Housing is one of the most basic needs for families, and yet for many Australians it is increasingly at risk. The costs associated with the provision of housing are among the largest ongoing expenses that families will incur over their lifetime. Between 1996 and 2006, average Australian house prices, relative to income, almost doubled, even when controlling for inflation. More recent research has highlighted that this trend has been apparent for more than 20 years, finding that while income has doubled in the years 1985 to 2004, there has been a fourfold increase in house prices. The impact of higher housing costs is most strongly felt by lower-income groups, particularly low-income renters for whom home ownership is increasingly out of reach.
This paper explores the relationship between housing affordability, housing stress, and mental health and wellbeing. The first section examines some recent statistics on housing affordability in Australia and defines some key terms. Some of the potential impacts of housing issues on health and wellbeing, and how this influences outcomes for Australian families are examined. The relevance of these issues to family and relationship service provision is explored, and ideas for service responses are provided.