Housing assistance and economic participation
This research comprised a suite of projects on the links between housing assistance and employment over three years. The NRV combined quantitative modelling of secondary data sets and in depth interviews with over 100 recipients of HA.
- Seventy one per cent of public housing households with working age persons were job poor (i.e. had no one employed in paid work) in 2002. This is in part due to the increasing incidence of one adult households who receive housing assistance. Nevertheless jobless rates for couple households (equalising for demographic changes) have increased from 7.1 per cent in 1982 to 8.7 per cent in 2002.
- Poverty and unemployment traps (low or even negative financial returns to work) are more common among housing assistance recipients than other income support payment (ISP) recipients. But the financial assistance offered by Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) has only small negative impacts on employment outcomes.
- The major barrier to economic participation identified by HA recipients is poor health, and in particular mental health issues.
- The labour market decisions of female housing assistance recipients are less responsive to financial incentives than those of their male counterparts. Many women receiving housing assistance are parents; we believe on the basis of qualitative evidence that strongly held views about parenting responsibilities and the logistical difficulties of combining work and parenting is largely responsible for these findings.
- Income eligibility rules are effectively relaxed once a household enters public housing. Using Western Australian administrative records we find that employment rates improve by as much as 12 percentage points following the transition of working age males into public housing. Reforms to income eligibility rules and rent rebate formulae are proposed to curb welfare locks.
- Empirical investigation of the length of spells (tenancies) in public housing suggest that tenants securing relatively well paid jobs are among the first to leave public housing. Singles and sole parents, particularly those occupying housing with relatively high market rents, have longer spells than most in public housing. These groups would be amongst those particularly affected by the introduction of fixed term tenancies.