The many faces of social housing in Australia

House keys in front door

Social housing has been home to many Australians over its 80+ year history. 

On any one night, just over 4% of Australian households rent social housing. However it is estimated that up to 1 in 10 Australians have called social housing home at some time in the past 20 years. The thing is, up until now, we have known surprisingly little about how people have used it in their lives and housing careers. 

For some people, social housing has provided a stable home for life, or a short-term safety net from homelessness, and for others, it can be a much-needed springboard into homeownership. 

Researchers at the University of Adelaide are currently utilising newly accessible Australian ‘big, linked data’ to map the pathways people take through the housing system across a 15 year period – and the results are surprising.

Led by Professor Emma Baker, the study shows how diverse these pathways through the housing system are, with the new information offering considerable insight into the sector for improved social policy advice. 

“This is the first time that national, linked Australian data has been applied to this type of problem,” Professor Emma Baker says. 

“We are hoping to find important distinctions between the pathways people take, who is taking them, and what the implications are for other sectors of government operation.

“For example, we can now track and compare resultant welfare dependence, which can then inform future strategies around welfare services and delivery, particularly for indigenous housing.”

The study also considers the way in which social housing is viewed within Australia, and the broad benefits it has. To put it simply, social housing supports more than the elderly, sick and most disadvantaged people in our society. More than 1 in 4 social housing tenants use it as a ‘launch pad’ to more stable employment and market housing, demonstrating a clear and valuable role in stabilising lives and raising prosperity. 

Overall, the long view of this issue (one that this study hopes to strengthen in society) is that the positive social impact of the social housing sector reaches far beyond the 4% who are currently living in it. 

Featured Researcher

Professor Emma Baker
Professor of Housing Research
School of Architecture and Built Environment
Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences

Featured Researcher

Professor Chris Leishman
Director – Centre for Housing, Urban and Regional Planning
School of Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts

Tagged in Societal wellbeing, social housing, Australia, homeownership