Settlement success for recently arrived humanitarian migrants can be influenced by many factors, including the ability to obtain secure housing (AHURI, 2002). This research summary looks at Building a New Life in Australia (BNLA) participants’ housing experiences shortly after arrival in Australia (3–6 months, Wave 1 of the study), and at annual interviews after that (at Wave 2 and Wave 3). We look at housing tenure, assistance received with housing, number of housing moves, difficulties making housing payments (housing stress), and overall housing challenges.
The majority of BNLA participants (about nine in 10) were private renters, and the proportion paying private rent did not change over the first three years of settlement. At Wave 1, which was for most about 3–6 months after arrival in Australia, 52% of Principal Applicants had a long-term lease, with others having a short-term lease, temporary accommodation or other arrangement. This finding largely reflects the housing support provided through the Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) program. Most humanitarian migrants are provided with short-term accommodation on arrival and then supported to source and secure longer-term accommodation. Some new humanitarian arrivals will live with their proposer or a family member. By Wave 3 of BNLA, the proportion with a long-term lease had increased to 72%.
Over half (59%) of all Principal Applicants reported at Wave 1 that they had moved home at least once since their arrival in Australia. This reflects the movement from temporary to longer-term housing for many supported by the HSS program. At Waves 2 and 3, lower proportions (43% and 50%) had moved home at least once since the previous wave. Migrating units consisting of a single adult had the highest rates of residential mobility. At Wave 1, 64% had moved at least once since arrival in Australia and 38% had moved at least twice.
The main sources of help to find housing were family and friends (59%) or a government/case settlement worker (38%). Most BNLA participants were positive about the assistance provided to them by the government/case settlement worker.