompanying the relevant data tables outline the comparability and completeness issues.

Skip to downloadable Housing data tables and supporting material

  • Context
  • Indicator Framework
  • Indicator Results
  • Indigenous Data

Objectives for social housing

The social housing services system aims to provide low income people who do not have alternative suitable housing options with access to social housing assistance that supports their social and economic participation and their wellbeing. The social housing services system seeks to achieve these aims through the provision of services that are:

  • timely and affordable
  • safe
  • appropriate, meeting the needs of individual households
  • high quality
  • sustainable.

Governments aim for social housing services to meet these objectives in an equitable and efficient manner.

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Service overview

Social housing is subsidised rental housing provided by not-for-profit, non-government or government organisations to assist people who are unable to access suitable accommodation in the private rental market. Four forms of social housing are reported in this section.

Forms of social housing

  • Public housing: dwellings owned (or leased) and managed by State and Territory housing authorities. It is generally accessed by people on low incomes and/or those with special needs, and aims to provide a choice of housing location, physical type and management arrangements.
  • State owned and managed Indigenous housing (SOMIH): dwellings owned and managed by State and Territory housing authorities that are allocated only to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tenants, including dwellings managed by government Indigenous housing agencies.
  • Community housing: rental housing provided to low-to-moderate income and/or special needs households, managed by community-based organisations that lease properties from government or have received a capital or recurrent subsidy from government. Community housing organisations typically receive some form of government assistance, such as direct funding for the provision of land and property, but a number of community housing organisations are entirely self-funded. The definitions of key terms section provides further information on different models of community housing.
  • Indigenous community housing (ICH): dwellings owned or leased and managed by ICH organisations and community councils. ICH models vary across jurisdictions and can also include dwellings funded, managed or registered by government. ICH organisations include community organisations such as resource agencies and land councils.

Crisis and transitional housing is another form of social housing, but is not able to be separately identified in this Report. Some crisis and transitional housing may be indirectly reported through the forms of social housing that are reported.

Roles and responsibilities

Social housing is funded and delivered from 1 July 2018 under the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA)1 and related Partnership Agreements between the Australian Government and State and Territory governments2.

State and Territory governments have primary responsibility for delivering social housing services either directly through public housing and SOMIH or through funding community housing providers. ICH is generally managed by ICH organisations (although some ICH dwellings are managed by State and Territory housing authorities). State and Territory governments assumed responsibility for administering ICH in urban and regional areas, however arrangements varied across jurisdictions.

  1. This section does not consider housing programs not provided under the NHHA (for example, those provided by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs or rental or home purchase assistance — the latter is discussed in sector overview G).
  2. Services were previously funded under the National Affordable Housing Agreement and related Agreements.


State and Territory government net recurrent expenditure on social housing was $4.3 billion in 2019-20, an increase in real terms from $4.1 billion in 2018-19. In 2019-20, this expenditure included $3.2 billion for public housing and $205.9 million for SOMIH (table 18.6).

Australian Government funding for services under the NHHA was $1.6 billion in 2019‑20 (see table GA.1 in the Housing and Homelessness Sector Overview) and is included in total State and Territory government net recurrent expenditure for housing and homelessness services. State and Territory government capital (non-recurrent) expenditure for social housing was $1.4 billion in 2019-20 (table 18A.1).

Size and scope

As at 30 June 2020, nationally there was a total of 415 740 households and 433 990 social housing dwellings (tenancy rental units for community housing and permanent dwellings for ICH).

While the number of public housing households has decreased over the last decade (324 908 in 2011 to 289 613 in 2020), there has been an increase in the number of households in community housing, from 55 159 to 95 932 (table 18A.4). This in part reflects transfer of some public housing stock (management and/or title) to the community housing sector (table 18A.2), in line with government policy to expand the role of community housing in the provision of affordable housing. Community housing organisations are working in partnership with the Australian, State and Territory governments, and the private sector, to increase the supply of affordable housing — many new social housing dwellings are or will be owned and/or managed by community housing organisations.

Some forms of community housing also allow tenants to participate in the management of their housing. Notwithstanding their common objectives, community housing programs vary within and across jurisdictions in their administration and the types of accommodation they provide. See sub‑section 18.3 in the Housing interpretative material for details on the models of community housing.

Diversity of State and Territory government social housing

While State and Territory governments have similar broad objectives for providing social housing, the emphasis each places on an individual objective differs depending on historical precedents and processes for interaction with community sector providers. Private housing markets also vary across jurisdictions. Accordingly, policy responses and associated forms of assistance vary across jurisdictions. It is important to consider the differing levels and types of assistance provided in each State and Territory, their differing urban, regional and remote area concentrations (tables 18A.5–7), differences in eligibility criteria for the different assistance types and factors affecting waiting lists, when analysing performance information. Some information on the context for public housing, SOMIH and community housing is provided in tables 18.1-5 in the Housing interpretative material.

Eligibility criteria for access to social housing

Eligibility criteria for social housing vary between social housing types and between jurisdictions.

  • Public housing — in most cases, jurisdictions require that applicants are Australian citizens or permanent residents and do not own or partially own residential property. All jurisdictions, except Victoria, require eligible applicants to reside in the respective State or Territory. Most jurisdictions provide security of tenure after an initial probationary period and most jurisdictions have periodic reviews of eligibility (table 18.1).
  • SOMIH — criteria are generally consistent with those for public housing once an applicant has been confirmed as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. Terms of tenure for SOMIH are the same as those for public housing in most jurisdictions (table 18.2).
  • Community housing — criteria are generally consistent with those for public housing in each jurisdiction (table 18.3).

Factors affecting waiting lists

State and Territory governments prioritise access to social housing in ways that generally reflect the urgent need to address homelessness and applicants’ inability to access appropriate private market accommodation (AIHW 2020). All states and territories have adopted social housing waiting lists that are integrated across public housing, SOMIH (where applicable) and community housing.

Waiting times for social housing are impacted by the availability of suitable dwellings. Nationally at 30 June 2020, the proportion of rental stock occupied was 97.0 per cent for public housing, 94.7 per cent for SOMIH, 95.4 per cent for community housing and 93.3 per cent for ICH (tables 18A.9–12). Occupancy rates are influenced by tenancy turnover as well as by housing supply and demand — dwellings that have, for example, reached the end of their useful life may require major redevelopment or replacement before being allocated to a new household.

‘Turnaround time’ is the number of days taken to allocate a newly vacated dwelling (that is fit for occupation) to a new household. The average turnaround time for vacant public housing and SOMIH stock varied within and across jurisdictions and over time (tables 18A.13–14) — noting that data are not comparable or complete across jurisdictions.


AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2020, Housing assistance in Australia, (accessed 7 October 2020).

The performance indicator framework provides information on equity, efficiency and effectiveness, and distinguishes the outputs and outcomes of social housing services.

The performance indicator framework shows which data are complete and comparable in this Report. For data that are not considered directly comparable, text includes relevant caveats and supporting commentary. Section 1 discusses data comparability and completeness from a Report-wide perspective. In addition to the service area's Profile information, the Report’s statistical context (Section 2) contains data that may assist in interpreting the performance indicators presented in this section.

Improvements to performance reporting for social housing services are ongoing and include identifying data sources to fill gaps in reporting for performance indicators and measures, and improving the comparability and completeness of data.


Outputs are the services delivered (while outcomes are the impact of these services on the status of an individual or group) (see section 1). Output information is also critical for equitable, efficient and effective management of government services.


Outcomes are the impact of services on the status of an individual or group (see section 1).

Indicator framework

An overview of the social housing services performance indicator results are presented. Different delivery contexts, locations and types of clients can affect the equity, effectiveness and efficiency of social housing services.

Information to assist the interpretation of these data can be found in the housing supporting interpretative material and data tables. Web references to the AIHW data quality statements for each social housing collection are available in the relevant data table. Data tables are identified by a ‘18A’ prefix (for example, table 18A.1).

All data are available for download as an excel spreadsheet and as a CSV dataset — refer to Download supporting material. Specific data used in figures can be downloaded by clicking in the figure area, navigating to the bottom of the visualisation to the grey toolbar, clicking on the 'Download' icon and selecting 'Data' from the menu. Selecting 'PDF' or 'Powerpoint' from the 'Download' menu will download a static view of the performance indicator results.

Performance indicator data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this section are available in the data tables listed below. Further supporting information can be found in the interpretative material and data tables.

Housing data disaggregated for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
Table number Table title
Table 18A.16 Greatest need allocations as a proportion of all new allocations — SOMIH
Table 18A.19 Proportion of new tenancies allocated to households with special needs — SOMIH
Table 18A.23 Proportion of household gross income spent on rent — low income households in SOMIH, at 30 June
Table 18A.26 Proportion of overcrowded households at 30 June — SOMIH
Table 18A.28 Proportion of overcrowded households at 30 June — Indigenous community housing
Table 18A.29 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households living in overcrowded conditions, by housing program
Table 18A.30 Proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in public housing living in overcrowded conditions, by remoteness
Table 18A.31 Proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in SOMIH living in overcrowded conditions, by remoteness
Table 18A.32 Underutilisation in social housing at 30 June
Table 18A.34 Proportion of SOMIH tenants rating amenity and location aspects as important and meeting their needs, 2018
Table 18A.37 Dwelling condition, SOMIH
Table 18A.39 Dwelling condition, Indigenous community housing
Table 18A.41 Customer satisfaction — SOMIH
Table 18A.44 Government recurrent expenditure per dwelling, SOMIH, 2019-20 dollars
Table 18A.46 Government recurrent expenditure per dwelling, Indigenous community housing, 2019-20 dollars

Download supporting material

Note: An errata was released for section 18 Housing.


The following data have changed for section 18 Housing:

  • Context, Diversity of State and Territory government social housing, Factors affecting waiting lists: Amended text for states and territories that have adopted integrated social housing waiting lists.
  • Data table 18A.7: Amended data for community housing dwellings by remoteness at 30 June 2020 for:
    • Queensland (major cities, outer regional, remote and very remote areas)
    • WA (major cities, inner regional, remote and very remote areas)
    • SA (major cities, inner regional, outer regional and remote areas)
    • Australian totals (major cities, inner regional, outer regional, remote and very remote areas).
  • Figures 18.2a and 18.2b and data table 18A.17: Amended data for greatest need allocations as a proportion of all new community housing allocations for 2019-20 for Queensland and the Australian total.