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This section was contributed by the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services (September 2004).
Home purchase assistance (HPA)
Home Purchase Assistance (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 customers 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 customer must first pay rent above a certain threshold level, then rent assistance is 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 to the consumer price index.
At June 2004 there were 927,895 income units in receipt of rent assistance, where an income unit is defined as a single person with or without dependants, or a couple with or without dependants. The average rent paid by rent assistance customers in June 2004 was $274 per fortnight while the average rent assistance received was $77 per fortnight.
A large proportion of rent assistance customers are either single people or sole parents. In June 2004, 54% of rent assistance customers were single with no dependent children, 24% were single with dependent children, 14% were couples with dependent children and 8% were couples without dependent children.
Under CSHA, the state and territory governments also assist low-income earners with the costs of rent, bonds and relocation in the private rental market. In 2001-02 almost $80m was provided through these arrangements.
Table 8.21 provides details of the number of rent assistance customers, average fortnightly rates of rent assistance and average fortnightly rents in March 2004. Outlays on rent assistance are included in the total expenditure on Pensions, Allowance and Family Tax Benefits, details of which are provided in Chapter 7 Income and welfare.
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 Program (SAAP) (AIHW 2002). Under the SAAP IV Bilateral Agreements 2000-05, national funding (i.e. total Australian, state and territory government contributions) will be over $1.4b.
Housing assistance program for Indigenous persons
This section was contributed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (August 2004).
During 2003-04 the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS) administered a number of programs to improve the living environment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Community Housing and Infrastructure Program (CHIP), ATSIS's second largest program, aimed to provide appropriate, safe and affordable housing, and to improve community and individual health and wellbeing. Since 1 July 2004 the Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS) has assumed responsibility for this program.
CHIP provides funds for the construction, purchase, repair and management of community housing as well as for the provision and maintenance of housing-related infrastructure (essential services such as water, sewerage, electricity and community roads) and recurrent funding for the provision of municipal services. Through CHIP, grants are provided to:
In 2003-04 CHIP expenditure totalled $201m, of which over half went to the provision of housing. Over 500 houses were purchased or constructed and over 1000 houses were upgraded or renovated. CHIP has a particular focus on environmental health-related infrastructure, via a specific sub-program called the NAHS. Projects in the NAHS are generally large-scale, targeting priority housing and infrastructure including power, water and waste removal, mainly in rural and remote Indigenous communities.
As shown in table 8.22 most expenditure under the CHIP Program is in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland.
ATSIC engaged the ABS to undertake a Community Housing and Infrastructure Needs Survey (CHINS) during 2001. The CHINS 2001 report, which was released in May 2002, provides a comprehensive picture of Indigenous housing circumstances across all tenures at a single point in time. A review of the 2001 CHINS, completed in June 2004, recommended the survey continue in 2006 with a number of enhancements.
CHIP supplements the efforts of state and territory governments, who also receive earmarked Indigenous Housing funds from the Australian Government under the Aboriginal Rental Housing Program ($101m in 2003-04).
Over recent years the Australian Government, and state and territory governments have established Indigenous Housing Agreements in order to maximise Indigenous housing program efficiency and effectiveness through a coordinated approach to planning and delivery of housing and housing-related services. At June 30 2004, Housing Agreements or Memorandums of Understanding had been signed in all states and territories with the exception of Tasmania.
National Indigenous housing reforms
The Standing Committee on Indigenous Housing (SCIH) comprises Commonwealth, and state and territory representatives. It reports on its activities directly to the Housing Ministers' Advisory Council (HMAC) and, in particular, provides advice on strategic Indigenous housing issues to HMAC and manages the implementation of Housing Ministers' Ten Year Statement of New Directions (Building a Better Future: Indigenous Housing to 2010).
In adopting Building a Better Future: Indigenous Housing to 2010, housing ministers resolved to improve Indigenous housing outcomes in the next ten years through three major strategies:
SCIH has identified 13 key priority areas for attention including: addressing homelessness; coordination with mainstream programs; Commonwealth State Housing Agreement (CSHA) re-negotiations; Council of Australian Governments (COAG) reconciliation agenda; skills development; viability of Indigenous housing organisations; sustainability of housing; and a range of data collection issues the development of models for targeting funds.
Over the past year ATSIC and FaCS have been members of various SCIH Working Groups, and have been involved in a range of activities including:
In line with the agreed outcomes as outlined in Building a Better Future, all funding agencies including the Indigenous State Housing Authorities will be developing strategies to achieve the agreed outcomes within their jurisdiction.
The ATSIC Home Ownership Program aims to reduce the disparity between the rate of home ownership in Indigenous communities and that in the wider Australian community. 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%.
The scheme provides home loans at concessional interest rates 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 3,559 loans valued at $339m. In 2003-04, 469 new loans were provided.
This section was contributed by the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services and the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (September 2004).
The Australian Government, through the Department of Health and Ageing, finances and regulates residential care for frail older people. The residential care is usually provided by the non-government sector, including religious, charitable and other private sector providers. A small number of residential services are operated by the state and local government sectors. Capital assistance for upgrading or construction of facilities is made available to those aged care services catering largely for residents with special needs or on low incomes, and those in rural and remote areas of Australia (see Residential aged care program, Chapter 7 Income and welfare).
The Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement provides the national framework for the provision of government support to services for people with disabilities. Under the three agreements signed so far (the first in 1991) all parties are responsible for funding specialist services for people with disabilities. The Australian Government has responsibility for the planning, policy setting and management of specialised employment assistance. The state and territory governments have similar responsibilities for services other than employment (see Support for people with a disability, Chapter 7 Income and welfare).