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COVID-19 has affected households across Australia directly, through disease, and indirectly, through curtailments to employment, loss of income, and restrictions on movement outside the dwelling. (Note: there were no cases of COVID-19 among our participants.) Set against this were a range of policy interventions, ranging from financial payments and guidelines around housing costs relief, to policing of the restrictions on movement and social distancing, to cleaning and sanitising. Nevertheless, these changes brought significant challenges and responses inside homes, in terms of reconfiguring internal spaces for new, more intensive use caused by confinement as described in Chapter 3—such as home schooling and working from home . These changes also had significant knock-on effects upon relationships (Chapter 4) and upon both mental and physical health and wellbeing (Chapter 5).

Key points:

  • COVID-19 has exacerbated vulnerabilities such as poor housing quality and location, housing affordability, energy poverty, and a range of social, mental and physical health conditions.
  • The physical and social make-up of apartment buildings and neighbourhood encouraged or hindered social integration, and efforts to manage apartment building common spaces seemed to have been differentiated by socio-economic conditions.
  • COVID-19 income and housing support measures were critically important in supporting household resilience—but also left gaps in support, with implications for resilient responses.
  • For people spending more time at home, including working from home and homeschooling, efforts to adapt were constrained by the ability to make material changes or to afford energy bills.
  • COVID-19 particularly exacerbated social isolation where there were weak pre-existing ties and limited digital capability; involuntary separation from family and reduced or cancelled care-worker visits were particularly challenging.
  • Digital literacy, inclusion and confidence—together with concerns about online security—reveal uneven capabilities and access to support to achieve social connectedness online.
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AHURI Final Report 345