Sustaining at-risk Indigenous tenancies: A review of Australian policy responses

Paul Flatau, Anne Coleman, Paul Memmott, Jo Baulderstone, Michele Slatter

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Abstract

Background One of the most distressing features of Indigenous housing disadvantage is the high rate of homelessness among Indigenous people. At the 2006 Census, the recorded Indigenous homelessness rate was 4.3 per cent, over eight times higher than the rate of homelessness in the non-Indigenous population of 0.5 per cent. In its recently released White Paper on homelessness, The Road Home, A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness, the Australian Government identified the closing of the gap in the rate of homelessness between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians as an important indicator by which the success of its homelessness reform agenda could be judged (Commonwealth of Australia 2008, p.21). The 2009 National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness between the Commonwealth of Australia and the states and territories includes a specific target to reduce overall Indigenous homelessness by a third on the 2006 Census baseline figure. This study was completed prior to the implementation of the 2009 National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. As such, it provides insights into tenant support programs and homelessness early intervention programs as they operated before the implementation of the 2009 National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. Reducing Indigenous homelessness requires a broad policy response; one that addresses the many deep-seated causes of homelessness among Indigenous people. Programs aimed at sustaining tenancies for those at risk of homelessness represent a critical part of a homelessness alleviation framework. The present study examines the role tenant support programs, and other tenancy support measures, can play in assisting Indigenous households avoid homelessness and sustain tenancies which may otherwise fail. In doing so, the study fills a significant gap in the research and policy literature. n at-risk tenancy is one in which households: Face significant difficulties in establishing and/or sustaining their tenancies due to immediate or long-standing social, health or economic needs. Are under threat of possible or actual eviction as a result of rent arrears, accumulated housing debt or tenancy breaches including property damage, inadequate property standards and anti-social behaviour. Tenant support programs seek to assist those tenants at risk of losing their tenancy maintain their tenancy and so avoid eviction and entry into homelessness. Tenant support programs may also work at the front end of a tenancy. They do so by supporting formerly homeless people enter and sustain a new tenancy. Governments fund and manage tenant support programs. Support services to clients are provided by non-government agencies. In other words, tenancy support programs around Australia operate on the basis of a split between the financing and management functions of programs and the service delivery functions. ur study draws on the following sources of evidence: The policy-related and research literature on tenant support programs. Findings from the Australian Tenant Support Program Survey, undertaken as part of the present study. Site visits to a range of programs and services around Australia, in-depth case studies of selected programs, and a detailed locality-based case study of Mt Isa and the Dajarra Township in North West Queensland. Australian tenant support programs A key source of information on Australian tenant support programs is the Australian Tenant Support Program (ATSP) Survey. The ATSP Survey was developed and implemented as part of the present study and administered to all government-funded specialist tenant support programs around Australia. It sought to gather information on the operation of tenant support programs around Australia, their referral mechanisms, the services provided to Indigenous clients and the outcomes achieved by Indigenous clients from the program. A major difficulty in collecting information on tenant support programs operating across Australia is that each jurisdiction administers its tenant programs on an independent basis. The collection of data is also undertaken at the jurisdictional level; no national administrative data collection covering tenant support programs exists as it does for the Supported Accommodation and Assistance Program. Furthermore, tenant support programs differ in the type of information they collect. Not all programs collect data across all domains for which we sought information in the ATSP Survey. In particular, not all programs collect information on client outcomes or collect data on a unit record basis which would allow them to differentiate between Indigenous and non-Indigenous outcomes. As a result, we do not have nationally consistent data on tenant support programs and we know less about the operation and effectiveness of tenant support programs and their achievements in sustaining at-risk Indigenous tenancies than is desirable. Key programs The first identifiable tenancy support programs in Australia began in public housing. The longest running and largest tenant support program supporting at-risk public housing tenants in Australia is the Western Australian Supported Housing Assistance Program (SHAP), which commenced in 1991. In Victoria, most Indigenous households at risk of homelessness in public and transitional housing or community-managed housing, including Aboriginal Housing Victoria properties, are supported through the Indigenous Tenancies at Risk (ITAR) program. The South Australian Supported Tenancy Program (STP) provides support services to public rental housing tenants across South Australia. The Intensive Intervention Program (IIP) provides intensive support for a small number of Indigenous households each year in public rental housing properties in The Parks area in Adelaide. The Queensland Same House Different Landlord (SHDL) program provides a different model of tenancy support in public housing to those operating in other jurisdictions. Under the SHDL program, tenants enter public housing from crisis and emergency transitional accommodation without physically relocating to another dwelling. In other words, households in crisis and transitional housing stay in the same house, but simply change their landlord and tenancy arrangements. In 2009, Northern Territory Housing introduced a major new tenancy support program for Indigenous clients, the Tenancy Sustainability Program (TSP). The TSP aims to provide life skills training and a case management service which meets the needs of Indigenous people living in public housing and urban community living areas (often known as town camps) in Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek. A number of jurisdictions have recently introduced tenant support programs in private rental housing. Two important private rental tenancy support programs are the Western Australian Private Rental Support and Advocacy Program (PRSAP), which commenced operations in 2003 as an initiative of the Western Australian State Homelessness Strategy and the Tasmanian Private Rental Tenancy Support Service (PRTSS), which began operations in 2005. The New South Wales Community Housing Office has recently introduced a number of tenancy support programs for those exiting homelessness, My Place and Port Jackson Supported Housing Program (PJSHP) and is trialling a third, the Allawah Dual Diagnosis pilot project for Indigenous homeless people with mental health and drug and alcohol dependency problems. These programs provide tenancy and other support services to formerly homeless people accessing housing and work intensively with a small number of clients, many of whom are Indigenous. The Household Organisational Management Expenses (HOME) Advice program is a large national homelessness early intervention program funded and administered by the Australian Government. The HOME Advice program seeks to identify families at risk of homelessness before they reach crisis stage and provide tenancy and personal support services to these families irrespective of their housing tenure. Around one quarter of HOME Advice clients are Indigenous. As the description of tenant support programs indicates, there is no shortage of programs around Australia providing support to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous clients.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAHURI Final Report
PublisherAustralian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited
Pages1-148
Number of pages148
ISBN (Print)18347223 (ISSN)
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2009

Publication series

NameAHURI Final Report
NameAHURI Final Report
Volume138
ISSN (Print)1834-7223

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