Have social housing levels fallen to historic lows?

Have social housing levels fallen to historic lows?

RMIT ABC Fact Check investigates Adrian Pisarski's claim that social housing levels in Australia dropped from a high of 7.1 per cent in 1991 to a low of 4.2 per cent today.

The claim

Australia's recently-appointed Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services Luke Howarth has identified emergency accommodation as the Government's priority for tackling homelessness in Australia, despite calls from lord mayors and advocacy groups for a focus on one of the causes of the problem: housing affordability.

Chief executive of advocacy group National Shelter, Adrian Pisarski, told RN Breakfast that while there is a need for more emergency accommodation, systemic issues in the housing market must also be addressed.

"We have a very deep and severe housing problem in Australia, and it is the social housing end of it that we have been missing out on."

"We have dropped our social housing levels from a high in 1991 of 7.1 per cent to a low now of 4.2 per cent and falling," Mr Pisarski said.

"If we don't address the problems in the housing system, we will never solve homelessness."

Have social housing levels in Australia dropped from a high of 7.1 per cent in 1991 to a low of 4.2 per cent today?

RMIT ABC Fact Check investigates.

The entrance to the iconic Sirius building in Sydney which was formerly used for social housing.

The verdict

Mr Pisarski's claim is in the ballpark.

There are multiple ways of measuring social housing levels in Australia.

Fact Check examined data published by federal government agencies the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the Productivity Commission, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as well the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute and other sources.

Mr Pisarski quoted data published by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute which shows public and community housing as a proportion of all Australian households was 7.1 per cent in 1991, and 4.2 per cent in 2016.

The figure of 7.1 per cent is higher than census data and other estimates for that year.

The latest AIHW data, which includes all four main types of social housing and is drawn from state and territory government administrative data, shows that in 2017-18, there were 4.6 social housing dwellings per 100 households in Australia.

The Commonwealth Government first granted funding to the states for the provision of housing in 1945.

While making comparisons across the decades is difficult, the body of data suggests the early '90s was a high point for social housing levels in Australia, and that the levels now are historically low.


Principal researcher: Natasha Grivas

For full story, please visit the RMIT ABC FactCheck website.

13 August 2019


13 August 2019


  • Fact Check

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