Social policy gives particular attention to identifying and meeting the housing needs of population groups most likely to have housing related difficulties. Some of the groups for which information is required are detailed below.
LOW INCOME HOUSEHOLDS
The high cost of housing means it is important to be able to identify both the numbers and characteristics of households who cannot readily meet those costs. Using criteria which identifies those low income households paying a high proportion of their income on housing payments relative to community norms is a useful means for identifying the most disadvantaged groups. Associated information, concerning household size and composition, location of residence, and other household characteristics, help to refine policy options for providing assistance.
Analysis of Indigenous households often centres on problems associated with dwelling quality, especially for those living in remote areas, and on living space relative to household size. The connection between the health of communities and the availability and adequacy of housing related infrastructure, such as water supply for drinking and washing, and sewerage disposal systems, is of particular concern.
LIFE CYCLE GROUPS
Housing needs and preferences are highly associated with life cycle transitions. For example, the housing needs of a couple with three children are different from that of young adults leaving the parental home to start life on their own, or young couples without children. Social responses to needs are often directed toward specific life-cycle stages partly because household income and levels of home ownership are also associated with life cycle stages. Thus schemes to support first home buyers typically involve young families with low to medium incomes. The on-going ageing of the population has contributed to a greater focus on the housing needs of frail elderly people whose need for care and ability to live independently are issues of concern. Options such as retirement villages and nursing homes are some that have been designed to help these people with their special needs.
Family breakdown through separation and divorce can create a need for short term emergency shelter services. Over the longer term, one-parent families often experience economic hardship and dependency on income support systems while they support their younger children and, as a result, may experience difficulties in securing affordable housing appropriate to their needs. Lone parents who remain in the family home as an owner and need to maintain mortgage repayments may also face financial stress. Finding suitable housing is often an issue for both parents not only in terms of facilitating the childrens' access to the parent who lives in a different dwelling but also in terms of the need for the parent who lives elsewhere to provide a suitable living space if, and when, the children go to stay with them.
PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
While many people with disabilities do not have special housing needs there are others that do. These include people with mobility problems who may experience problems in moving to, from or within their home if not properly designed and some people who have intellectual disabilities and mental health problems who need special care arrangements. People with disabilities also often have low incomes so the availability of suitable low cost housing is an issue.
PEOPLE IN DISADVANTAGED LOCAL AREAS
Housing and neighbourhood conditions can vary enormously by location. Describing the mix and quality of dwellings by area along with the characteristics of households in those areas, helps to direct support to those localities in greatest need.
RENTERS (PUBLIC AND PRIVATE)
As home ownership is widely recognised as being the preferred form of tenure for most people, the characteristics and motivations of individuals and households who rent their dwelling are of interest to policy makers. For some, renting is a logical life-cycle episode, e.g. something young people do when they first leave home and before they save for their first owned home. For others it is a long term life choice, e.g. highly mobile persons who prefer not to be tied down by the commitments entailed in home ownership. Living in a rented home may be seen as a cost-effective alternative and one that enables other, possibly better, investment strategies to be adopted than purchasing a home. Yet, for others there is no choice: purchasing a home is not a possibility, at least in the short term, and renting is the only option available. Renters with low income represent a large proportion of people in need of government assistance. Information is needed to monitor the effectiveness of public housing provision and private rental assistance programs in helping these people.
INVESTORS IN RENTAL DWELLINGS
It is important to understand all the factors affecting housing supply. Investment by individuals in residential property has a significant impact on the supply of private residential rental dwellings. Information on investors and the properties they invest in provides a better understanding of private rental housing supply mechanisms, especially in regard to meeting concerns about the supply of affordable rental accommodation. This information may usefully include the demographic and financial characteristics of people who invest in residential rental property, reasons for investment, and selected characteristics of their most recently acquired properties.