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This section was contributed by the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services (September 2005).
HOME PURCHASE ASSISTANCE
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 4 March 2005 there were 941,120 income units entitled to 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 was $290 per fortnight while the average rent assistance received was $80 per fortnight.
A large proportion of rent assistance customers are either single people or sole parents. In March 2005, 52% of rent assistance customers were single with no dependent children, 24% were single with dependent children, 15% were couples with dependent children and 8% were couples without dependent children.
Table 8.21 provides details of the number of rent assistance customers, average fortnightly rates of rent assistance and average fortnightly rents in March 2005. Outlays on rent assistance are included in the total expenditure on Pensions, Allowance 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 Program (SAAP) (AIHW 2002). SAAP is a jointly funded program between Australian, state and territory governments. SAAP V is currently being negotiated between the Australian Government and state and territory governments.
HOUSING ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
The Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services administers a number of programs to improve the living environment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including the Community Housing and Infrastructure Program (CHIP). CHIP aims to provide appropriate, safe and affordable housing and improve community and individual health and well being.
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, funding is provided to:
In 2004-05, CHIP expenditure totalled $249m, of which around half went to the provision of housing. Over 500 houses were purchased/constructed and over 1000 houses upgraded/renovated. CHIP has a particular focus on environmental health related infrastructure, via a specific sub-program called the National Aboriginal Health Strategy (NAHS). NAHS projects are generally large-scale projects targeting priority housing and infrastructure including power, water and waste removal, mainly in rural and remote Indigenous communities. In 2004-05 more than $56m of funding was provided under NAHS.
As shown below in table 8.22, most expenditure under the CHIP is in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
CHIP supplements the efforts of state and territory governments who also receive Aboriginal Rental Housing Program funding ($102m in 2004-05) through the Commonwealth/State Housing Agreement.
The Australian Government and the state and territory governments are developing new Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Agreements in order to maximise Indigenous housing program efficiency and effectiveness through an integrated approach to the planning and delivery of housing and housing related infrastructure services. These agreements will cover the period from 2005-08 and will replace interim agreements in place for 2004-05.
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 (HMAC) 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 Indigenous Housing Information Implementation Committee aims to improve the National Reporting Framework which provides the basis for data collection work at a jurisdictional level and which will provide 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) including development of scoping papers for the 2004-05 funding rounds. SCIH members have contributed to AHURI planning processes and have developed ongoing communication on the role of AHURI in Indigenous housing research.
This section was contributed by Indigenous Business Australia (September 2005).
The Indigenous Business Australia’s Home Ownership Programme (HOP) provides affordable home loan finance to eligible Indigenous people to assist in reducing 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 HOP 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 3,425 loans valued at $366.1m. In 2004-05, there were 502 new loans provided.
RESIDENTIAL AGED CARE
This section was contributed by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (September 2005).
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 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).
SUPPORT FOR PEOPLE WITH A DISABILITY
This section was contributed by the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services (September 2005)
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, in the Income and welfare chapter).