In 2013 more than a third of all private sector rentals (around 265,000) were recipients of the accommodation supplement (AS) in rental housing or boarding, compared to 65,000 households in state housing units and paying income related rents. Around $1,100 million annually is spent by Government yet the levels of assistance are insufficient to meet the market rents many people are facing. The benefit is based on the recipient’s actual accommodation costs but the amount paid is limited to 70% of the difference between actual accommodation costs and 25% of the recipients weekly income. In addition the AS is capped at maximum levels and currently more than a quarter of recipients are receiving their maximum amount.
The reality for many low income renters in the private market is that the AS does not cover the costs of renting and their meagre incomes are eaten up by rent payments, leaving little left over for other essential living costs. One reason for this is that the maximum levels were set based on 2003 rent levels when the last adjustments were made in 2005.
A recent Salvation Army assessment of housing assistance policies Give Me Shelter has identified multiple problems with housing assistance policy. The Accommodation Supplement (AS) that has been a cornerstone of housing assistance since the 1990s but there has never been a full review of its effectiveness. There is continuing urgent need for more effective help for those on the lowest incomes who are suffering most from increases in rental costs. Read the most recent statistics in the Housing and Construction Quarterly.