This research project aims to provide an analysis of the wellbeing outcomes of low-income renters living in socially diverse locations.
May 2012 to October 2014
Funded by AHURI (Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute)
It helps to inform area-based policies on social mix and affordability.
Whether it is better to be ‘poor’ in a ‘poor area’ or in an area which is more socially diverse continues to generate considerable policy interest and debate. There is growing consensus that place can make a difference to the social, emotional and economic wellbeing of households on many fronts and this has been a critical driver of policies directed towards improving the social mix of communities both in Australia and abroad.
The assumed benefits from ‘tenure mix’ policies are that the wellbeing of social renters will be better living in the same areas and often next door to more well-off neighbours. However, assumptions like these are not well tested, nor is there strong evidence that concentrated areas of social housing have an ‘area effect’ above and beyond the characteristics of those who live there.
Research method and aims
This research employs a novel method to examine the wellbeing outcomes of social and private renters living in various areas and housing circumstances. It draws on the nationally representative longitudinal in-confidence spatial Household and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey with area-based measures from the Australian Census. The dataset allows individual measures of wellbeing to be linked to the type of area an individual lives in. It addresses the following research question:
To what extent is the social quality of life of lower income renters better in areas with high tenure diversity and concentrations of social housing from those that are less diverse and with lower concentrations of social housing?
The question is broken down into a number of more specific questions:
What is the overlap between area diversity and advantage? Are socially diverse areas also those characterised as poorer or better off areas?
Do the wellbeing outcomes of lower-income renters differ by areas according to their tenure mix and disadvantage?
Do social and lower income renters remain exposed to disadvantaged areas and those with high concentrations of social housing for extended periods and what impact does this have on their wellbeing?
Is there evidence of any area level effects on wellbeing outcomes once statistically controlling for individual and household level characteristics?
From a spatial analysis of the 2001 and 2011 Census data researchers found that the overall tenure diversity of areas is becoming more dynamic over time. This is likely to reflect both social housing policies of dispersal as well as the movement of home owners and private renters into areas with the highest concentrations of social housing. Areas with high concentrations of social housing tend to be ‘poorer’ areas.
The multilevel statistical analysis reveals significant area effects associated with tenure diversity and concentrations of social housing. The wellbeing of lower income and social renters is poorer in areas where the community level tenure mix and concentrations of social housing are high to very high. We find that wellbeing significantly declines with increasing urbanisation and when living in high density dwellings, particularly for social renters.
The research shows the need for both individual and place-based policies in promoting wellbeing. Understanding the impact of and addressing the negative consequences of concentrations of social housing and tenure diversity, including the micro conditions of the dwellings and surrounding neighbourhoods, remains an important policy goal. Improving the quality of the living environment, including opportunities for social inclusion and socio-economic security, is not only a concern for social renters but also for those within the private rental sector.
View the AHURI positioning paper and final report.
- RMIT University: Dr Sharon Parkinson (Chief Investigator) and Dr Melek Cigdem (Researcher)
- Curtin University: Associate Professor Rachel Ong