Many people do not fully understand social housing, or the people who require it on a short or longer term basis. The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) answer some of the most commonly asked questions about social housing.

If you have any other questions, contact us and we will add them to the list.

Social Housing is the overarching term which is used to describe all subsidised housing in Western Australia provided for those in need, for the duration of their need.

Social housing includes both public housing and community housing.


Housing is a core ingredient for a successful life, just as important as access to food and water. Unfortunately, having access to a safe and stable place to call home remains out of reach for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

As a result, there is a daily struggle for many on low incomes ─ including seniors, single parent families and people with disabilities ─ to pay market rent and still have enough money left to live on. This is where social housing comes in, providing a roof over the head for those most in need, for the duration of their need.

The main difference between public and community housing is that public housing is provided by the State Government via the Housing Authority, and community housing is provided by the not-for-profit, community and local government sectors.

Community Housing organisations provide affordable housing for people on low to moderate incomes with a housing need. There are currently over 6,500 community housing dwellings in WA including crisis, transitional and long-term housing options.

Here are some of the largest WA based community housing organisations:

More links and contact details of more community housing organisations are available here.

Public housing tenants pay up to 25% of their income as rent, with the Government making up any shortfall between the rental cost and the cost of providing housing to those in need.

The Housing Authority is not just a provider of public housing. It is also the largest land developer in WA. Revenue from the sale of the Housing Authority's land and property developments helps to subsidise the costs of public housing. Taxpayers also contribute to public housing, however this only represents a very small amount of the funding which is required for public housing.

There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ social housing tenant in WA. Instead, there are a range of real people from different backgrounds dealing with different and challenging circumstances. Social housing is for those most in need, for the duration of their need.

Many social housing tenants are employed but are on low incomes and not able to afford to rent privately. Other tenants have disabilities or other reasons that prevent them from being employed. Some people who never thought they would require social housing end up needing short-term assistance to get back on their feet after difficult circumstances such as illness, divorce, financial issues and job loss. Once they are able to support themselves again, they then transition back into the private rental market or even home ownership.

Others, such as the elderly, people escaping domestic violence situations and those with disabilities, may need housing assistance for longer.

Definitely not. Rent is calculated on a percentage of income, including any welfare payments for those living in social housing homes.

A tenant must advise the Housing Authority immediately of any increase in their household income in excess of $10 per week. This includes additional household occupants who receive an income.

When applicants apply for public housing, they need to provide documents showing proof of income for themselves and their partner and/or co-applicant. Applicants will also need to provide proof of identification for themselves and any other people who will be living at the property

If income and asset eligibility criteria are met, the applicant will be placed onto the waitlist. For more information on applying for public housing, please visit the Housing Authority’s website.

The Housing Authority has a special branch known as the Housing Transitions Team with staff members dedicated to giving tenants who become over-income a helping hand as they transition out of public housing.

These tenants are provided with guidance and support to assist them to transition from public housing into private accommodation and work towards creating a more financially secure future for themselves and their families.

Assistance available includes partial subsidies under the Rental Pathways Scheme for private rentals for up to two years, as well as the opportunity to achieve shared home ownership through Keystart.

By helping tenants to transition out of public housing once their time of need is over, the Housing Authority is able to help the next set of tenants on the waiting list to get back on their feet with the assistance of stable accommodation.

There are currently approximately 36,000 public housing and 6,500 community housing dwellings in Western Australia.
Unfortunately, there are not enough properties to be able to house everyone who applies, so in order to keep track of everyone who applies and the order in which they apply, a wait list has been developed. 
Factors influencing the time an applicant may be on the wait list include the area in which housing is being sought, the turnover of properties in that region, the type of accommodation and number of bedrooms required, and the number of people ahead of the applicant on the waiting list, or on the ‘priority waitlist’. 

Applicants on the general waitlist are currently housing but may not be in their preferred accommodation. An applicant who can demostrate an urgent need may be placed on the priority waitlist. 

In cases when an applicant’s housing need is urgent, they may be eligible for priority assistance ahead of their turn on the waitlist, this is referred to as the ‘priority waitlist’.
Examples of situations that may contribute to an urgent housing need include medical conditions that are caused or aggravated by an applicant's existing housing, domestic violence, racial harassment, matters associated with child abuse and accommodation to take a child out of care.

In order to be eligible for social housing, applicants need to meet a number of income and asset eligibility limits. These limits need to be met on an ongoing basis to remain on the waiting list and also while residing in social housing.
If an individual’s circumstances change (for example, they become employed or a partner or a friend moves in), they are required to update the Housing Authority so their application can be reassessed.
To find our more visit the Housing Authority’s website.

Yes. The Residential Tenancies Act 1987 applies to public housing tenants, just the same as private renters.

Tenants must adhere to a number of rules when entering public housing to ensure they will look after the properties, pay their rent on time, only have a certain number of people living there, and be good neighbours.

The vast majority of people in public housing are grateful for the housing assistance they receive and look after the homes they are given during their time of need to a good standard.

Public housing is for those most in need, for the duration of their need. Some people require short-term assistance; others may need longer. It provides a safe place for people to get their lives back on track and support themselves in order to transition into private rental or home ownership.

Some people, such as those with a family member suffering a serious illness who cannot work and therefore temporarily cannot earn an income, or a single person escaping family domestic violence, require short-term assistance to get their lives back on track and support themselves once more.

Others, such as an elderly couple who no longer have the ability to earn an income, or a person with an intellectual disability whose elderly parents can no longer look after them, may require more long term housing.

The truth is, you probably won’t! The vast majority of public housing tenants are nice, everyday people who behave just the same as private tenants ─ they keep their house and gardens clean and tidy, and make good neighbours. The only difference is their landlord is the Housing Authority.

In reality, only a very small amount (approximately 3% each year) of public housing tenants receive what is referred to as a ‘disruptive behaviour strike’.  
Unfortunately, as in the broader community, there are exceptions to every rule and when a complaint is made against a disruptive or violent tenant, the Housing Authority investigates the complaint and takes appropriate action where the complaint can be substantiated.

The small percentage of tenants who abuse the system can impact a lot on neighbours. Often, it is these kinds of incidents that reach the media and therefore the public generally only ever hear the negative aspects of social housing. But we hope that Rethink Social Housing will enable more tenants, and tenants’ neighbours to tell the positive stories.

The media does not report stories of poor tenant behaviour in the private rental market as frequently.

Rethink Social Housing hopes to shine the spotlight on the real faces of social housing and educate the community on the true value of social housing.

The majority of social housing tenants are everyday people who are facing some difficult circumstances and require short or long term assistance during their time of need, until they can transition into private rental or home ownership.

Rethink Social Housing is about showing that social housing tenants are just everyday people who don't fit a particular sterotype. If you or someone you know, are currently in, or have been in social housing in the past – we would love to hear from you so we can share your story with the WA community. 

We need your help to tell the stories of the real people who are good tenants and great neighbours.

There is no such entity as Homeswest. Homeswest is the old name for the Housing Authority and has not existed since 1999 when it was a very different organisation.

The correct name for the State Government organisation overseeing public housing (amongst other things) is the Housing Authority. You can find out more at the Housing Authority’s website.

The lead agency for people who are homeless is the Department for Child Protection and Family Support (DCPFS). The DCPFS is responsible for people who are homeless, at immediate risk of becoming homeless, or experiencing a housing crisis and need emergency support.

The Housing Authority is primarily a housing agency and does not employ social workers who are experts in dealing with complex issues that some social housing tenants face.

There are, however, numerous other organisations with specialist expertise in this area, such as the Department for Child Protection and Family Support (DCPFS), that can help provide such services.

Some of the support services that tenants are encouraged to use include:

Interesting facts

About Public Housing tenant income types.


Are on aged pensions


Are on disability or medical support pensions


Are on parental or caring pensions