Rent assistance insufficient in expensive rental market: report

Governments are failing to provide a secure alternative for households unable to access social housing, new research suggests.

Private rental assistance is failing to provide a secure alternative for those unable to access social housing, says a new report. It finds low-income households are finding it difficult to find and sustain secure housing in the private rental market even with government subsidisation.

Getting off the waiting list? Managing housing assistance provision in an era of intensifying social housing shortage, undertaken for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) by researchers from UNSW Sydney and RMIT University, investigates how policymakers and housing providers can use other forms of housing assistance to support people who are otherwise eligible for social housing. The research involved surveys and interviews with social housing tenants and applicants, interviews with representatives from housing provider agencies, and a review of statistics on social housing allocations and other forms of housing-related government support.

Most housing assistance in Australia is delivered through private rent assistance payments to help secure or sustain private rental housing rather than a social housing tenancy. However, the effectiveness of these assistance schemes is highly dependent on market conditions.

“Private rental assistance recipients are finding it increasingly difficult to secure private rental properties,” says lead researcher Dr Fatemeh Aminpour from the City Futures Research Centre at UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture. “This raises serious questions about the viability of private rental assistance as an alternative to social housing in jurisdictions like Australia, where the private rental sector is relatively under-regulated and volatile.”

Just because households are allocated private rental assistance doesn’t mean they are guaranteed access to a suitable private rental property. More than half of the participants in the research who had previously received a bond loan or ongoing private rental subsidy were unable to sustain their private rental tenancy.

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