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Rent Choice Assist Trial

1. Background

Rent Choice Assist is a form of Private Rental Assistance (PRA) that aims to support households to maintain and/or access safe and affordable housing in the private rental market. It provides a time limited private rental subsidy for up to 3 years and where appropriate, facilitates access to support services, including training and employment opportunities, to build capacity to return to independent living.

Rent Choice Assist will be trialled and delivered to up to 200 clients in the following four DCJ locations:

  • Hurstville – assisting eligible clients who live in South Eastern Sydney and the Inner West (clients currently serviced by DCJ Hurstville and Burwood offices)
  • Campbelltown – assisting eligible clients who live in South West Sydney District (clients currently serviced by DCJ Campbelltown, Liverpool, Fairfield and Bankstown offices)
  • Blacktown –  assisting eligible clients who live in the Blacktown City Council area (clients currently serviced by DCJ Blacktown and Mt Druitt offices); and
  • Newcastle/Lake Macquarie – assisting eligible in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Maitland locations (clients currently serviced by the DCJ Newcastle office).

The trial will begin on 10 September 2018 and will run for twelve months.

2. Scope

This policy applies to all applicants who may be eligible for Rent Choice Assist. Clients must have the capacity to afford private rental accommodation at the end of the subsidy period.

Under Housing Pathways, participating community housing providers may facilitate access to private rental assistance products.

3. Policy statement

Rent Choice Assist provides medium term financial assistance for up to three years for low income households, to enable them to secure and sustain a tenancy in the private rental market.

Rent Choice Assist is for low income adult households who:

  • Have a history of successfully meeting their housing needs without assistance;
  • Have experienced an unplanned event that has “temporarily” destabilised the household’s finances , placing them at risk of homelessness (i.e. income suddenly too low or expenses suddenly too high) and unable to maintain ongoing rent payments in the medium term);
  • Need assistance to either sustain their current tenancy or establish a new tenancy, to avoid homelessness;
  • Have the capacity and willingness to move from the subsidy to housing independence i.e. no longer require ongoing NSW Government housing assistance.

Rent Choice Assist clients must express a commitment to sustaining a tenancy while receiving the subsidy and to transitioning to independent living. They must be willing to receive and continue with support services where relevant.

Where appropriate, the program assists clients to access support services, including training and employment opportunities, to build capacity to continue living independently after the Rent Choice assistance ends. It ensures that clients are supported in their transition to sustainable independence.

Rent Choice Assist is not intended for clients who require long-term housing assistance and who have long term support needs. Clients that elect to receive Rent Choice Assist are ineligible for inclusion on the NSW Housing Register. Clients who have previously been listed on the NSW Housing Register must opt out of the NSW Housing Register in order to be approved for Rent Choice Assist.

Rent Choice Assist clients are expected to find a property within their affordability. This ensures that clients have the capacity to afford private rental accommodation at the end of the subsidy period. In high cost locations, clients may be eligible to receive a deeper subsidy. A deeper subsidy allows the client to find a property with a higher market rent than the standard affordable rent set by DCJ. For more information, go to Maximum affordability limits for deeper subsidy by bedroom category table.

Clients that that are approved to receive a deeper subsidy are required to have an Independence Support Plan (ISP) if they have not resolved their financial situation within 6 months of receiving the first Rent Choice Assist subsidy payment. The ISP is a person-centred approach, and where required, can facilitate ‘wrap-around’ services to support the client to build their capability to transition to housing independence at the end of the subsidy period.

The ISP is completed by both the client and either DCJ, or the client’s support provider, where appropriate. The ISP aims to assist the client to develop realistic goals, and identify the appropriate support to achieve these goals. Effective support planning is critical for managing the provision of support services as well as the broader training and employment opportunities.

Rent Choice Assist clients will be eligible to receive brokerage funds to assist the client to establish and maintain their tenancy and/or to cover relevant work/study related costs.

In addition to Rent Choice Assist, clients can apply to access Rentstart assistance products to assist with costs to establish and maintain a tenancy in the private rental market through the provision of a Bond Loan, Advance Rent, assistance to pay rental arrears, or Temporary Accommodation for homeless people. For more information, speak to your local office or go to the Rentstart Assistance Policy.

4. Eligibility

To be eligible for Rent Choice Assist, the client must:

  • establish their identity;
  • be resident in New South Wales;
  • be a citizen or have permanent residency in Australia;
  • be at least 18 years of age;
  • be homeless or at risk of homelessness as a result of an unexpected financially destabilising event;
  • have a household income within the low income limit at the time of application;
  • not be included on the NSW Housing Register, or willing to opt out;
  • not own any assets that can be used to resolve their housing need;
  • have low to medium support needs; and
  • have a history of workforce participation and successfully sustaining housing in the private market.

Rent Choice Assist clients must also:

  • express commitment to sustaining a tenancy while receiving Rent Choice and to sustaining their independence after Rent Choice ends
  • commit to engaging with the review process and working toward meeting support plan goals
  • be willing to receive and continue with support services where relevant.

5. Evidence requirements

Rent Choice Assist clients must provide suitable documentary evidence to:

  • support their eligibility
  • support that they are homeless or at risk of homelessness due to a financially destabilising event,
  • support that they have had a history of workforce participation and successfully sustaining housing in the private market.
  • provide proof of income for all members of the household aged 18 years and over. For more information, go to Proof of income and assets.

For detailed information on the types of evidence required, go to Eligibility for priority housing – evidence requirements

6. Property affordability and calculating a subsidy

Rent Choice Assist clients are expected to find a property within their affordability. This ensures that clients have the capacity to afford private rental accommodation at the end of the subsidy period. When calculating affordability, DCJ calculates the combined total of 50% of the gross household weekly income plus 100% Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) that the client is eligible to receive.

Clients who receive Rent Choice Assist are entitled to receive Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) as they are renting in the private sector and are not public housing tenants. When assessing the household income for rental affordability, DCJ will presume that a client is receiving CRA even if they have not applied to Centrelink for assistance.

A Rent Choice Assist subsidy makes up the difference between the amount the client pays and the market rent. For the first 12 months, Rent Choice Assist subsidises the difference between the market rent and 25% of the recipient’s gross assessable household income plus 100% of their CRA entitlement.

In high cost locations, clients may be eligible to receive a deeper subsidy. A deeper subsidy allows the client to find a property with a higher market rent than the standard affordable rent set by DCJ. For more information, go to Maximum affordability limits for deeper subsidy by bedroom category table.

7. Paying a Rent Choice Assist subsidy

DCJ will pay a Rent Choice Assist subsidy from:

  • the date on which the client’s application was approved, if the client is remaining in their existing property, or
  • the date when the client’s lease begins.
  • If Advance Rent is provided, the client’s subsidy will commence from the date that the Advance Rent ceases to cover; either one or two weeks after the lease commencement date.

DCJ pays the subsidy directly to the landlord/agent, with payment generally being one month in advance.

DCJ will end a Rent Choice Assist Subsidy when a client has undergone a review and a decision to exit Rent Choice Assist has been made or when the maximum period of 36 months has been reached.

8. Brokerage

A sum of up to $2,000 (incl. GST) is available for brokerage for each Rent Choice Assist client who secures a private lease.

As there is an expectation that Rent Choice Assist clients have been established in the private sector for some time, brokerage funds may be used for the following purposes:

  • services to sustain tenancy, or prepare for employment or training
  • assistance with training - fees, course materials, textbooks, computers etc.
  • employment related costs - work clothes, safety equipment etc.
  • transport related assistance
  • costs associated with moving.

Brokerage funds cannot be used for:

  • advance rent;
  • bond payments or rent and/or water arrears payment, as assistance with these is available through Rentstart, subject to eligibility; or
  • any debts incurred i.e. property damage.

9. Reviewing Rent Choice Assist eligibility

Rent Choice Assist clients must agree to participate in quarterly reviews.

Quarterly reviews are conducted to determine continued eligibility and need for the subsidy, assess whether the client is managing their tenancy effectively, check whether appropriate support services are in place (if the client has an ISP), and monitor client progress against agreed goals.

When a client informs DCJ of any changes to their household or household income, DCJ will reassess the subsidy to ensure that the household is paying the correct amount of rent and is still entitled to receive a Rent Choice Assist Subsidy.

10. Subsidy Tapering

Clients receiving a Rent Choice product are required to have their subsidy assistance tapered. Subsidy Tapering prepares clients to pay full market rent through a gradual reduction in subsidy assistance. By gradually reducing the subsidy amount, the amount of rent a client pays gradually increases. This supports the client to build capacity over time, to be able to sustain private rental tenancies at market rents and become financially independent.

Tapering of the client’s rent will generally commence on the 12 month anniversary of the first subsidy payment. The subsidy amount will then be gradually reduced at six monthly intervals.

The key stages where tapering adjustments are implemented are at six monthly intervals – at the end of 12 months, 18 months, 24 months, 30 months and then at the end of the subsidy period of 36 months. These adjustments will be discussed and confirmed with the client at the Quarterly Reviews three months prior, where the client’s readiness for tapering will be assessed - at 9 months, 15 months, 21 months, 27 months and 33 months.

If the decision is made not to commence tapering of the client’s subsidy, the client will be reviewed again for tapering at the next quarterly review. If the client is unable to commence tapering following a subsequent quarterly review they may need to be assessed for an alternate product.

11. Changes in circumstances

A Rent Choice Assist client must advise DCJ within 28 days of any changes in:

  • household members;
  • household income;
  • rent;
  • property address; and
  • landlord or real estate agent.

If a Rent Choice Assist client does not inform DCJ about changes to their household or household income, the household may be provided with an incorrect subsidy amount. In some cases, this may result in the client owing money to DCJ or their subsidy being ended.

A client must also advise DCJ if they are moving to another property as this may affect the approval of their subsidy or the amount of their subsidy, including the rate of their subsidy taper.

12. Income Eligibility for Rent Choice Assist Trial

Low income limits for the Rent Choice Assist Trial

Household members

Weekly

Annual

Single adult

$823

$42,800

Each additional adult (18 years or over)

$412

$21,400

Each additional child under 18

$246

$12,800

Disability allowance per person

$0

$0

Exceptional disability allowance per person

$0

$0

Source: NSW Affordable Housing Ministerial Guidelines 2018-19 – updated annually

Calculating Low income limits
Household composition: Number of adults + Number of children

Example 1: Sydney household - 2 adults + 2 children
Weekly limit: 2 adults ($823+ $412) + 2 children (246 x 2) = $1,727
Annual limit: 2 adults ($42,800 + $21,400) + 2 children ($12,800 x 2) = $89,800

13. Legislation and compliance

DCJ is able to provide private rental assistance products in accordance with the Housing Act 2001.

14. Related documentation

15. Further information

Appeals and review of decisions

If a client disagrees with a decision DCJ has made, they should first discuss their concerns with the staff member that made the decision. The next step, if they still believe that DCJ made the wrong decision, is to ask for a formal review of the decision.

For information on how reviews work for decisions made by DCJ, the client can ask for a copy of the fact sheet Appeals and reviewing decisions, or read the Client Service Delivery and Appeals Policy.

DCJ decisions that cannot be appealed:

Decisions to end a Rent Choice Subsidy when the client has been given the maximum 36 months assistance cannot be appealed.

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Last updated: 05 Nov 2019