City Futures Research Centre UNSW Built Environment

Social housing exits: Analysing incidence, motivations and consequences

Over recent decades public housing in Australia has been transformed from a home for low-paid workers and a stepping-stone to homeownership, to a ‘safety net’ for those in greatest need. Such emphasis has increased in the past decade with more stringent targeting of high-need applicants in vacancy allocation. More recently, state housing authorities have also sought to promote, in different means, the exit from public housing of their existing tenants who are not considered to be in greatest need. This, it is argued, is warranted on both equity and efficiency grounds to free up vacancies for wait-list applicants in greater need.

The study identified the factors which prompt or deter voluntary moves of tenants out of social housing, and the factors influencing the sustainability of such moves. Key questions that were addressed by the research included:

  • What is the profile of those exiting public housing?
  • What are the main motivations underlying voluntary exits from public housing?
  • What are the key challenges and risks for ex-social housing tenants in accessing and sustaining affordable housing and/or market tenancies?
  • What are the wider impacts of tenant exits on social housing provision in Australia?

Research methods included secondary analysis of national survey data (HILDA database), analysis of primary data about tenant exits obtained from public housing authorities in several Australian jurisdictions, and in-depth interviews with current and former public housing tenants in NSW and Victoria.

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