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Eligibility for Social Housing Assistance

Eligibility Criteria


Review of Housing ACT decisions


This policy describes the requirements for establishing the eligibility of an applicant for public rental housing assistance. Public rental housing is provided in accordance with the provisions of the Public Rental Housing Assistance Program (PRHAP).


Eligibility Criteria

An applicant must meet the eligibility criteria applying at the time of lodgement of an application for registration on the Applicants List; while he/she remains on the list; and at the time of offer of accommodation. Eligibility criteria applying to all applications for assistance relate to:

  • citizenship or permanent residency
  • ACT residency
  • minimum age
  • maximum income
  • realisable assets
  • ownership of or interest in real estate.

In addition, eligibility is periodically reviewed while the applicant remains on the Applicant List:

  • when there are changes to the application (eg. household members are added or removed, or income varies);
  • prior to making an offer of housing.

Refer to the following policies for additional information on eligibility criteria for other services:


Permanent Residency in Australia

A person who has Australian citizenship or permanent residency status meets the Program reqirement. A sponsored migrant or refugee, may be eligible for public rental housing assistance. A household member who was born overseas must provide evidence that he/she has been granted citizenship or permanent residency. Appropriate documentation includes:

  • a certificate of Australian Citizenship
  • a permanent residence permit stamped in the applicant's passport.

Household Member who is not a Permanent Resident

Accommodation eligibility is based on the entitlements of eligible applicants and eligible residents only.

A sponsored migrant, who has come to Australia under an Assurance of Support arrangement, can be registered on the Applicants List. However, early allocation will not be offered while the Assurance of Support arrangement is in place. An allocation of housing may be considered on a needs basis if Centrelink accepts that the Assurance of Support has broken down and the applicant has been granted a Statutory Income (minimum Special Benefit).

An Assurance of Support is not deemed to have broken down if the sponsored migrant is employed and receiving an income. A sponsored migrant under an Assurance of Support can also be listed as a household member on an application where the applicant has permanent residency status.

ACT Residency

All applicants must have lived in the ACT for at least the previous 6 months to be eligible for social housing.

An ACT resident sentenced to a term of imprisonment by an ACT Court may be deemed to meet this criterion.


Early Allocation

To qualify for Early Allocation a registered applicant will need to demonstrate housing need that is more urgent than that of other applicants on the Applicants List.

Priority Housing allocation may be granted to an applicant who meets a range of complex needs including:

  • Homelessness;
  • Mental health or medical issues;
  • Disablilty, including frail aged;
  • Women and children escaping domestic violence;
  • Indigenous persons facing complex issues; and
  • Children at risk, including their parents and carers.

High Needs allocation may be granted to an applicant who demonstrates one or more risk factors including:

  • private rental barriers, such as extreme affordability or ongoing discrimination;
  • special needs that cannot be catered for through the private housing market; and
  • severely overcrowded living conditions placing children at risk.

Determination of Needs Categories External Link


An applicant must be aged 16 years or over.



The income limits for the purpose of assessing eligibility for social housing assistance are as follows:

Single person:

  • Income is set at 60% of the Australian Average Weekly Earnings (AAWE) figure as published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Household of only two persons:

  • Income is set at 75% of AAWE.

Household of more than two persons:

  • Income is set at 75% of AAWE plus a further 10% of the AAWE for each additional person.

Assessable income is the total gross weekly income of the applicant or joint applicants, plus 10% of the gross weekly income of other household members whose income is $100 per week or more.

Where the assessable income of a household exceeds the income limit the applicant is ineligible for public rental housing assistance.

Single applicants jointly seeking accommodation will be assessed as a household in terms of the income barrier.

Income eligibility figures are published by Housing ACT every three (3) months, based on ABS estimates.

Income Excluded from Assessment of Eligibility

Some types of income are excluded from your assessment. These include:

  • Child care subsidy
  • Carer allowance or bonus
  • Foster child allowances
  • Child maintenance payments made by you
  • Pharmaceutical allowance
  • Payments for loss or damage to property or for personal injury (except for compensation for loss of income)
  • Some one-off or lump-sum payments made to eligible recipients, including payments made under the National Redress Scheme
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) support packages and any return on a person’s NDIS amounts that the person earns, derives or receives
  • Financial assistance, recognition or payments to victims of terrorist attacks or victims of crime
  • COVID-19 related one-off payments, income supplementation including the Coronavirus Supplement, concessions, rebates and early withdrawals of superannuation

Refer to the current DeterminationExternal Link for the full list of exempt income and assets, or call Housing ACT on 13 34 27 for advice.

You can find the COVID-19 Determination here External Link


Income Documentation


Income documentation for eligibility assessment must be no more than four (4) weeks old (ie. signed and dated less than four (4) weeks previously). Documentation required for eligibility assessment of household members earning a wage or salary is an income statement showing:

  • current continuing income;
  • gross earnings over the previous twenty six (26) weeks;
  • name, contact number and signature of employer or personnel representative; and
  • date of statement.

The statement must be either on business letterhead stationery or include the business stamp. Other acceptable income evidence includes pay slips covering the previous twenty six (26) weeks. If employed for less than twenty six (26) weeks, a letter from the employer or personnel representative indicating gross earnings to date and date employment commenced is required. Household members receiving a Statutory Income must provide a current letter from the Statutory Authority.

Seasonal Worker

An applicant must provide documentation, which confirms the income he/she is receiving and has received over the previous twenty six (26) weeks.

Self-employed or Partnership

The intention of this policy is to treat the income of self-employed persons and salary and wage (PAYG) recipients in an equivalent manner, even though a self-employed person will be able to reduce their gross business income by deducting legitimate business expenses to arrive at a net income figure to be used for assessment of their eligibility for rebate purposes. However, the following are non-allowable business expenses for determining the income for rebate purposes:

  • Any remuneration including salaries or wages, director’s fees or drawings from the business or equity, paid to any member of the household
  • rent paid to Housing ACT for a social housing tenancy
  • donations and gifts including gifts to other household or family members
  • depreciation or any other capital allowances
  • negative gearing expenses.

Income for eligibility purposes will be calculated from the tax return and agreed by the Australian Taxation Office, as amended for the exclusions above. Therefore, the self-employed person must provide their latest individual tax return and related assessment from the Tax Office and the detailed Profit and Loss Statement and Balance Sheet endorsed by a certified/registered accountant for the business operations.

If the tax return/Profit and Loss Statement shows a loss or income less than the Centrelink Newstart Allowance or equivalent benefit, the self-employed person will be deemed to be receiving a level of income equivalent to that Allowance.
In cases where the self-employed person earns income as a sole trader, the individual tax return and detailed Profit and Loss Statement and Balance Sheet should be sufficient evidence to determine the income for assessing eligibility for rebate.

In cases where the self-employed person earns income from a partnership, the partnership tax return may be required in addition to the information required above.

In cases where the self-employed person receives income as a Director of a company as an owner or part owner or otherwise of the company or from owning shares in the company, the company tax return may be required in addition to the information required for an individual specified above.


An applicant with assets above the current assets limit of $40,000 is ineligible and is not registered on the Applicant List.

Some items and payments are not included when assessing eligibility. These include:

  • Clothing
  • Ordinary personal affects and household equipment
  • A motor vehicle
  • Tools of trade
  • Some one-off or lump-sum payments made to the extent it is kept as a cash asset at the time eligibility is determined, including payments made under the National Redress Scheme.
  • COVID-19 related early withdrawals of superannuation.

Refer to the current DeterminationExternal Link for the full list of exempt income and assets, or call Housing ACT on 13 34 27 for advice.

You can find the COVID-19 Determination here External Link


Assets Excluded from Assessment

Assets that are not counted include:

  • personal belongings, personal car (if more than one (1), usually the most expensive one owned is exempt from the assessment process), furniture;
  • assets that cannot be realised, eg superannuation roll-over funds, the capital of lifetime annuities; and
  • the value of any interest or equity in real estate that cannot be realised.

Appropriate documentation must be provided in support of a claim that assets cannot be realised. Examples of appropriate documentation include:

  • a solicitor's letter stating the details of the asset, that it is non-realisable and the reason it is non-realisable; and
  • a letter from a financial institution providing details of the asset, that it is non-realisable, and the reason it is non-realisable.

Ownership of Real Estate

An applicant or household member who owns or has an interest in real estate is ineligible for public rental housing unless they cannot reside in the property and they are making reasonable efforts to dispose of their interests in the property.

For the purposes of this policy, real estate refers to houses, units and flats. Mobile homes, caravans and land are considered assets, not real estate.


Live-In Carers

In the case of a single applicant who requires a live-in carer, the live-in carer may apply as a joint applicant if they wish, and are eligible. If they do not wish to apply as a joint applicant, or are not eligible, they will be considered a non-tenant resident.

Rostered Attendant Carer

An applicant who requires an extra bedroom to accommodate an overnight rostered attendant carer must provide relevant documentation in support of his/her claim.

Appropriate Accommodation

Housing ACT aims to make maximum use of public rental housing stock. Guidelines ensure that accommodation is allocated of a size and type appropriate to the needs of eligible households and to ensure that accommodation is fully utilised.

The names of eligible applicants for public rental housing are registered on the Applicant List which takes into consideration: the Housing Size Guidelines; and the applicant's preferences for location.


Registering an Approved Application for Larger or Smaller Housing

An applicant may be approved for housing that is larger or smaller than they would ordinarily qualify for in the following circumstances:

  • the applicant applies for or is willing to accept accommodation that does not fully match his/her needs;
  • there is a severe shortage of stock that matches the applicant's needs in the area of his/her preference and nearby areas;
  • the applicant has a special need to be housed in a particular area;
  • the household has a special need for accommodation larger than their normal requirement (eg. a medical condition that requires members not share a bedroom); and
  • alternative accommodation is available in or near to the area of preference that would meet the applicant's immediate needs, though not reflecting his/her normal requirements.

If the applicant chooses to be housed in a dwelling of a size below his/her normal requirements, he/she will not ordinarily qualify for a priority transfer at a later date because of overcrowding if the household size remains the same.

Providing Appropriately Sized Accommodation

Special consideration may be given to meet the housing needs of the household where:

  • the applicant is a single female expecting a child
  • a household member has a serious medical condition that makes it necessary for them to have a separate bedroom
  • a single applicant requires an extra bedroom for medical equipment
  • a single applicant requires a separate bedroom for a full-time live-in carer or a rostered overnight attendant carer.

Documentation from a medical practitioner is required confirming the nature of the condition and its impact on their housing needs.

Providing Appropriate Accommodation for Child Access Arrangements

In considering the accommodation to be allocated for child access purposes, some flexibililty may be exercised where an additional bedroom is required under the criteria adopted by the Family Court.

Applicant's Housing Preference by Location and Type

An applicant can nominate up to three (3) preferred areas. However, an applicant cannot nominate a preference for a particular suburb, construction type, or other features of a property, unless there is a special medical need.

Special Needs

Documentation from a medical practitioner must be provided to support an application for housing requiring special features. The documentation must indicate the type of housing, size and region that would meet the household's medical needs. Refer to the following Housing Size Guidelines for additional information.

Housing Size Guidelines

Housing Size Guidelines are used to determine bedroom allocations within Housing ACT properties. The following principles apply:

  • Allocations are made against the Guidelines Table (below) at the lower end of the scale, unless individual circumstances justify allocation at the top of the scale;
  • No more than two children are generally expected to share a bedroom; and
  • Children of differing sex are generally not expected to share a bedroom past the age of seven

Some flexibility may be exercised where there are special circumstances, including:

  • A household member requires a separate bedroom on strong medical grounds (must be supported by medical evidence)
  • A tenant requires a live-in carer on strong health/disability grounds (must be supported by medical evidence);
  • Adults who are not in a relationship are sharing a bedroom;
  • Parents are sharing a bedroom with children;
  • An additional bedroom is required for documented child contact/parental responsibility arrangements;
  • There is a large age gap (7 years or more) between children of the same sex;
  • There are three or more teenage children of differing sex in the family; or
  • A person is providing regular or ongoing foster care to children and young people at risk

Guidelines Table

HouseholdBedsitter 1 BR 2 BR 3 BR 4 BR 5 BR
Single Tenant X X     
Single Tenant 1 Child    X    
Couple   X X    
Couple 1 Child    X X   
Single/Couple 2 Children (depending on gender of children)    X X   
Single/Couple 3 Children     X   
Single/Couple 4 Children (depending on gender of children)     X X  
Single/Couple 5 Children      X  
Single/Couple 6 Children (depending on gender of children)      X X

Equal Shared Parental Responsibility Arrangements

A bedroom will be allocated for a child, in line with these Guidelines, where applicants have parental responsibility for a minimum of 50% of the time. This is conditional on the appropriate documentation being provided.

Provision for Child Contact / Parental Responsibility Arrangements

Housing ACT may approve an extra bedroom for parents with regular child contact arrangements for a minimum of 27% of the year (which equates to 2 overnight stays every second weekend plus half of the school and public holidays). This is conditional on the appropriate documentation being provided.

Generally, one extra bedroom will be provided to cater for contact for up to 3 children. Child contact arrangements involving more than 3 children will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Documents Required for Child Contact Arrangements

Applicants seeking an extra bedroom for child contact arrangements are required to produce evidence of the arrangement by providing a copy of one of the following documents:

  • Parenting Order under section 64B of the Family Law Act 1975;
  • Parenting Plan under section 63C of the Family Law Act 1975;
  • Confirmation of child contact arrangements from a Family Relationship Centre;
  • Letter from the solicitor who is dealing with the child contact arrangements;
  • Documentation from Centrelink which substantiates the percentage of care;
  • Documentation from a support service/government agency which is directly involved in the child contact arrangements; or
  • Care and Protection Order with a plan for restoration of the child/ren contained in the case plan.

Where regular child contact is less than 27% of the year, a copy of the Parenting Order is required to confirm that child contact arrangements are dependent on having appropriately sized housing.

Changes to Child Contact Arrangements

Applicants must advise Housing ACT immediately of any changes to any child contact arrangements that may affect their bedroom allocation.

Review of Child Contact Arrangements

Child contact arrangements will be reviewed periodically to determine if the accommodation is being used for the purpose for which it was allocated.

Foster Carers

Foster carers who provide regular or ongoing care to children and young people at risk may be allocated an additional bedroom/s. Evidence is required from the Office of Children, Youth and Family Support and/ or foster care services such as Marymead or Barnardos. Generally, any additional bedrooms would need to be utilised for a minimum of 27% of the year.



Applying for Assistance

An application must be in writing, in the approved form (Application for Registration) and must contain such information, as Housing ACT reasonably requires. Housing ACT may at any time request an applicant to provide further information in connection with an application. The signature on an application must be that of the applicant or their legally appointed guardian. A representative of the applicant may assist in completing the application form.

Complete Application

A complete application has all the sections completed and required documentation attached. For income assessment, acceptable documentation would include the proof of income or the release to allow Housing ACT to obtain this information. However, an application which is not fully completed and does not have all supporting documentation attached should still be accepted and have the application registered on the Applicant List from the date of receipt.

Changes to an Application

A household's circumstances and housing needs may change before they are housed. Changes must be notified in writing and may relate to:

  • contact details;
  • household composition;
  • household eligibility;
  • applicant's housing preferences; and
  • circumstances that impact on an applicant's priority status.

The household's eligibility is re-assessed when changes are notified.


Changes to Household Composition and Splitting an Application

Removing or Adding a Dependant

An applicant must request in writing to have a dependant removed from or added to an existing application. Documentation must be provided to identify the dependant, including: date of birth and income details. Where a dependent is being added to an existing application, a new application is not required.

Removing a Non-Dependant from an Application

An applicant must request in writing the removal of a household member from an application. Alternatively, a household member can request in writing that his/her name be removed from the application. If the household member was not an applicant on the original application he/she can apply for social housing assistance in his/her own right. The household member's application is treated as a new application and date of registration will be the date of receipt of the application.

An applicant can request in writing to have his/her name removed from an application and apply for social housing assistance in his/her own right. This is referred to as "splitting an application" and all eligible applicants from the original application retain the registration date of the original application or the date they were added to the original application. The original application remains on the register to ensure that remaining applicant(s) listed on that application retain their original status. However, the housing size needs of the remaining applicant(s) on the original application must be reviewed.

Removing an Application from the Register

An application will be removed from the register (Applicant List) if:

  • the applicant does not respond to a request for additional information
  • the household no longer meets the eligibility criteria
  • the applicant advises in writing that they are no longer interested in public housing assistance
  • the applicant refuses two valid offers of accommodation.


Reinstating an Application

An application that has been removed from the register may be reinstated and placed back on the register if the applicant requests this within the timeframe required by the Public Rental Housing Assistance Program, and demonstrates that they continue to meet all eligibility criteria.

Transfer and Mutual Exchange

A tenant can be approved to transfer to another property or to exchange dwellings, provided that the tenant satisfies the guidelines under the Transfer and Mutual Exchange Policies.

It should be noted that the Commissioner for Social Housing has a broad discretion to transfer a tenant where the dwelling is required to facilitate more efficient use of public housing stock. Such a transfer can only be made to give effect to an application for a transfer by a tenant, and the transfer is strictly a voluntary arrangement.

Prior Tenancy Record


Unless the Commissioner for Social Housing determines otherwise, an applicant is not eligible for housing assistance if, at the time assistance is to be provided:

  • The applicant owes money to the Housing Commissioner for rent, excess water charges, maintenance costs or any other monies due relating to a Housing ACT residential property
  • The applicant has breached a term or condition of a tenancy agreement to which the Housing Commissioner was a party.

Before an offer of housing is made, an eligible applicant with prior tenancy breaches may be required to demonstrate a satisfactory commitment to the management of his/her current or immediate past private sector tenancy. The applicant will also be required to sign an agreement to repay any outstanding debt.

Refer to Debt Management Policy
Refer to Statute Barred Debt Policy.Refer to Allocation Policy


An application that includes someone who has been declared bankrupt is treated as a normal application and is registered on the Applicants List if all eligibility criteria are met.

Waiver of Eligibility Criteria

The Housing Commissioner has the discretion to waive all eligibility criteria, except the minimum age criterion.

Review of Housing ACT Decisions

Applicants may appeal decisions by Housing ACT where they disagree with the decision. There is an established review protocol that includes an initial internal review by Housing ACT and where appropriate, access to external review mechanisms.


Housing ACT considers fraud to have occurred when an applicant, in order to gain a higher benefit:

  • deliberately supplies false information
  • deliberately fails to provide information
  • changes his/her income or arranged his/her financial affairs by or as a result of any artificial or contrived scheme or arrangement.

Further Information

For copies of brochures contact Housing ACT.