Notes on the data: Housing, rent assistance and vehicle access

Households in dwellings receiving rent assistance from the Australian Government, June 2021


Policy context: Affordable, secure and safe housing is fundamental to one's health and wellbeing, employment, education and other life opportunities. Rent assistance assists low-income people in housing need. It is a subsidy paid largely to people who get social security or other income-support benefits from the Commonwealth government, and who rent in the private rental market, in community housing, and in other renting situations. Most recipients of rent assistance would be paying more than 30% of their gross income on rent if rent assistance was not available - a situation referred to as ‘housing stress’ [1].

In 2019, 43% of all Commonwealth Rental Assistance (CRA) recipients were single with no dependent children. Sole parent families represented 21% of the total rent assistance population. Around 1 in 5 received Newstart Allowance (20%), the Age Pension (22%) or a Disability Support Pension (20%) as their primary pension, allowance or benefit. If not for CRA received, nearly 7 in 10 CRA recipients (69%) would have been in rental stress [2].

The annual rental affordability index (RAI) report defines renatl stress as housing costs exceeding 30% of a household’s gross income, with 38%-60% representing severe unaffordability and 60% or more indicating extreme unaffordability [3].

The report found that:
  • A single person solely reliant on JobSeeker payments and Comonweath Rental Assistance would require an income nearly triple the current level of about $19,802 per annum to move into the “acceptable” affordability category, in which only 20%-25% of household income went on rent.
  • The situation is similar for single-pensioner households seeking to rent a one-bedroom dwelling, with moderate to extreme unaffordability throughout the country, including in regional areas.
  • Even a single person on a full-time hospitality income of approximately $59,344 a year was destined for moderate to severe rental stress if they were working in the major capital cities, especially Canberra and Greater Sydney.


  1. Randolph B, Holloway D. Commonwealth rent assistance and the spatial concentration of low income households in metropolitan Australia. (AHURI Final Report Series, vol. 101). Melbourne: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) UNSW-UWS Research Centre; 2007 [cited: 2013 Oct 18]. Available from:
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Housing Assistance in Australia 2020. AIHW; 2020 [cited: 2020, Nov 16]. Available from:
  3. Rental Affordability Index: research report, 2021. Available from; accessed on 24 November 2021

Notes: The rent assistance data are provided for individual recipients, and there may be multiple individual recipients in a household: to the extent that this occurs, the proportion will be understated. However, dwellings are the most appropriate denominator available for this dataset. In addition, some recipients live in non-private dwellings, which are not included in the denominator: to the extent that this occurs, the proportion will be overstated. Note that the denominator - private dwellings - is based on the 2016 Census as private dwellings data are not available for later time period.

The numerator (the number of renters) effectively reflects the number of households in an area receiving this assistance.

Population Health Area (PHA) data WERE derived from already suppressed Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) data. Therefore, if a PHA includes an SA2 with suppressed data, there could be an undercount of up to 4 dwellings in the PHA.

State and territory totals were also provided. Data in the ‘Unknown’ data row in the Excel data workbooks are calculated from the difference between the sum of the PHA data to the State/Territory totals and include the sum of these suppressed SA2 cells.

Data cells with counts of less than five were suppressed (confidentialised).


Geography: Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Remoteness Area


Numerator: Renters receiving assistance from the Department of Social Services at June 2021


Denominator: All occupied private dwellings (2016 Census)


Detail of analysis: Per cent


Source: Compiled by PHIDU based on data from the Department of Social Services, June 2021; and Australian Bureau of Statistics Census: Dwellings, 2016.


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