Social Housing and Poverty in Australia

This is the first of three Rapid Analysis reports that explores the connection between social housing and poverty.

Report cover

Stable housing is a critical component in addressing financial and social stresses that can lead to poverty or prevent exit from poverty. This analysis explores the correlation between community-level measures of poverty rates and social housing density to better understand how we might best structure future analyses to inform policy and practice on locations for new housing, structure and delivery of social housing, and rent assistance more broadly, for those facing housing stress.

Key findings observed at a community level include:

  • Contemporary poverty rates and social housing density are positively correlated.
  • High poverty is not always associated with high social housing density. There are many communities with high poverty rates (greater than 16 percent) and relatively low social housing density rates (less than 4 percent)
  • High poverty in 2011 is associated with increased social housing units between 2011 and 2016.
  • High social housing density in 2011 is positively correlated with decreases in poverty rates between 2011 and 2016.

These initial statistics suggest there is much more to be understood about the relationship between poverty and the role played by social housing in alleviating and preventing poverty. We highlight throughout this report that falling below standard poverty lines is relatively fluid: not all households will remain in poverty. In fact, over a five-year period we often observe households moving out of poverty. Housing, however, is a more static measure in that households do not quickly move into or out of social housing. Social housing and related programs can serve as a stabiliser that supports poverty reduction. But the lack of social housing and support as one is experiencing income shocks or declines in income can lead to a further exacerbation of circumstances which can result in observing more persistent episodes of living in poverty.

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Professor A. Abigail Payne
Dr Miguel Ruiz