This content is from the 2013 national Federal election and is visible for historical purposes only. Please see our Initiatives page for the most recent content.

Cut housing waiting lists

We will fund an investment scheme to build 122,000 new social housing dwellings across Australia to care for those in most urgent need of secure affordable housing.

Social Housing Wait Lists


Despite having one of the strongest economies in the world our housing system is failing many of us. A quality social housing system, where governments and not-for-profit organisations rent affordable housing to low income households, remains vital to a fully functioning housing market. For many it represents the only option for secure, affordable housing1.

Social housing is affordable rental housing provided by the government (public housing) and not-for-profit organisations (community housing) to people with low incomes. Most tenants are recipients of government benefits, and more than half are aged pensioners and people with disabilities2.

The Greens' Stronger Social Housing plan will:

  • Fund the building of 12,200 new social housing dwellings every year for the next ten years.
  • Set a 1/3 target of fast build, modular, or prefabricated housing — which will be faster and more affordable to build.

Our plan would see 122,000 new homes built over the next ten years, taking about a quarter of a million people out of housing crisis and off the social housing waiting list.


In Australia today there are almost 225,000 applicants on the social housing waiting list3. The time spent on the waiting list has also blown out. Average waiting times range from 9.4 months in QLD4, 1.8 years in the ACT5, 1.6 years in Victoria6, 2.5 years in WA7, 6 years in the NT8 and between 2-10+ years in NSW depending on the location9. These figures are also deceptive: in Melbourne’s southern suburbs one applicant had to wait for 18 years and 10 months before they were given a home10.

More than 67,000 (34%) applicants on the waiting list are classified as being the ‘greatest need’ – they are homeless, or their life, safety or health is at risk in their current housing. The undersupply of social housing is so bad it is currently taking between three months to two years to house families on the priority list.

A caring society provides shelter for those in need. We require more housing to relieve the pressure on our social housing system. Building more houses will also create jobs in the economy as the construction phase of the mining boom slows.


The Greens will introduce two new funding streams to ensure long term growth in our social housing system:

  • Direct finance for 5000 new dwellings per year, through a competitive grants stream that awards projects on merit and also assumes matched funding from the states or housing organisations. We will commit $1.2 billion over the forward estimates, with an ongoing commitment of $710 million a year over the next ten years11
  • Affordable Housing Supply Bonds to finance 7200 new dwellings per year. A relatively modest government investment of $25 million could raise $2 billion in bonds - enough to finance the construction of 7,200 new homes in a year. The cumulative cost would be $145 million over the forward estimates.

(See the Greens’ “Safe As Houses – Affordable Housing Supply Bonds” (PDF) policy initiative for more details).


The Greens do not believe the failures in our system or the excruciating time on the waiting lists are acceptable in a modern and prosperous economy.

Core funding for social housing has been in decline for the last 15 years. The states have also been selling off public housing stock and using federal funding to prop up their housing programs with little transparency on how many new dwellings they are building.

Meanwhile, demand for social housing will keep growing dramatically. The National Housing Supply Council has projected demand for public housing will be higher than that for private rental housing or home ownership in coming years.

Most of the demand is projected to come from singles and older households as our population ages12. Roughly a quarter of the public housing waiting list are senior Australians, and the proportion is increasing each year; many are single and alone. The National Housing Supply Council has predicted in the next 20 years, 28% of all households will be 65+ years and pressure on the rental market (both private and public) from elderly Australians will more than double by 202813.

We need to put every effort into providing new supply that suits an ageing population and a growing number of single households.

This is why the Greens are prioritising social housing and affordable rental housing in our National Housing Plan.

We are the only party that is committed to: 

  • Adequate investment in public and community housing to ensure its social and economic viability.
  • Minimal waiting times on public housing waiting lists and urgent and sufficient funding to reduce current waiting lists for public and community housing. 
  • Social housing that is accessible, affordable, secure, comfortable and in locations that provide good access to employment, health-care, public transport, schools and other social facilities.
  • Participation by tenants and homeless people in decisions regarding their housing services.

Furthermore, our plan for social housing will act as a ‘sustained stimulus’ in the construction industry, and will also create new jobs in design, manufacturing and construction in the modular and prefabricated housing industry. We can develop and expand a new and exciting industry while caring for people in need. 

To read the full initiative, download the documents below.

  1. National Shelter Policy Platform 2012 p16
  2. Western Australian Department of Housing, Housing Authority Annual Report 2011-12, p157, cited in Community Housing Coalition WA (2013) ‘Building the housing system we need’.
  3. At June 30 2012 there were 224,876 applicants on the waiting list. Productivity Commission (2013), Report on Government Services 2012, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, tables 16 A.5 and 16 A.7.
  4. Queensland Housing Services advice to the Parliamentary Library, July 22 2013,
  6. Sunday Times (2013) ‘Housing wait blows out’ 14 July 2013
  9. The Age
  10. Costings include phasing in the direct funded social housing at 1⁄4 in Year 1 ($180m), 0.5 in Year 2 ($350m), and 100% in Year 3 ($710m).
  11. AHURI Research and Policy Bulletin February 2009, ‘Older persons in public housing: policy and management issues. Cited in Community Housing Coalition WA (2013) ‘Building the housing system we need’
  12. National Housing Supply Council report 2010 pxvi

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