Applying for social housing
Last published 29 Jun 2023
Social housing is secure, affordable housing for people on low to moderate incomes who have a housing need.
It includes public housing properties managed by the DCJ and the Aboriginal Housing Office, and community housing properties managed by not-for-profit, non-government registered community housing organisations.
How do I apply for social housing?
Social housing is one of the products you can be considered for when you make an application for housing assistance. You can also apply for housing assistance if you are already a tenant of a social housing provider (such as DCJ or a participating community housing provider).
In general, you must be at least 18 years of age however, there are circumstances where clients aged 16 or over but under 18 years of age will be considered. For more information please see the Eligibility for Social Housing Policy.
If we need more information, you may also be asked to participate in an interview.
When can I submit my application and what evidence do I need to attach?
Applications will only be accepted and assessed once you have provided evidence of the minimum requirements. Waiting time on the NSW Housing Register will not commence until a completed application and supporting evidence is submitted.
In order to submit your application, you will need to provide evidence to demonstrate that you and your household meet the general eligibility criteria for housing assistance. To assess your eligibility for housing assistance, you must provide evidence for yourself and each person on your application aged 18 years and over. If you and your partner are under 18 years of age you must also provide this evidence. You must provide evidence of:
- identity, and
- all sources of income and assets, and
- New South Wales (NSW) residency or an established need to live in NSW, and
- citizenship or permanent residency of Australia, and
- any land or property you or anyone on your application own, or part own, and
- your ability to sustain a successful tenancy, without support or with appropriate support in place if applicable, and
- repayments of any former debts to a social housing provider if applicable, and
- an ongoing medical condition or disability that impacts on the type of housing you or a member of your household need and evidence to support what is required.
Information about the type of evidence we need to assess your application is in the Evidence Requirements Information Sheet.
Can I choose what type of social housing I want?
Yes. Whenever you apply for social housing, you can choose to receive offers of social housing properties from any social housing provider or from DCJ only or only from community housing providers participating in Housing Pathways. You will be asked to make this choice during the application process.
Some locations may only have one social housing provider. If you want to live in these locations, you may not be able to choose the type of social housing you want.
If you are Aboriginal, or someone in your household is Aboriginal, you can also choose to be listed for Aboriginal housing as well as for other forms of social housing. To be listed for Aboriginal Housing Office properties, your Aboriginality will need to be confirmed.
You can change your choice of provider at any time before you receive an offer of social housing.
Can I choose where I want to live?
When you apply for housing assistance you can choose an area or town where you would prefer to live. The areas where social housing is available are grouped into allocation zones.
We will check which allocation zone your selection is in, and if you are eligible and approved for social housing, list you on the NSW Housing Register for properties in that allocation zone.
We aim to house people where they would prefer to live but we can’t guarantee specific locations. The location of the property we offer you when it’s your turn to be housed will depend on where the next vacancy that matches the type of housing you need occurs within the allocation zone you are listed in. This means that we might offer you housing in ANY of the suburbs that are grouped into the allocation zone you are approved for.
You need to be aware that the waiting times are much longer in some areas than in others. Some allocation zones are called ‘high-demand’ zones because the demand for housing in these zones is greater than the number of properties that become available. If you select a high-demand zone, you may be asked to select another zone or else be prepared to wait a very long time for an offer of housing.
Are the eligibility criteria the same for all types of social housing?
Yes, the general eligibility criteria is the same for all types of social housing. However, different social housing providers may have different policies about the way they allocate social housing, for example, payment of bond, length of lease available and whether you can keep pets.
Also, some community housing providers may provide specialist help to their tenants and/ or to their local community. For more information about this, talk to your local social housing provider.
How do I know if I am eligible for social housing?
To be eligible for social housing, you must:
- be an Australian citizen or a permanent resident
- live in New South Wales (NSW)
- have a household income within the income eligibility limits
- not own any assets or property that you could live in
- be able to sustain a tenancy, without support or with appropriate support in place
- in general, be at least 18 years of age.
You will also need to be able to prove your identity and, if you have any debts with a social housing provider from a previous tenancy, you must be making regular repayments.
What are the income limits for social housing?
To be eligible for social housing, your household income must be within the social housing income eligibility limits that are outlined in the table below. This table shows the maximum gross weekly income each household member can earn and gives some examples of maximum income limits for different household types (based on the number of adults and children). Households that exceed these income limits are not eligible for social housing.
|Household members (regardless of relationship)
|Maximum gross weekly income (before tax)
|First adult (single)
|Each additional adult (18 years or over)
|First child (under 18 years)
|Each additional child (under 18 years)
|For example, if your household includes:
|Each week, your household can earn (before tax):
|1 adult + 1 child
|1 adult + 2 children
|1 adult + 3 children
|1 adult + 4 children
|2 adults + 1 child
|2 adults + 2 children
|2 adults + 3 children
|2 adults + 4 children
|If someone in your household receives a:
|Disability allowance (per person)
|Exceptional disability allowance (per person)
What happens if I am approved for social housing?
If you are assessed as being approved for social housing, the provider will place you on the NSW Housing Register. The social housing providers you have chosen (ie DCJ and/or community housing organisations) will then use this register to offer you housing when a suitable property is available.
Can I get priority housing assistance?
You cannot apply for priority housing assistance directly. If, however, when you apply for housing assistance your application shows that you have an urgent and ongoing housing need that you are unable to resolve for yourself in the private rental market, you may be assessed for priority assistance.
If we are assessing you for priority assistance and you have asked to live in an area that is a ‘high demand’ zone, you will also need to be assessed for locational need. This means you will have to show that it is essential to the needs of your household for you to live in the zone you have chosen. If you cannot show that living in this zone is essential for your household, we will ask you to choose another area before we complete your assessment.
If you are approved for priority assistance, you will be listed on the NSW Housing Register on a priority basis.
Once I am listed on the NSW Housing Register, when will I get housed?
The waiting times for both priority housing assistance and wait-turn housing will vary depending on the number of other people waiting, the amount of social housing in the area you have chosen, and your specific housing needs.
Clients approved for priority housing assistance will be housed ahead of most other applicants on the NSW Housing Register. Clients approved for wait-turn housing will be offered housing in their chosen location when:
- a suitable property becomes available
- other applicants who applied before them have been offered housing.
Will I need to pay a rental bond for a public housing tenancy?
You may be required to pay a rental bond if you are returning to public housing and you have caused damage to the amount of $500 or more in a single instance to your former public housing property in the six years before signing the new lease.
A DCJ staff member will discuss this with you at the time an offer is made.
What if I have an urgent housing need but I am not eligible for social housing?
If you have an urgent housing need but you are not eligible for social housing, you may be eligible for emergency temporary accommodation. Generally, this is short-term temporary housing for up to 3 months however, in cases of a natural disaster a client will be offered 2-year lease. This is available to people who are Australian citizens or permanent residents with an urgent housing need because of:
- a natural disaster such as fire, flood, earthquake or storm
- domestic violence that places a family member at risk of harm
- homelessness with custody of children
To apply for Emergency Temporary Accommodation, talk to your local housing provider.
For more information about applying for housing assistance and to find out whether you are eligible, or to find a social housing provider in your area, call the Housing Contact Centre.