Why waiting lists don’t tell the full story on social housing demand
4 September 2019 at 4:59 pm
Demand for social housing in Australia could be more than 300 per cent higher than waiting lists suggest, according to new research.
A report from Compass Housing Services used census data to gauge social housing demand across the country, and modeled potential future demand from shifts in the labour market caused by automation and artificial intelligence.
It found while there were currently more than 144,000 households on the social housing waiting list, income and asset data suggested an additional 452,000 households were also eligible to apply for housing.
Report author Martin Kennedy said the findings were “deeply concerning” and could cause future headaches for governments already handling a backlog of housing applications.
“If every household in Australia who met the eligibility criteria for social housing decided to apply, waiting lists across the country would increase by 312 per cent,” Kennedy said.
“The number of households eligible for social housing but not currently living in it, is equivalent to approximately 23 per cent of all renting households in Australia.”
Kennedy said that the shortfall could potentially become worse with the rise of automation and artificial intelligence use in industries across Australia.
He said these kinds of structural changes to the economy could mean around 20 per cent of those made redundant remain unemployed three years later.
He added that those who did find new jobs often did so with a wage reduction of between 10 and 20 per cent.
“This has the potential to add to social housing demand by displacing some workers and eroding the incomes of others,” he said.
The report estimates that between 21,000 and 44,000 extra low-income households in New South Wales alone could become eligible for social housing if they experienced a 10 per cent fall in household income.
National Shelter executive officer Adrian Pisarski told Pro Bono News he was not surprised by the findings, which echoed previous research from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI).
He said increasing demand was a result of government underinvestment in social housing over the past 25 years.
“We’ve also seen state housing authorities tighten eligibility for social housing so that fewer people are actually eligible to apply,” Pisarski said.
“Governments have compounded this by diverting people away from social housing and into the private rental market so that they don’t actually show up on public housing lists.”
As well as increasing the supply of social and affordable housing, the report recommended putting in stronger protections for private renters and helping displaced workers through more effective re-skilling and transition programs.
Pisarski said the federal government had made progress increasing social and affordable housing through the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC).
But he said governments also needed to provide appropriate incentives to attract more private equity funds into social housing.
“There’s a range of options that governments could do,” he said.
“The most immediate thing the federal government should do is a mark out social housing as an infrastructure [priority] to try and get more economic activity going.
“But we also really need a capital injection from the Commonwealth to make more social housing a reality.”