How does housing assistance affect employment, health and social cohesion?

29 Mar 2007

International evidence shows that housing assistance provides positive 'non-shelter' benefits through affecting affordability, tenure type, security of tenure, location and dwelling quality, but key gaps remain in the Australian evidence base.

Housing assistance (HA) measures involve the direct or indirect provision of financial or in-kind support to individuals and families to meet specific housing needs or objectives. They affect not only the housing market and shelter outcomes but also have an impact on a wide variety of other aspects of the social and economic life of the community. Key examples of non-shelter impacts are participation in the labour market and in education and training institutions, individual mental and physical health states and social cohesion. However, HA measures can also affect the distribution of income and wealth in society, the sense of control and security that households have as a result of their housing circumstances and standards of living over an individual's lifetime. The way in which assistance is provided also has the capacity to interact positively or negatively with additional support services for those with multiple needs. These various impacts occur through different pathways.

The impact of housing assistance on non-shelter outcomes has been identified by Commonwealth and State participants in AHURI as being a critical policy issue. Current CSHA renegotiations, for example, are hampered by a lack of information on the relative costs and benefits of public housing and Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA). The sustainability of Australia's retirement income policies may be affected by assistance for home ownership. The aim of this project was to conduct a systematic review of this and related evidence on the non-shelter outcomes of HA measures. It aimed to identify the linkages between HA and non-shelter outcomes and arrive at conclusions from this literature on what works in terms of interventions and what doesn't. In the first instance, the project focused on the non-shelter outcomes identified as being of primary concern in the brief. It then extended its analysis to other non-shelter outcomes.

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