In late December, a package of new data from the NSW Department of Communities & Justice was gifted to the public domain, being social housing waitlist numbers and expected waitlist times for dwelling types to June 2022.
Social Housing applicants* on the NSW Housing Register at 30 June (2012 – 2021)
Transparent, timely, and easily accessible data underpins so much of what we do in housing advocacy. Very rarely are we treated to all three pillars of data sharing by government agencies.
Nonetheless, here are some raw numbers and some case studies:
- to June 2022, there were 57,550 applicants on the social housing waitlist (general and priority) in NSW. This is an increase in 7,622 applicants from June 2021 and represents the biggest pool of waitlist applicants since 2016
- In Gosford and Wyong, the waitlist has expanded to 3,301 applicants (up from 2021 data of 2,978 applicants) who can expect to wait, on average, 10+ years for a dwelling. For context (and utilising 2021 data from various sources at various geographic scales), there are 5,587 existing social housing properties in the Central Coast district and approximately 4,400 social housing tenanted households.
- In south-western Sydney LGAs, the waitlist has grown from 9,945 applicants in 2021 to 10,641 in 2022.
Of course, it is helpful to remember that these lists do not count every household who reasonably needs (and deserves) access to social housing.
Many people come and go from these reported waitlists and they do not always ‘go’ under favourable circumstances. Some households are rejected due to stringent eligibility criteria or removed from the waitlist for not responding to DCJ correspondence in a ‘timely’ manner. Many simply and reasonably give up on being allocated a home and fall off the list.
These varying waithood experiences are documented in the paper (working title) ‘Waithood – the experience of waiting for social housing‘, published in 2022 by the UNSW City Futures Research Centre. Shelter NSW was pleased to support this research and commend it to you.
One of the many illuminating findings of the research was this:
Unpublished statistics for NSW suggest that in 2020-21, over 6,000 registrations were cancelled or otherwise ended during the year, in addition to the 12,000 ended via a social housing tenancy allocation.
As Prof. Hal Pawson rightly points out in his piece, Australia’s social housing system is critically stressed. Many eligible applicants simply give up, social housing has become a highly rationed resource nationally. The growth in social housing stock has not kept pace with population growth, let alone demonstrated need amongst low-income renters experiencing housing stress.
Only the most critical priority applicants can expect a social housing allocation within a year of applying.
Any close inspection of the NSW Government’s published social housing waiting list data begs more questions; many of which are very hard to answer given the lack of easy access to data available in a timely way. At Shelter NSW we will continue to interrogate the data.