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HOME PURCHASE ASSISTANCE (HPA)
HPA is provided by some states to assist low-to-moderate income households to purchase a home or to provide help with mortgage repayments. Some of the mechanisms used to assist low-to-moderate income earners include loans, shared equity schemes, deposit assistance and mortgage relief. States offer HPA options in line with local market conditions. The emphasis given to loan products varies significantly between jurisdictions. Western Australia and South Australia placed the greatest emphasis on various forms of subsidised loan products, partly due to lower housing prices, which make home purchase feasible on lower incomes. Other jurisdictions such as New South Wales gave greater emphasis to mortgage relief for home purchasers experiencing hardship.
The Australian Government pays rent assistance, a non-taxable income supplement, to eligible social security recipients who pay rent in the private rental market. Rent can include private rent, lodgings, board and lodgings, site fees, fees to moor a vessel, or service and maintenance fees in a retirement village.
To be eligible for rent assistance, a person must first pay rent above a certain threshold level. Rent assistance is then paid at the rate of 75 cents in each dollar above the threshold, until a maximum amount is reached. Maximum rates and thresholds vary depending on a person's family situation.
Rent assistance is indexed twice-yearly, in March and September (by the increase in the Consumer Price Index).
At 3 March 2006 there were 941,319 income units recorded by Centrelink as entitled to rent assistance for that date. An income unit is defined as a single person with or without dependant children, or a couple with or without dependant children. The average rent paid by rent assistance recipients was $304 per fortnight while the average rent assistance received was $82 per fortnight.
A large proportion of rent assistance recipients are either single people or sole parents. In March 2006, 52% of rent assistance recipients were single with no dependent children, 24% were single with dependent children, 16% were couples with dependent children and 8% were couples without dependent children.
Table 8.25 provides details of the number of rent assistance recipients, average fortnightly rates of rent assistance and average fortnightly rents in March 2006. Outlays on rent assistance are included in the total expenditure on Pensions, Allowances and Family Tax Benefits, details of which are provided in the Income and welfare chapter.
The Australian Government, and the state and territory governments provide assistance to people who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness, through the Supported Accommodation Assistance Programme (SAAP). SAAP is a jointly funded program between Australian, state and territory governments. The SAAP V agreement was signed in September 2005 and is now operational.
NATIONAL INDIGENOUS HOUSING REFORMS
The Standing Committee on Indigenous Housing (SCIH) is comprised of Australian Government and state and territory Indigenous housing officials. SCIH reports on its activities directly to the Housing Ministers Advisory Council and, in particular, manages the implementation of the Housing Ministers’ Ten Year Statement of New Directions Building a Better Future: Indigenous Housing to 2010 (BBF).
Through the BBF, Housing Ministers agreed to four objectives to achieve housing improvements for Indigenous people:
Each objective has a number of implementation strategies.
Various SCIH Working Groups have been involved in a range of activities. The National Skills Development Strategy Working Group aims to develop and maintain a national plan to guide national, state and territory industry and training agencies and government departments in implementing the training strategy for Indigenous community housing.
The National Reporting Framework provides the basis for data collection work at a jurisdictional level and provides the relevant information for all national reporting structured around the outcomes required by the BBF. SCIH members also provide advice to the Australian Housing Urban Research Institute (AHURI) on planning processes and have developed ongoing communication on the role of AHURI in Indigenous housing research.
This section was contributed by Indigenous Business Australia (August 2006).
Indigenous Business Australia’s Home Ownership Programme (IBA Homes) provides affordable home loan finance to eligible Indigenous people to assist in reducing the disparity between the rate of home ownership in Indigenous households and that in other Australian households. The rate of home ownership for Indigenous family and lone-person households was estimated in the 2001 Census to be 32%. This compares with a national non-Indigenous figure of 71%.
IBA Homes provides home loans on concessional terms to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. The scheme targets low income Indigenous families with the capacity to repay a long-term loan, but who have difficulty obtaining finance from traditional lending institutions. The loan portfolio currently includes 3,395 loans valued at $457.9 million (m). In 2005-06, there were 580 new loans provided. Since the programme’s establishment, it has helped in excess of 12,400 Indigenous families to buy their own homes.
On 5 October 2005 the Australian Government announced its intention to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cwlth) to, in part, enable long-term leases over Indigenous land to be more readily available to prospective Indigenous home owners in the Northern Territory. A number of complementary measures to support home ownership by Indigenous individuals on Indigenous land were also announced and included the provision of $7.3m over two years for the Home Ownership on Indigenous Land Programme, known as Community Homes, managed by Indigenous Business Australia. The programme will provide concessional loans and other home purchase incentives.
This initiative was developed to assist in redressing the disparity in home ownership rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, to assist in alleviating the inadequate number and poor quality of community housing and to address the unique barriers to home ownership faced by Indigenous families living on Indigenous land.
Community Homes will provide Indigenous people with the realistic option of individual home ownership on Indigenous land for the first time by offering greater access to finance and home purchase incentives enabling people to have better ownership of their financial and social outcomes.
This section was contributed by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (July 2006).
The Australian Government, through the Department of Health and Ageing, subsidises and regulates residential care for frail older people. Most of the residential care is provided by the non-government sector, including not-for-profit and private sector providers. Australian Government payments include subsidies paid to providers for the provision of care. Targeted capital assistance is available to aged-care homes catering largely for residents with special needs or on low incomes, or located in rural and remote areas of Australia (see Residential aged care in the Income and welfare chapter).