This research found that supporting formerly homeless people and those at risk of homelessness into public housing in Western Australia reduced their use of health services as well as the frequency with which they did so. The reduction in health service use, which was particularly evident for hospital stays and psychiatric care, could save WA $4,846 per person per year for a total of $16.4 million per year. This increases to $84,135 per person per year for clients of the NPAH Mental Health program.
The study used linked health service and public housing data to examine the impact of public housing on health service utilisation and health system costs pre- and post-housing for 3,383 public housing tenants from five NPAH programs in Western Australia (983 who received NPAH support and 2,400 who were priority housing tenants). The linked data was complemented by a survey a small group of 277 current WA public housing tenants (93 who received NPAH support and 185 who were priority housing tenants) which examined their history of homelessness, the levels of support received before and after being housed, their confidence in maintaining their tenancy, self-reported health status and health service use.
Average cost of providing support under NPAH programs is $6,462 per person per year, compared with cost offsets of $13,276 per person per year.
The results suggest that sustaining a tenancy for over 12 months is crucial to achieving health service reductions and cost savings.
Providing stable housing with support improves health outcomes as well as housing outcomes and consequently reduces health care costs. This is particularly the case for individuals who experience mental health issues.
Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited 2016