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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2006  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/01/2006   
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Contents >> Chapter 8 - Housing >> Housing assistance

This section was contributed by the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services (September 2005).

HOUSING ASSISTANCE

While most Australians are able to house themselves without government assistance, such assistance remains important for various population groups, especially low income earners and social security recipients. Housing assistance is provided by the Australian Government, and the state and territory governments through a range of housing and other programs. Assistance for people with low incomes is provided through public housing, home purchase assistance and rent assistance schemes. Assistance is also provided to community organisations and local governments for refuges and crisis accommodation.

The Commonwealth State Housing Agreement (CSHA) is an agreement made between the Australian, state and territory governments under the Housing Assistance Act 1996 (Cwlth) to provide strategic direction and funding certainty for the provision of housing assistance. The aim of this agreement is to provide appropriate, affordable and secure housing assistance for those who most need it, for the duration of their need.

The Australian Government Minister for Family and Community Services, and state and territory Housing Ministers committed to a new CSHA operating from July 2003 to June 2008. Ministers expressed commitment to the development of positive options for a new CSHA that will create: a modern, sustainable housing system; support community development and the renewal of public housing estates; support wider government outcomes in health, education and labour market reform; and stimulate private sector investment in the supply of low cost housing. The Australian Government contribution will be $4.75 billion over the five-year agreement. The CSHA sets out the terms for the provision of housing assistance for rental housing, home purchase and other specific housing programs. Details of Australian Government assistance provided under the CSHA for 2004-05 are set out in table 8.20.

8.20 COMMONWEALTH STATE HOUSING AGREEMENT, Payments to states and territories - 2004-05

NSW
Vic.
Qld
WA
SA
Tas.
ACT
NT
Aust.
$’000
$’000
$’000
$’000
$’000
$’000
$’000
$’000
$’000

Base funding
241,180
177,681
137,897
70,708
54,991
21,401
16,777
13,138
733,773
Community Housing Program
21,735
16,013
12,428
6,372
4,956
1,553
1,044
643
64,744
Aboriginal Rental Housing Program
17,987
3,680
27,900
18,364
9,025
696
-
24,420
102,072
Crisis Accommodation Program
13,469
9,923
7,701
3,949
3,071
963
647
399
40,122
Total
294,371
207,297
185,926
99,393
72,043
24,613
18,468
38,600
940,711

Source: Department of Family and Community Services.


HOME PURCHASE ASSISTANCE

Home Purchase Assistance (HPA) is provided by some states to assist low-to-moderate income households to purchase a home or to provide help with mortgage repayments. Some of the mechanisms used to assist low-to-moderate income earners include loans, shared equity schemes, deposit assistance and mortgage relief. States offer HPA options in line with local market conditions. The emphasis given to loan products varies significantly between jurisdictions. Western Australia and South Australia placed the greatest emphasis on various forms of subsidised loan products, partly due to lower housing prices, which make home purchase feasible on lower incomes. Other jurisdictions such as New South Wales gave greater emphasis to mortgage relief for home purchasers experiencing hardship.

RENT ASSISTANCE

The Australian Government pays rent assistance, a non-taxable income supplement, to eligible social security customers who pay rent in the private rental market. Rent can include private rent, lodgings, board and lodgings, site fees, fees to moor a vessel, or service and maintenance fees in a retirement village.

To be eligible for rent assistance, a customer must first pay rent above a certain threshold level, then rent assistance is paid at the rate of 75 cents in each dollar above the threshold, until a maximum amount is reached. Maximum rates and thresholds vary depending on a person's family situation.

Rent assistance is indexed twice-yearly in March and September to the consumer price index.

At 4 March 2005 there were 941,120 income units entitled to rent assistance, where an income unit is defined as a single person with or without dependants, or a couple with or without dependants. The average rent paid by rent assistance customers was $290 per fortnight while the average rent assistance received was $80 per fortnight.

A large proportion of rent assistance customers are either single people or sole parents. In March 2005, 52% of rent assistance customers were single with no dependent children, 24% were single with dependent children, 15% were couples with dependent children and 8% were couples without dependent children.

Table 8.21 provides details of the number of rent assistance customers, average fortnightly rates of rent assistance and average fortnightly rents in March 2005. Outlays on rent assistance are included in the total expenditure on Pensions, Allowance and Family Tax Benefits, details of which are provided in the Income and welfare chapter.

8.21 RECIPIENTS OF RENT ASSISTANCE, Average rent assistance and rent paid – 4 March 2005

Income
units(a)
Average rent
assistance(b)
Average
rent paid(c)
no.
$ per fortnight
$ per fortnight

All recipients
941,120
80.5
290.3
Primary payment type(d)
Youth Allowance
69,464
64
214
Age Pension
167,135
74
247
Disability Support Pension
171,282
81
250
Newstart Allowance
176,634
76
257
Parenting Payment (single)
198,476
92
342
Parenting Payment (partnered)
27,637
105
405
Family Tax Benefit Part A
93,315
78
422
Other
37,177
80
272
Income unit type
Single - no dependent children
492,389
73
228
Couple - no dependent children
78,477
76
311
Single - 1 or 2 dependent children
193,414
89
338
Single - 3 or more dependent children
33,476
103
374
Couple - 1 or 2 dependent children
100,619
86
404
Couple - 3 or more dependent children
40,043
99
421
Couple - temporarily separated
2,702
98
338

(a) Income units are couples or singles either with or without dependent children. Dependent children are those for whom Family Tax Benefit is being paid. Income units are counted if either member is entitled to Rent Assistance as at 4 March 2005.
(b)Average Rent Assistance is taken to be 14 times the daily entitlement to Rent Assistance for 4 March 2005.
(c) Average rent is the average rent taken into account in working out entitlements for 4 March 2005.
(d) One member of a couple is treated as the reference person for the income unit, based on the type of payment they receive. The general order of priority is Pensions, Allowances, Family Tax Benefit. An income unit will be reported as receiving Parenting Payment (Partnered) only if neither member of the couple receives another social security payment. They will only be reported as receiving FTB Part A if neither receives a social security payment.

Source: Department of Family and Community Services.

CRISIS ACCOMMODATION

The Australian Government, and the state and territory governments provide assistance to people who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness, through the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) (AIHW 2002). SAAP is a jointly funded program between Australian, state and territory governments. SAAP V is currently being negotiated between the Australian Government and state and territory governments.

HOUSING ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE

The Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services administers a number of programs to improve the living environment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including the Community Housing and Infrastructure Program (CHIP). CHIP aims to provide appropriate, safe and affordable housing and improve community and individual health and well being.

CHIP provides funds for the construction, purchase, repair and management of community housing as well as for the provision and maintenance of housing related infrastructure (essential services such as water, sewerage, electricity and community roads) and recurrent funding for the provision of municipal services. Through CHIP, funding is provided to:

  • Indigenous community organisations
  • state Indigenous housing authorities where bilateral agreements are in place
  • Indigenous community organisations under the National Aboriginal Health Strategy where the financial and technical aspects of the projects are managed under Contracted Program Management arrangements.

In 2004-05, CHIP expenditure totalled $249m, of which around half went to the provision of housing. Over 500 houses were purchased/constructed and over 1000 houses upgraded/renovated. CHIP has a particular focus on environmental health related infrastructure, via a specific sub-program called the National Aboriginal Health Strategy (NAHS). NAHS projects are generally large-scale projects targeting priority housing and infrastructure including power, water and waste removal, mainly in rural and remote Indigenous communities. In 2004-05 more than $56m of funding was provided under NAHS.

As shown below in table 8.22, most expenditure under the CHIP is in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

8.22 COMMUNITY HOUSING AND INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAM EXPENDITURE - 2004-05

Expenditure
Proportion of total
$
%

New South Wales
21,847,441
8.79
Victoria
7,950,619
3.20
Queensland
37,998,071
15.28
South Australia
30,147,595
12.13
Western Australia
72,657,023
29.23
Tasmania
2,004,831
0.81
Northern Territory
68,575,247
27.58
National(a)
7,428,942
2.99
Australia
248,609,769
100.00

(a) Activities funded having outcomes over multiple jurisdictions.

Source: Department of Family and Community Services.


CHIP supplements the efforts of state and territory governments who also receive Aboriginal Rental Housing Program funding ($102m in 2004-05) through the Commonwealth/State Housing Agreement.


The Australian Government and the state and territory governments are developing new Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Agreements in order to maximise Indigenous housing program efficiency and effectiveness through an integrated approach to the planning and delivery of housing and housing related infrastructure services. These agreements will cover the period from 2005-08 and will replace interim agreements in place for 2004-05.

NATIONAL INDIGENOUS HOUSING REFORMS

The Standing Committee on Indigenous Housing (SCIH) is comprised of Australian Government and state and territory Indigenous housing officials. SCIH reports on its activities directly to the Housing Ministers Advisory Council (HMAC) and, in particular, manages the implementation of the Housing Ministers’ Ten Year Statement of New Directions Building a Better Future: Indigenous Housing to 2010 (BBF).

Through the BBF, Housing Ministers agreed to four objectives to achieve housing improvements for Indigenous people:
  • identify and address unmet housing needs of Indigenous people
  • improve the capacity of Indigenous community housing organisations and involve Indigenous people in planning and service delivery
  • achieve safe, healthy and sustainable housing
  • coordinate program administration.

Each objective has a number of implementation strategies.

Various SCIH Working Groups have been involved in a range of activities. The National Skills Development Strategy Working Group aims to develop and maintain a national plan to guide national, state and territory industry and training agencies and government departments in implementing the training strategy for Indigenous community housing.

The National Indigenous Housing Information Implementation Committee aims to improve the National Reporting Framework which provides the basis for data collection work at a jurisdictional level and which will provide the relevant information for all national reporting structured around the outcomes required by the BBF. SCIH members also provide advice to the Australian Housing Urban Research Institute (AHURI) including development of scoping papers for the 2004-05 funding rounds. SCIH members have contributed to AHURI planning processes and have developed ongoing communication on the role of AHURI in Indigenous housing research.

HOME OWNERSHIP

This section was contributed by Indigenous Business Australia (September 2005).

The Indigenous Business Australia’s Home Ownership Programme (HOP) provides affordable home loan finance to eligible Indigenous people to assist in reducing the disparity between the rate of home ownership in Indigenous communities and that in the wider Australian community. The rate of home ownership for Indigenous family and lone-person households was estimated in the 2001 census to be 32%. This compares with a national non-Indigenous figure of 71%.

The HOP provides home loans at concessional interest rates to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. The scheme targets low income Indigenous families with the capacity to repay a long-term loan, but who have difficulty obtaining finance from traditional lending institutions. The loan portfolio currently includes 3,425 loans valued at $366.1m. In 2004-05, there were 502 new loans provided.

RESIDENTIAL AGED CARE

This section was contributed by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (September 2005).

The Australian Government, through the Department of Health and Ageing, subsidises and regulates residential care for frail older people. Most of the residential care is provided by the non-government sector, including not-for-profit and private sector providers. Australian Government payments include subsidies paid to providers for the provision of care. Targeted capital assistance available to aged care homes catering largely for residents with special needs or on low incomes, or located in rural and remote areas of Australia (see Residential aged care in the Income and welfare chapter).

SUPPORT FOR PEOPLE WITH A DISABILITY

This section was contributed by the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services (September 2005)

The Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement provides the national framework for the provision of government support to services for people with disabilities. Under the three agreements signed so far (the first in 1991) all parties are responsible for funding specialist services for people with disabilities. The Australian Government has responsibility for the planning, policy setting and management of specialised employment assistance. The state and territory governments have similar responsibilities for services other than employment (see Support for people with a disability, in the Income and welfare chapter).

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