Maximising Impact - Baseline results from a longitudinal study of new tenants in social housing

Low income housing Low socioeconomic status Tenancy support Housing security Social housing

In 2017, the Board of Directors at Unison Housing Ltd (Unison) endorsed a program of research to be undertaken by the Unison Housing Research Lab over a five-year period. The centrepiece was the design and implementation of a longitudinal panel survey called Maximising Impact. Over a two-and-a-half-year period, Maximising Impact will follow a sample of new Unison tenants to determine which factors contribute to tenancy sustainment and tenancy satisfaction, as well as community and economic participation.

Despite scholarly interest in these issues, and their obvious policy and practice relevance, existing Australian studies provide limited theoretical and empirical insight into the processes and mechanisms that are associated with social housing tenancy sustainment and other individual outcomes. The selection of a longitudinal panel approach examining the experiences of new social housing tenants in different housing forms spread across a range of geographic locations with different socio-economic profiles is designed to address this gap.

This report is the first of three Maximising Impact reports that will examine new tenancies over a 30-month period from tenancy commencement. The report presents key findings from the baseline survey of 170 new tenants, conducted between May 2018 and April 2020. The second and third Maximising Impact reports will examine factors associated with patterns of tenancy sustainment and changes in tenancy satisfaction and other individual outcomes, which can only be answered with longitudinal data.

Key findings:

  • The respondents’ housing histories are characterised by extreme instability.
  • New tenants at Unison Housing are chronically disengaged from the labour market.
  • The report presents strong evidence that many participants grew up in circumstances suggestive of family strain.
  • The respondents’ financial situation is precarious and many reported that they had to go without essential items and/or had to rely on welfare agencies for assistance.


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