The role of private rental support programs in housing outcomes for vulnerable Australians

In the last two decades Australia’s rental landscape has been redrawn. As social housing has become focussed on those most in need, and home ownership has become less affordable, the private rental market has become increasingly important. Many households of low or moderate means, as well as households with other vulnerabilities, must now look to the private rental sector for housing over the long term. A range of programs has emerged to assist tenants who might struggle to access or sustain a private rental tenancy. The range includes ‘brokerage’ programs, the principal focus of this research. Although ‘brokerage’ is a term frequently used within the housing sector, its meaning has not been explored, nor have the implications of brokerage programs been fully investigated. The programs are not currently captured by any standardised national reporting process, which renders them largely invisible to analysts, except at the most local level. This clearly limits their capacity to inform policy, practice and professional development nationally, despite anecdotal accounts of innovation and success. By exploring their design, impact, outcomes, costs and benefits to tenants, agencies and other partners (e.g. real estate agencies), this research will significantly advance understanding of the relationships between programs presently designed to support successful housing outcomes in the private rental market for some of Australia’s most vulnerable households.