Western Australian Alliance to End Homelessness Dashboard


Addressing underlying drivers of homelessness in WA

Target 4

The underlying causes that result in people becoming homeless have been met head-on, resulting in a reduction by more than half in the inflow of people and families into homelessness in any one year

The causes of homelessness are complex, encompassing a broad range of individual and structural determinants, including housing availability and affordability, economic and employment opportunities (or lack thereof), physical and mental health outcomes, domestic and family violence, and social and community connections.



Housing affordability


Table 4.1. Housing affordability statistics and trends

Indicators

Most current values

Trend over time

Proportion experiencing household stress in Perth (2017 - 2020)1

10.7%

Increasing

Proportion of low-income rental households spending more than 30 per cent of their gross income on housing costs (2019-2020)2

Perth - 36.7%
Rest of state – 26.2%

Decreasing

Proportion of low income households remaining in housing stress from one year to the next (2017-2020)1

Australia – 48.3%

Increasing

Housing affordability (2019-2020)2

Owner – 2.9%

Stable

Owner with a mortgage – 14.0%

Decreasing

Renter – private landlord – 17.4%

Stable

Renter – state of territory housing – 20.9%

Decreasing

Home ownership (2019-2020)2

Owner without a mortgage – 26.6%

Decreasing

Owner with a mortgage – 42.7%

Stable

Renter – private landlord – 22.5%

Decreasing

Renter – state of territory housing – 2.8%

Increasing

Rental affordability index (Q2, 2020)3

Perth – Extremely unaffordable

Decreasing

Rest of Western Australia – Extremely unaffordable

Decreasing

1The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey: General Release 20, 2022
2ABS 4130.0 – Housing Occupancy and Costs, 2019-20
3Rental Affordability Index, SGS Economics & Planning.

Housing stress and poor housing quality are risk factors for homelessness. The proportion of low-income households experiencing housing stress has declined overall since the mid-2000s. However, the rate did experience a slight upward trend between the 2009-12 and 2013-16 surveys, which, if continued, could have a concerning effect on the entry into and exit out of homelessness (Figure 4.1).

Despite a slight fall between 2005-08 and 2009-12 statistics, Figure 4.2 indicates that there has overall been a positive trend in the persistency of housing stress.

Figure 4.3 indicates that there has been a general upward trend in the proportion of low-income rental households experiencing rental stress from 2007-09, peaking in 2013-14 and stabilising at a relatively high level. Location plays an important role in rental stress, with metropolitan households experiencing noticeably higher levels of rental stress than the rest of WA. To meet the target of reduction of inflow into homelessness, housing stress levels across Western Australia need to fall.

Given that housing costs are a major component of Australian household living expenses, housing costs as a proportion of income can give an indication of housing affordability. The data presented in Figure 4.4 are disaggregated by tenure and landlord type, highlighting the differences between homeowners with and without a mortgage, renters in the private market and renters in the WA Housing Authority public housing system.

The changes in housing tenure over time reflect trends in home ownership and the rental sector and can highlight issues of affordability and accessibility of the housing market. There has been a steady increase in the trends of ‘owner with a mortgage’ with a comparable decline in percentage of ‘owners without a mortgage’ since 2000, suggesting that it may be more difficult for Western Australians to own a home outright (Figure 4.5)

While Figure 4.6 indicates an overall positive trend towards more affordable rents over time in Western Australia, more recent figures from CoreLogic (Quarterly rental review, July 2022) suggest Perth rental prices have increased by 6.7% from June 2021 – June 2022.



Housing supply


Table 4.2. Housing supply statistics and trends

Indicators

Most current values

Trend over time

Number of social housing dwellings (2021)1

Indigenous community housing – 2,699

Decreasing

Community housing – 7,997

Stable

Public housing - 31,919

Decreasing

Number of applicants on waiting list (2021)1

14,619

Stable

Waiting time to secure public housing accommodation (2020)2

Average – 94 weeks

Stable

Median – 48 weeks

Stable

1AIHW Housing assistance in Australia 2021
2Government of Western Australia Department of Communities, Housing Authority Annual Report 2019-20

Figure 4.7 indicates that the number of public housing dwellings has remained unchanged since 2011 which has not kept pace with the growth in households. This is evident by the long waiting times for households in need of public housing.

The number of applicants on the public housing waiting list has remained stable since 2018 (Figure 4.8).

The average number of weeks to secure public housing has started to increase (Figure 4.9).



Poverty and unemployment


Table 4.3. Poverty statistics and trends

Indicators

Most current values

Trend over time

Western Australian poverty rates (2017 - 2018)1

50% median income – 12.9%

Stable

60% median income – 18.5%

Stable

Unemployment rate (2022)2

Youth – 6.3%

Increasing

General population – 3.0%

Increasing

1Australian Council of Social Services and UNSW Rate of poverty by state/territory of residence.
2ABS 6020.0 – Labour Force, Australia.

Estimates of poverty in Western Australia are available to 2017-2018. The rate of poverty in Western is slightly below the national rate and has remained relatively high for some time (Figure 4.10).

Trends in youth unemployment rate and the general population show unemployment on the decline in Western Australia (Figure 4.11).



Young people in custody and out of home care


Table 4.4. Young people in custody and out-of-home care statistics and trends

Indicators

Most current values

Trend over time

Youth detainees in custody (Sept 2020)1

Aboriginal - 57 youth

Decreasing

Non-aboriginal - 26 youth

Decreasing

Children in out-of-home care (2020-2021)2

Aboriginal – 64.7 per 1000

Stable

Non-aboriginal - 3.4 per 1000

Stable

1Government of Western Australia Department of Justice, Corrective Services, 2021.
2AIHW Child Protection Australia 2020-21.

There is an established link between young people with experience in the justice system and lifetime risk of repeat episodes of homelessness. Figure 4.12 indicates that Aboriginal youth are heavily over-represented in juvenile detention figures. The number of young people in custody has decreased in all three categories between 2014 and 2020.

There is a strong association between individuals who have experienced out-of-home care and lifetime risk of homelessness. The steady trend in the rate of children in out-of-home care among the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander population illustrated in Figure 4.13 is concerning.

Almost half of young people who present alone for Specialist Homelessness Services have long-term or on-going engagement (Figure 4.14).



Physical and mental health


Table 4.5. Physical and mental health statistics and trends

Indicators

Most current values

Trend over time

People that report their health status as fair/poor (2017-2018)1

Fair/poor - 12.0%

Decreasing

Proportion of persons with High/Very High psychological distress (2017-2018)1

High/very high - 12.2%

Increasing

Hospitalisation rates for a principal diagnosis of mental health related condition (2016-17)2

Aboriginal - 33.9 per 1000

Stable

Non-aboriginal - 11.9 per 1000

Stable

1ABS 4364.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18.
2AIHW, 2020. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2020

Figure 4.15 displays a declining trend over the last two decades of the proportion of Western Australians with fair or poor self-assessed health status.

The proportion of persons with High/Very High psychological distress has fluctuated over time with no clear positive or negative general trend. However, it is important to note that the 2017-18 results show the highest percentage of the population with self-assessed high/very high psychological distress since the introduction of the NHS in 2001 (Figure 4.16).

In 2014-15, Indigenous Australians were three times more likely to be hospitalised for mental health issues (Figure 4.17).

The highest proportion of clients who present with mental health issues are in the 35-44 age group, followed by the 25-34 age group (Figure 4.18).

Forty-seven percent of clients who present with mental health issues are engaged long-term or on-going with specialist homelessness services (Figure 4.19).



Alcohol and drug use


Table 4.6. Alcohol and drug use statistics and trends

Indicators

Most current values

Trend over time

Alcohol Consumption in Western Australia, people aged 14 years or older (2019)1

Never drunk – 17.7%

Increasing

Drink daily – 5.0%

Decreasing

Ex-drinker – 9.0%

Decreasing

Alcohol lifetime risk status, people aged 14 years or older (2019)1

Lifetime risk – 17.0%

Decreasing

Abstainers – 27.0%

Increasing

Low risk – 44.4%

Stable

Illicit Drug use (2019)1

Ever used – 43.0%

Stable

Used in last 12 months – 16.4%

Stable

1AIHW 2021. Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia

There is a link between problematic alcohol and drug use and risk of homelessness. In addition to the detrimental health impact, substance abuse interacts with a range of other variables including financial stability and access to employment and training. Alcoholism is more prevalent among the homeless population than the general population, acting as both a driver into homelessness and a consequence of homelessness.
In Figure 4.20 there has been a particularly sharp increase from 2013 to 2016 in the percentage of Western Australians who have either ‘never drunk’ or are ‘ex-drinkers.’ Inversely, the percent of those who ‘drink daily’ has shown a gradual decline.

In the period between 2013 and 2016, there has been a positive growth in ‘abstainers’ and a slight fall in both ‘risky’ and ‘low risk’ (suggesting that some from the ‘low risk’ category have moved to ‘abstainers’ rather than shifted to ‘risky’ category). The AIHW has defined ‘risky’ drinking as consuming more than 2 standard drinks on average every day (Figure 4.21).

There is a strong link between problematic drug use and risk of homelessness. The rate of those that have used or continue to use an illicit drug in WA has remained relatively constant (Figure 4.23).

One third of Specialist Homelessness Services clients between the ages of 25-34 present with problematic drug or alcohol use (Figure 4.24).



Domestic violence


Table 4.7. Domestic violence statistics and trends

Indicators

Most current values

Trend over time

Family violence offences in Western Australia (2021-22)1

Assault – 18,359

Decreasing

Threatening behaviour – 2,846

Decreasing

Breach of violence restraining order – 8,341

Decreasing

1Western Australia Police Force, 2022. Crime Statistics

Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and their children. Reported family violence offences have increased by more than 100 per cent in the past decade. A peak is observed in 2019-20 which is attributable to an increase in family assault and breach of violence restraint orders. Only threatening behaviour was not seen to escalate. When interpreting the peak observed in 2019-2020 it is necessary to consider the potential impact of COVID-19 on trends of family violence offences (Figure 4.25).

Over one-third of Specialist Homelessness Services female clients between the ages of 25-34 present experiencing family and domestic violence (Figure 4.26).

Forty-five percent of women clients who are experiencing family and domestic violence are engaged long-term or on-going with specialist homelessness services (Figure 4.27).