Social housing sector requires better support to enable outcomes-based funding

16 May 2024

Moving the social housing sector to an outcomes-based funding model will require standardised tools to be developed for measuring and evaluating complex housing services, new AHURI research has found.

The research, ‘The role of outcomes-based frameworks in social housing provision in Australia’, undertaken for AHURI by researchers from RMIT, University of New South Wales, University of Tasmania and Swinburne University of Technology, examines the implications and practicalities of transitioning to outcomes-based funding arrangements for organisations that provide social housing.

Outcomes-based funding models in social housing are costly and complex for service providers

With outcomes-based service models, funding for organisations is tied to specific service outcomes such as better health or employment outcomes, rather than discrete service volumes, such as number of clients served. To work properly, outcomes-based funding requires ongoing accurate measurements and evaluation of the effectiveness of the specified housing service or intervention.

‘A key issue with outcomes-based service models are the serious questions about what should be measured, by whom, and for what purpose,’ says lead researcher Professor Cameron Duff from RMIT. ‘In addition, it can be difficult to accurately measure the impact of housing programs on achieving non-housing outcomes, such as improvements in health and wellbeing or social inclusion. Furthermore, evaluating outcomes effectively is a costly business and could place a significant burden on individual providers if there is no support with evidencing their program outcomes.’ 

A standardised approach to measuring outcomes would help the sector deliver better outcomes for tenants

‘Our research strongly recommends government do more to standardise outcomes measures,’ says Professor Duff. ‘There are broader national health and social care services datasets that could be used to drive this standardisation of performance benchmarks and measures, such as the existing data analytics and evaluation capabilities of organisations like the Australian Bureau of Statistics or the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare.’

Housing policy makers and sector professionals cautioned that fully implementing outcomes-based funding would lead to a sector that operates very differently from the current system, likely involving changes that go far beyond existing housing policy or service provision arrangements. In particular, work needs to be done to consider the risks associated with outcomes-based funding and how these risks might be managed, including how financial risks might be mitigated in instances where outcomes are not achieved.

The research argues for establishing a National Housing Outcomes Clearinghouse to support the development of standardised outcomes tools, methods and approaches, clarifying what outcomes agencies are responsible for, while also supporting the dissemination of key outcomes findings to drive service improvements across the sector.

Read the research

The role of outcomes-based frameworks in social housing provision in Australia