Being ‘successful’ in social housing may mean staying

New research seeks to understand pathways into, within, and out of social housing tenancies.

13 March 2020

Government policies that define a tenant’s experience in social housing over time as ‘successful’ if they leave and ‘unsuccessful’ if they stay, can lead to poor outcomes, new AHURI research reveals.

The research, ‘Social housing exit points, outcomes and future pathways: an administrative data analysis’, was undertaken for AHURI by researchers from the University of Adelaide and uses long term data to explore the entry and exit patterns of Australians who are living in, or have lived in, social housing.

‘Our findings suggest that some groups are especially predisposed to particular social housing pathways’, says Professor Emma Baker from University of Adelaide, lead author of the research.

‘We found that people who spent either no time in or just some time in social housing had similar educational, labour force and household characteristics, while those who lived continuously in social housing had characteristics associated with broader disadvantage, such as very low workforce participation; a very high proportion of disability and illness; and a large majority who did not complete high school.’

Using national, linked administrative data, the research examines the common housing pathways of Australians who lived in social housing at some point in the 15 years since 2000. People who spent some time in social housing experienced a diversity of entry and exit pathways. Perhaps surprisingly, just one third of people resided in social housing stably throughout the 15 years, a slightly smaller cohort entered social housing and remained there. Of note is the is the large proportion of people who exited or entered the sector on repeated occasions.

While social housing may provide a valuable 'springboard' into other tenures, there is evidence that the provision of a stable social housing tenancy may provide benefits to some people (and the public purse). Stable social tenants were shown to have the lowest average time in receipt of welfare benefits. In contrast, on average, people with more fragmented pathways of repeated entry and exit spent the longest time in receipt of government welfare assistance.

'By taking the long view, and following people as they move through the housing system we get a much better picture of whats happening' says Professor Baker. 'This work challenges us to question what success in the social housing system means—and for who'.

The final report is available on the AHURI website.