Skip to Content
 Close search

Report on Government Services 2024

PART G: RELEASED ON 22 JANUARY 2024

G Housing and homelessness

Data downloads

These data tables relate to the sector as a whole. Data specific to individual service areas is in the data tables under the relevant service area.

Note: Data tables are referenced by table xA.1, xA.2, etc, with x referring to the sector or overview. For example, table GA.1 refers to data table one for this sector overview.

Main aims of services within the sector

The main aim of housing and homelessness sector services is to ensure that all Australians have access to affordable, safe and sustainable housing – a vital determinant of wellbeing that is associated with better outcomes in health, education and employment, as well as economic and social participation (CSERC 2015).

Services included in the sector

There are three main areas of government involvement in the housing and homelessness sector:

  • Social housing services
    Subsidised rental housing provided by not-for-profit, non‑government or government organisations to assist people who are unable to access suitable accommodation through the private market.
  • Specialist homelessness services
    Direct assistance for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, including accommodation and other services.
  • Financial assistance (private housing) – private rental assistance and home purchase assistance (not covered in the housing and homelessness sections) as targeted payments to assist access to private housing and reduce demand on social housing and homelessness services.

Detailed information on the equity, effectiveness and efficiency of service provision and the achievement of outcomes for social housing and specialist homelessness service areas is contained in service-specific sections.

Government expenditure in the sector

Total Australian, state and territory government recurrent expenditure for social housing and specialist homelessness services was around $6.3 billion in 2022‑23 (tables 18A.1 and 19A.1), an increase of 1.8% from 2021‑22. For the 2021‑22 financial year (the most recent financial year for which data is available across all sections), this represented around 1.7% of total government expenditure covered in this report. The Australian Government share of this expenditure was $3.8 billion in 2022‑23 (table GA.1). Social housing services accounted for $4.9 billion (table 18A.1) and specialist homelessness services for $1.4 billion (table 19A.1).

Australian Government expenditure on Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA)1 – the largest government private rental assistance program – was $4.7 billion in 2022‑23, down from a five year high of $5.7 billion in 2020-21 (table GA.5).

Flows in the sector

Paths into and through the housing and homelessness services sector vary widely (figure G.1). Drivers of housing instability and homelessness include market factors affecting housing affordability and household factors such as adverse personal, social and economic circumstances (Stone et al. 2015).

Figure G.1 Role of housing and homelessness sector services in pathways to secure housing

Pathways from homelessness via homelessness services intake and referral, through accommodation services (including crisis/transitional housing) or other services such as health, substance abuse, education/job support or family support to secure housing, moving from social to private. Another pathway shows moving from insecure housing (including at risk of homelessness) via homelessness services, social housing services or private housing financial assistance to secure housing.

Low income earners are particularly susceptible to housing instability as market factors lead to higher private housing prices. ‘Rental stress’ – spending more than 30% of gross household income on rent – is a measure of housing affordability for this cohort. In 2019-20, 52.5% of lower income households renting in the private sector were paying more than 30% of gross household income on housing costs (table GA.3)2.

Of low income households that were CRA recipients at end June 2023, 70.6% would have experienced rental stress without CRA (table GA.13). With CRA, 42.9% still experienced rental stress (figure G.2). Further information on CRA is presented in tables GA.5–GA.14.

When housing instability cannot be addressed through financial assistance, social housing and/or specialist homelessness services may be needed. Pathways through these closely intertwined service areas vary greatly, often intersecting with other service areas, depending on:

  • the mix and complexity of market and household factors driving the need for services
  • the current housing or homelessness situation
  • the service(s) provided
  • the household’s capacity to effectively utilise the service(s).

A temporary inability to access or maintain stable housing in the private sector may be addressed for some with the support of short or medium-term services. For others, ongoing housing stability may depend on long‑term social housing tenancy. A smaller proportion of service users experience variable but persistent vulnerability to housing instability and homelessness. This is typically associated with a complex mix of adverse social and economic circumstances that affect the capacity of the household to maintain engagement with service providers and effectively utilise services. For the most vulnerable, limited progress toward a less insecure form of housing or homelessness may require a range of service types and may not be sustained. Further progress may be possible on later re‑engagement with service providers.

Factors that increase the risk of homelessness and/or need for social housing can include physical and mental health issues, disability, alcohol and other drug misuse, unemployment, relationship breakdown and family or domestic violence. For example, reasons for seeking assistance from specialist homelessness services in 2022-23 included mental health, medical issues or problematic substance use for 24.1% of clients. Interpersonal and relationship issues was a reason for 49.0% of clients, of whom 73.3% identified domestic and family violence (AIHW 2023).

Housing instability and homelessness can in turn increase vulnerability to adverse social and economic circumstances through, for example, poorer outcomes in education, employment and health, and increased risk of involvement with the justice system (Bevitt et al. 2014).


References

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2023, Specialist homelessness services annual report 2022‑23, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report/contents/about (accessed 12 December 2023).

Bevitt, A., Chigavazira, A., Herault, N., Johnson, G., Moschion, J., Scutella, R., Tseng, Y., Wooden, M. and Kalb, G. 2014, Journeys Home Research Report No. 6, Melbourne: University of Melbourne.

Commonwealth Senate Economic References Committee (CSERC) 2015, Out of reach? The Australian housing affordability challenge, Canberra.

Stone W., Sharam A., Wiesel I., Ralston L., Markkanen S. and James A. 2015. Accessing and sustaining private rental tenancies: critical life events, housing shocks and insurances, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited Final Report no. 259, Melbourne.

Footnotes

  1. CRA is available to recipients of an eligible social security payment, Family Tax Benefit Part A (paid at more than the base rate) or an eligible veterans’ affairs payment, and whose private or community housing rental costs exceed set minimum amounts. Locate Footnote 1 above
  2. Data for all low income rental households (i.e., public and private) is in table GA.2 and show that the proportion of all low income rental households paying more than 30% of their income on rent is 42.0%. Locate Footnote 2 above

Publications feedback

We value your comments about this publication and encourage you to provide feedback.

Submit publications feedback