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Are singles the biggest losers of the housing crisis?

By Juliet Helmke
30 January 2024 | 10 minute read
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New data out of Victoria suggests the cohort is the most disproportionately disadvantaged by a lack of housing supply.

According to the Community Housing Industry Association of Victoria (CHIA Vic), households of one face an even tougher time securing rental accommodation.

A recent paper by the organisation uncovered that Victoria’s social housing waitlist includes more than 47,600 applications from single-person households, representing a substantial 85 per cent of all applicants for social housing.

Between June 2021 and June 2022, singles joined the waitlist at a rate of almost two new applications for every client who was housed, compared to households with multiple members, which grew at a rate of 1.5 applications for every person housed.

Single applicants are generally deemed to be in the category of high need, and accounted for nine in 10 of new applications on the priority access list. They are also more likely to be receiving assistance payments for low income, such as Jobseeker, with 40 per cent receiving government support, as opposed to 19 per cent of couples and families.

Moreover, the housing that does exist may be a poor fit for singles, with less than 30 per cent of public housing in Victoria consisting of one-bedroom dwellings.

With dwelling being matched to the applicant’s needs, just 61 per cent of allocations from the Victorian Housing Register (VHR) between June 2021 and April 2023 were made to single households.

CHIA Vic chief executive Sarah Toohey pointed to the historic low levels of stock in the private rental market – and increasingly higher rental asking prices – as a key motivator behind the inflow of singles to the Victorian social housing sector.

“Rising rents and cost-of-living pressures are driving more and more single people to seek social housing,” she said.

“The housing crisis is burdening a broad spectrum of Victorians, but single people are disproportionately copping it,” Ms Toohey added.

With the federal government promising to deliver its National Housing and Homelessness Plan in 2024, the organisation is urging a reconsideration of government assistance payments to alter the financial equation that currently stymies the creation of social housing that caters to singles.

“Social housing is a lifeline for singles it delivers affordable rent at no more than 30 per cent of income. However, because JobSeeker is so low, 30 per cent of a single person’s income makes it challenging to cover the cost of building and maintaining homes for singles at the required scale, and that’s holding back the community housing sector from delivering more homes to those who most desperately need them,” Ms Toohey said.

The organisation is advocating for an increase to the JobSeeker payments that a single person is eligible to receive – up to $78 per day to fall in line with the age pension – or allocating an additional $60 per week in Commonwealth Rent Assistance to this cohort.

Ms Toohey characterised the measures as essential to formulating an equation that allows social housing to be built that caters to the needs of the population, calling payment increases “critical to helping recipients cover their rents, and assisting our sector to build more social housing for single people”.


Juliet Helmke

Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.

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