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Affordable rental housing is housing that meets the needs of people on very low to moderate incomes and is priced so that they can afford other basic living costs such as food, clothing, transport, medical care and education.

Affordable housing may include a range of accommodation types and sizes, including single or multibedroom units, houses and studio apartments. It is only available in some locations and applicants must meet eligibility criteria.

Affordable rental housing in NSW is usually managed by not-for-profit community housing providers, and/or by private organisations.

Many people need affordable rental housing for lots of different reasons including people who work full - or part-time in lower paying jobs. In addition it can include people who are going through a change in their lives which effects their financial situation - such as having a baby, getting a divorce or leaving home for the first time, as well as people receiving a government pension or benefit.

Am I eligible for affordable rental housing?

Eligibility for affordable housing mostly depends on your household income, which must be within the maximum limits set by the NSW and/or Australian Governments.

A guide to the maximum income you can receive to be eligible for an affordable rental property that is funded by the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) is indexed yearly. You will notice that the more people you have in your household, the higher your household income is allowed to be.

National Rental Affordability Scheme household income limits

Many affordable housing properties available in NSW have been funded under the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS), an Australian Government initiative delivered in partnership with the NSW Government.

The NRAS household income limits can be used as a general guide. However, some affordable housing properties are funded under other programs and have different income limits, particularly when the properties are in the Sydney region. The amount of income your household can earn and still be eligible for affordable housing might vary depending on the property that you would like to rent, so you will need to check with the property manager.

Other factors may also be considered for eligibility

Other factors which may be considered when assessing eligibility include:

  • whether you are a citizen or permanent resident of Australia
  • whether your household would be able to secure suitable or adequate housing in the private rental market
  • whether you own any assets (eg a property) which you could use to solve your housing need
  • whether you can show that you are able to maintain a successful tenancy.

Specific criteria may vary between providers, so you will need to check when you contact an affordable housing manager.

How much rent will I pay?

Rents for affordable housing are set in one of two ways.

The first is to set the rent as a discount of the current market rent, this means the rent is usually between 20% and 25% below the market rent. Where rent is set this way, the amount you pay will depend on the market rent for a similar property in the same area.

The second is to set the rent as a proportion of a household’s before tax income. Where rent is set this way, households may be charged between 25% and 30% of their before tax income for rent.

Different affordable housing managers set the rent differently, and sometimes they use both methods across the properties they manage. It usually depends on how the property was funded and the circumstances of the tenant.

How long can I stay?

Generally, tenants of affordable housing enter into a lease for a fixed term and you will need to continue to meet the eligibility criteria during the tenancy.

As long as you remain eligible for affordable housing the lease can generally be renewed or continued.

How is affordable housing different to social housing?

Affordable housing is not the same as social housing. You do not have to be eligible for social housing to apply for affordable housing, though people who are eligible for social housing may also be eligible for affordable housing properties.

Affordable housing is open to a broader range of household incomes than social housing, so you can earn more income and still be eligible. Rent is also calculated differently and there are different tenancy arrangements.

Some affordable housing properties may be available to some applicants on the NSW Housing Register, and also to people who are leaving social housing.

To apply

To apply for affordable housing, you can:

  1. Look for current vacancies in the following websites:
    1. WelcomeMat (a dedicated affordable housing platform);
    2. Real Estate or Domain (general rental housing platforms with some affordable housing listings); or
  2. Contact the managers of the properties Affordable housing is only available in some locations and this contact list outlines these areas. However there is no guarantee that a suitable property will be available so please contact the managers directly for further information.

You will need to apply separately to each manager in the locations you are interested in, just like you would if you were applying for a private rental property. You can apply to as many managers as you like and each application will be assessed separately according to the criteria.

Most managers ask you to complete an application form and provide documents which support your submission. You will usually be asked to provide proof of Australian residency, identity, income, medical documents indicating any disabilities or serious health problems, rental history, personal references and other relevant information.

Your application will then be assessed for eligibility based on your information. The manager will let you know the outcome and if your application is successful. It’s important to note that completing an application form, or even being assessed as eligible, does not guarantee you an affordable housing property.

If there is no vacancy, you may be able to go on a waiting list, but these are not kept by all managers. If the manager you have applied to keeps a waiting list, it is important to keep them up-to-date with any changes to your contact details or circumstances, so they can contact you if a property becomes available.

For more information

For more information about affordable housing, including details about eligibility, setting rent, lease arrangements and vacancies, please contact the affordable housing managers directly. Start with the managers located in the areas in which you want to live.

Some questions you might ask managers include:

  • Am I eligible?
  • How much rent will I pay?
  • Are there any vacancies at the moment?
  • Do you keep a waiting list?
  • How long can I stay in an affordable housing property?
  • What happens if my income changes?
  • What happens to my place on the NSW Housing Register for social housing if I enter an affordable housing tenancy?

For more information about residential tenancies in NSW, go to NSW Fair Trading.

For information about social housing assistance, go to what is social housing.

Contact list for managers of affordable housing

To contact managers of affordable housing, use the contact lists below.

You may also wish to check the list of NRAS providers on the DSS website showing suburbs where affordable housing is available.

Many of these organisations list current vacancies on WelcomeMat (a dedicated affordable housing platform) or Real Estate or Domain. Some also maintain a waiting list.

For more information about residential tenancies in NSW, go to the NSW Fair Trading website.

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Last updated: 09 Dec 2022