Housing Policy In Australia – A case for system reform

This is the first of two planned reports from an ongoing investigation being undertaken as part of the UNSW-ACOSS Poverty and Inequality Partnership work program, and also supported by Mission Australia, National Shelter and Shelter WA.

The report – COVID-19 Rental Housing and Homelessness Impacts: an initial analysis – is part of the UNSW Sydney and Australian Council of Social Service’s Poverty and Inequality research partnership.

Rental Housing and Homelessness

Initiated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the research focuses primarily on the domains of rental housing and homelessness. Its main aims are to inform an understanding of:

  • What relevant policy shifts or innovations have been prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • How these policy innovations have been formulated
  • How policy innovations been implemented and with what effect – for both service delivery organisations and service users

Key Findings

This report shows how the gains made on reducing homelessness during the pandemic are slipping away and less than a third of those assisted with temporary hotel accommodation during the crisis were later transitioned into longer-term affordable housing.

Some other key findings of the research include that:

  • At least 30% of rent variations merely deferred the rent, rather than reduced it. This implies that tenants with mounting deferred rent debts could number at least 75,000 across Australia in late 2020.
  • At least a quarter of all private renters lost income during the pandemic, but only a smaller minority got a rent variation from their landlord: between 8-16% of renters, depending on the data source. A similar proportion was refused a variation; more were discouraged from asking and more left their tenancy.


Some of the data used comes from the City Futures COVID-19 renter survey. The survey was conducted especially for the present research, with an online questionnaire in the field from mid-August to the end of October. Persons aged 18 years and older who were living in rental housing in Australia at 29 March 2020 (the date the National Cabinet announced the eviction moratorium) were eligible to participate; in total 312 persons took part, all but one were private tenants.

Read the full report here.