Productivity Commission says more social housing to be owned by community orgs

By Melissa Coade

June 7, 2022

Julie Collins, minister for housing
Julie Collins is the new minister for housing, which now is a cabinet portfolio. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

New Australian housing data shows an uptick in families living in community housing, as the number of people relying on public housing has declined over the last 10 years.

The latest report on government services (ROGs) data reported a 38% increase in the number of households relying on community housing for accommodation over the past decade, from 61,345 to 98,483. Meanwhile, public housing accommodation decreased over that same period by just over 10%, from 323,423 in 2012 to 288,345 in 2021.

The commission posted its data update on Tuesday. 

The ROGs website said the growing number of Australians recorded as taking up community housing accommodation was in part explained by some public housing stock being transferred (management and/or title) from the government to the community housing sector.

“[This is] in line with government policy to expand the role of community housing in the provision of affordable housing,” the commission said. 

“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.”

Despite the gap that more community housing providers are filling, the report hastened to add the extent of support provided by these NGOs also varied across jurisdictions. This included how they were administered, eligibility criteria, and the type of affordable housing accommodation being offered. 

The organisational objectives of social housing providers were broadly similar, the report noted, but diverged depending on the historical precedents and processes for interaction with providers.

“Some forms of community housing also allow tenants to participate in the management of their housing,” the commission said. 

“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, differences in eligibility criteria for the different assistance types and factors affecting waiting lists, and when analysing performance information.”

According to the mid-year release of government services, for public housing in most states and territories, people who used these services were offered the security of tenure after an initial probationary period. The productivity commission also said most jurisdictions had periodic reviews of eligibility for public housing schemes.

In the case of state-owned and managed Indigenous housing (SOMIH), terms of tenure are generally consistent with that of public housing schemes, the commission said. Applicants for this type of housing must be confirmed as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander to be eligible.

All jurisdictions have their own version of an affordable housing waiting list, which captures available accommodation across the public housing, SOMIH (where applicable) and community housing schemes. Data for crisis and transitional housing was unable to be separately identified in the report. 

As of 30 June 2021, the nationwide proportion of rental stock occupied was 96.8% for public housing, 95% for SOMIH, 95%for community housing and 92.4% for Indigenous community housing.

“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”, the report said. 

“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.”

The ROGs compares the performance of governments in the efficient and effective delivery of a wide range of services aimed at improving the wellbeing of all Australians.

The Productivity Commission’s mid-year data release also included updates for government services relating to early childhood education and care, school education, vocational education and training, and police services.


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