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Explores the factors influencing tenant choices to remain in or depart from public housing.

Executive summary


Falling tenancy turnover rates over the last decade have resulted in declining vacancies available to applicants in high need. To address this, State Housing Authorities (SHAs) are seeking ways to promote the exit of existing tenants no longer deemed as in high need of housing assistance. Yet little evidence is available about the motivations for tenants to stay in, or exit, the social housing sector, and the outcomes of such exits. The aim of this study, therefore, was to identify the factors which prompt or deter tenant-initiated moves out of social housing and the factors influencing the sustainability of such moves.

The study

For simplicity, the empirical investigation focused on public housing under direct State Housing Authority (SHA) management, as a proxy for all social housing in Australia. A mix of qualitative and quantitative methods were employed, including:

  • Administrative records on tenant exits in 2012–13 was collected from all but one (Northern Territory) Australian SHAs, allowing comparison of national trends and inter-jurisdictional variation.
  • Using tenancy records provided by SHAs in NSW and Victoria, a cohort analysis of tenancies commencing in 2007 has been conducted, examining for each subsequent year the proportion of tenancies still intact and, of those, the proportion where the rent had been significantly raised in response to increased tenant/household income.
  • Data from the HILDA dataset was analysed to provide a longitudinal perspective on the circumstances of households in the years before and after an exit.
  • A survey of 573 current public housing tenants in four selected areas in Victoria and NSW—including a metropolitan and a regional area in each—allowed analysis of their intentions to stay or exit social housing.
  • In-depth interviews were held with a total of 95 participants representing three distinct subgroups—current tenants in their first public housing tenancy (36), tenants having re-entered public housing for a second (or subsequent) time (21), and former tenants who have exited public housing up to one year prior to the interview (38).


Publication Details