Understanding the housing continuum

The term housing continuum is used broadly in the housing strategies of most Australian State and Territory governments, but what does the term mean?

Last updated 21 Nov 2017

The ‘housing continuum’ is a concept used by policy makers to consider the broad range of responses available to help a range of households in different tenures to access affordable and appropriate housing. The concept enables policy makers to move away from a one-size-fits-all strategy of providing public housing, towards ‘the range of housing options available to different households on a continuum.’

The housing continuum concept directs policy makers to consider housing responses through the following dimensions:

  1. policy makers consider housing responses for a diverse range households, from people experiencing homelessness through to social housing tenants, first home buyers and beyond;
  2. policy makers consider a diverse range of responses for any one household over their lifetime. By considering the entire housing continuum, policymakers are better placed to respond to instability and sudden changes in a household’s tenure. For example, a household at risk of homelessness might be best served by going into crisis accommodation temporarily, before attaining a rental bond loan to secure housing in the private rental market;
  3. the term recognises that there is an interconnectedness between different housing responses and that responses don’t work in isolation. For example, a policy boost for first home buyers may increase house prices in a particular price range and reduce available properties for renters.

In 2009 the Western Australia Social Housing Taskforce identified that ‘different housing tenures and forms of assistance do not exist in isolation from one another, but are interconnected and have an important influence on one another. Households do not transition through the different parts of the continuum in a linear manner, but move between them depending on their life circumstances and housing need at a particular point in time’.

Figure 1: Policy responses across the housing continuum