The study involved reviewing housing and other policies that affect humanitarian entrants ('refugees'), interviewing service providers, and analysing longitudinal data, including from a specially designed survey of refugees called the Refugees, Housing and Social Inclusion Survey.
The study found that refugees experience, in the main, positive housing trajectories following resettlement. Most report high levels of satisfaction with the physical quality and standard of their home. However most are reliant on private rental, making them vulnerable to housing stress, housing insecurity and homelessness, especially when they lacked income from employment. By the third and final year of the study’s survey:
- 81 per cent of refugees surveyed were in private rental accommodation, 13 per cent were in their own homes and paying a mortgage, and 6 per cent reported insecure accommodation, including ‘couch surfing’.
- Most refugees that experienced couch surfing had successfully moved into stable accommodation.
- Nearly a third of respondents were on public housing waiting lists seeking cheaper accommodation in the third year of the survey.
Of those that experienced homelessness, those on Protection or Bridging visas were more likely to remain homeless. Refugees were also more at risk of primary homelessness (‘sleeping rough’) when financial assistance from agencies or family members ceased, or when Protection visas were rejected. This group often encountered discrimination and violence when sleeping rough.
Being settled in homes is a critical foundation for social inclusion. Self-reported English language skills and employment improved significantly over the three years of the survey.
This study demonstrates the general success of Australia’s resettlement program in helping refugees secure housing and enter Australian life. However, the lack of affordability of housing, together with widespread discrimination and lack of income from employment create housing problems, especially for some groups. Policy-makers might address this through increased provision of affordable housing, employment assistance, and more effectively identifying those most at risk of homelessness for additional assistance and support.