Improving access to social housing: common housing registers and other potential reforms


This research examined common housing registers and choice-based allocations systems and their relevance for all types of social housing agencies in Australia. It was found that there is no one model of common housing register: they vary in scope, the number and range of participating providers, the extent of centralisation or decentralisation of tasks, use of technology and level of sophistication. The biggest obstacles to successful implementation are fears by not-for-profit providers that their autonomy will be eroded, and the risks involved in obtaining the right information and communication technology. In regards to choice based letting the research found that the biggest barriers to successful implementation are inability to embrace a cultural change which views households as consumers and active bidders rather than passive welfare recipients, and the procurement and implementation of quite complex hardware and software systems.

Project Number: 50297
Research Theme(s): Public and community housing
Project Leader: Burke, Terry
Funding Year: 2005
Research Centre: Swinburne-Monash


The research design focused on how to improve access to social housing. It undertook:

  • An extensive review of documentary material.
  • Workshops with policy makers and practitioners in four Australian states.
  • Fieldwork in eight sites in the UK and two in Canada.

The key findings of the research are:

  • The findings are reported in two volumes. First, the Final Report analyses the development, implementation and operation of 'common housing registers', 'choice based lettings' and 'local allocations policies'. Second, a Resource Kit provides a practical tool to assist those who are reviewing applications and allocations systems in Australian social housing.
  • Analytically, each reform option is associated with a different social policy paradigm: common housing registers with 'welfare service delivery'; choice-based lettings with 'consumer choice'; and local allocations policies with 'sustainable communities'.
  • The outcomes of choice based lettings indicate increased satisfaction levels for social housing tenants and demonstrable savings for providers.
  • Very little is known about the outcomes of common housing registers or local allocations policies, except that providers support them but the views of applicants are unknown.