Public and community housing is rental housing which is owned and operated by State Housing Authorities and not-for-profit housing providers respectively. It is provided to low-income tenants at subsidised rental rates to ensure they have adequate access to affordable housing in appropriate locations.
Is there still a demand for public and community housing?
- Demand for public and community housing is stronger than ever— Project 50318 & Project 50347.
- As the population ages, the demand for public housing for older people is expected to outstrip supply. Older people have specific needs which can be anticipated and planned. This includes physical infrastructure such as hand rails, and support services needed to help tenants maintain independence for as long as possible — Project 50318.
- There is evidence of different needs and preferences for public housing. Demand for particular dwelling types such as high-rise can vary between ethnic groups and locations. Areas with high private sector rents also have high unmet demand for public housing. Analysing demand through the lens of housing submarkets may assist providers in improving the delivery of public housing in the shape and location where it is most needed — Project 50347.
- There is also some latent demand which is not even registered on waiting lists. For example, some private rental tenants are eligible for public housing but do not apply. This is usually due to lack of information about eligibility, or the deterrent effects of long waiting lists. Some prefer to remain in private rental to allow for greater choice of dwelling. Those who apply for public housing are generally seeking increased security of tenure over choice — Project 50142.
Do housing agencies have strategies in place to manage the behaviour of challenging tenants?
- Only a very small minority of public and community housing tenants present challenging behaviour. Housing agencies have a range of strategies in place to manage such behaviour — Project 40327, Project 40163 & Project 40253.
- Public housing tenants with challenging behaviour can be assisted to change their behaviour through systematic and close support. This includes integrated local services, clear expectations about tenant behaviour, tenant-centred approaches and programs which focus on minimising neighbourhood conflict — Project 40327.
- Tenant incentive schemes reward tenants for fulfilling their tenancy obligations (e.g. paying rent on time, neighbourly behaviour). They are generally found to be beneficial, provided they are on a small enough scale to not add to housing providers' workloads — Project 40253. Informal partnerships at a local level between welfare, education and police also appear to be central to effective efforts to combat anti-social behaviour in public housing estates — Project 40163.
- To reduce crime in public housing estates, social rather than physical interventions are required. Intense inter-agency collaboration and non-traditional community policing are important elements in crime reduction — Project 70111.
What are some of the challenges with funding public and community housing?
- Australia’s public housing receives relatively low subsidies compared to international counterparts. This undermines its potential for financial viability. Australian social housing authorities are required to provide both affordable housing for low income households and financial viability for the organisations that manage the housing stock. In other comparable countries, additional subsidies are provided to housing providers to allow them to discount rents. Another approach is to pay specific subsidies to households on a case-by-case basis — Project 50226.
- Changes to the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement in 1996 caused six out of nine state/territory housing authorities to run in deficit. One AHURI research project demonstrated that Commonwealth funding of the gap between public tenant rental charges and the market value of those units would allow all bar one of these authorities to run in surplus — Project 30154.
- Increased targeting of housing and concessional rents are costing governments tens of millions of dollars in lost rental revenue. Small increases in the percentage of income paid in rent by these tenants would go a long way towards reversing this financial trend — Project 30352.
- There are more likely to be cost-savings on housing assistance where a range of interventions—such as shared equity, rent assistance and bond-funded social housing—are can be mixed and matched to local market conditions in different regions — Project 30096.
- Some researchers have partnered with major investment companies to develop models for private investment in community housing. One such project proposed a pooled fund, much like a listed property trust. However, they calculated a 3 per cent, per annum return, which is too low to attract significant interest. Therefore, they suggest that private investment will not take place without ongoing government investment — Project 50022.
Should government encourage growth in community housing?
- International examples and case studies suggest that growing the not-for-profit housing sector (e.g. community housing associations) is a successful way of increasing the supply of low-cost housing stock — Project 60504, Project 60323 & Project 60191.
- An effective regulatory framework for community housing associations could assist with attracting private investment into affordable housing by meeting investors' risk assessment needs — Project 60504 & Project 60118.
- An AHURI assessment in 2005-06 found that most Australian community housing providers were small-scale organisations, with high levels of volunteer labour and ageing stock. They also had insufficient resources for professional stock management. Whilst operating costs were generally lower for community housing than for public housing, associations tended to severely understate their real operating costs. Most organisations were found to have a backlog of maintenance — Project 30355.
- Community housing providers can make a significant contribution to strengthening local communities, particularly where there are low levels of public housing and in high cost city areas. Community strengthening activities include brokering access to services, personal development and supporting social and economic development — Project 60025.
- The Indigenous community housing sector is varies widely, according to its location and the types of services delivered. Those with a larger stock of houses tend to perform better, as do those in urban and large centres, and those who only manage housing rather than multiple types of services — Project 80316.
Does the integration of housing and related services in public housing estates work effectively?
- Integration of housing and related services is becoming an accepted practice in the social housing sector. However, there is inconclusive evidence around the effectiveness of this approach. A successful integrated approach includes the following best practice principles:
- adequate financial resources
- strong formal and informal structures and relationships
- clear leadership
- commonly agreed program objectives — Project 20336.
- Links to external services as well as tenancy support programs are crucial in ensuring stable tenancies and avoiding homelessness — Project 80372.
How can governments maximise the benefits of public housing regeneration programs?
- The most effective approaches to involving the community in urban renewal programs start with empowering the local people. The negative life experiences of many of these people have led to apathy and dependence, so it is important to give them the confidence and skills to influence their circumstances — Project 70026.
- Community regeneration programs are usually funded for a discrete period of time. When the funding ceases, members of these communities are expected to maintain community standards sustainably without ongoing injection of government funding. Clear exit strategies are important to ensure the benefits of the program are not lost when government funding ceases — Project 40200.
- The most successful exit strategies for government agencies include a formal plan, involvement of residents and other stakeholders, conflict resolution strategies, leadership development, formal evaluation procedures and a process for transferring responsibility for any ongoing programs — Project 40200.