Applying for public housing

When applying for public housing it is important to realise that waiting lists are very long and the application process can be complex, even if you do meet the eligibility criteria.

To apply for public housing, you need to prove to the Office of Housing that you:

  • Are an Australian citizen, a permanent resident, or you have a temporary protection visa
  • Currently live in Victoria
  • Do not own or part-own a house, unit or flat
  • Have an independent income that does not exceed the limits (generally you are eligible if you are on a low income and receive Centrelink benefits). Find out more about your eligibility here
  • Are not subject to a Centrelink two-year waiting period for newly arrived migrants
  • Have repaid or are repaying the Office of Housing any money you owe it (e.g. you have repaid the Office of Housing money loaned under the Bond Loan Scheme)
  • Do not have any history of eviction for tenancy breaches, other than arrears (in the past 12 months) as a public housing tenant

For more information on eligibility criteria, the application process and expected waiting times, visit the Department of Human Services website.

You can access public housing application forms and guides in different languages here.


Housing waiting lists are confusing.


Demystifying waiting lists

There are four categories or ‘segments’ on the public housing waiting list, but they fall into two main categories:

  • Segments 1, 2 and 3 – (commonly known as Seg. 1, 2 and 3) are the ‘early’ housing waiting lists segments. If you have been assessed as Seg. 1, 2 or 3 it means your housing needs are urgent. Urgency is explained below in sections on Segments 1, 2 and 3. You will have priority over people on the ‘general’ waiting list (Seg 4), even though they may have applied earlier.
  • Segment 4 – is the general, or ‘wait turn’ waiting list

To be on a waiting list, you must be linked and actively engaged with support services such as Centrelink. Income and asset limits apply and are based on Centrelink Healthcare Card limits for low-income earners. You can find out more about income and asset limits for all four housing segments here (link needed). 


Segment 1 — Homeless with support

You are eligible to apply for this category if you or your family are:

  • Living in crisis accommodation arranged by a family violence service
  • Residing in transitional housing that has been arranged for you as crisis housing (including accommodation that is unsuitable because transitional or crisis accommodation was unavailable when you needed it)
  • Living temporarily with other families because you have not been able to get or keep accommodation of your own
  • Living on the streets, sleeping in parks, squatting in derelict buildings or using cars for temporary shelter

A social or housing worker needs to apply on your behalf using the ‘Homeless with Support Application Form’ available here. 

Segment 2 — Supported housing

To be eligible for this category you must have a physical or mental disability or long-term health problem and currently be living in unsuitable housing.

If you are eligible you will be put on the waiting list to receive the high personal support you need, and to have your current housing modified where necessary to ensure that you can live independently.

Your support program worker must complete and submit on your behalf the ‘Supported Housing Assessment Form’, available here (link needed). 


Segment 3 — Special housing needs

To be eligible for this category your current housing must be unsuitable or insecure for any personal, health or family reason such as family violence. In addition, you must be unable to obtain more appropriate housing in the private rental market.

The special housing needs category applies to:

  • New applicants whose current housing is highly unsuitable and alternative housing in the private rental market is unobtainable
  • Current DHS tenants, including tenants of movable units, who need to transfer to more appropriate housing.

Eligibility is assessed against the following categories:

  • Insecure housing (for new applicants only) — this category applies if you are living in temporary accommodation where you do not have continued residency and must leave urgently. Written documentation of your current housing status in transitional housing, a refuge, emergency housing or crisis housing is required.
  • Inappropriate housing — this category applies if you need to be urgently relocated because of severe overcrowding, unsuitable housing or to be reunited with your children. To apply you should seek assistance from a Social Housing Advocacy and Support Program (SHASP) worker or equivalent service. Worker guidelines are available here (link needed). 


For each of these possible reasons for moving, there are guidelines. Documentation is also required to prove your reasons for moving. Possible reasons for moving are:

  • Severe overcrowding — if you and your family need two or more extra bedrooms to match your household size than you have in your current housing. Written documentation is required to show all household members have lived together for at least six months and intend to live together permanently.
  • Unsuitable housing — if your current housing has a long-term detrimental effect on one or more members of the household, who have all lived together for more than six months. Scenarios might include:
    • Inappropriate sharing of bedrooms by parents or other adults with children
    • Inappropriate sharing of bedrooms by children of different genders where at least one child is six years old or more
    • Families with dependants who do not have their own separate cooking and bathroom facilities, such as in a rooming house, hotel room or caravan.

You need documentation such as a report from a housing support officer (HSO) that confirms the number of bedrooms in the property, everyone who makes up the household and whether the entire household is appropriately housed.

Alternatively, you can supply a report from a relevant community agency or healthcare professional that states your living conditions or housing environment have a detrimental effect on the people living there.

  • Family reunification — if your current housing does not allow you as a parent to live with your children. You will need documentation from your caseworker, a protective services worker or a worker from a recognised family support agency to confirm that they expect the children to be reunited within six months after you have obtained your new housing.
  • Unsafe housing — if you are experiencing real or serious threat of violence, don’t have other housing options, and urgently need relocation. You may be living:
    • In a refuge or emergency housing
    • In a THM property
    • In housing where the violence occurred
    • With family or friends temporarily.


Segment 4 — General housing waiting list

This waiting list is known as the ‘general’ housing waiting list or ‘wait turn’ segment for people who need help, but not urgently. If you earn a low income and meet the eligibility criteria, you can apply for public housing yourself, and attach the necessary documents, using forms available here (link needed). 

To make a general public housing application, you will need to prove to the Office of Housing the list of criteria from the post ‘What Housing Options Do I Have?’. In addition, you will need to show that you do not own assets worth more than AUD $30 000. You can find out more from the Department of Housing here (link needed). 

To find your local Housing Office click here (link needed).





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If reading this article has raised issues for you, you can contact WIRE at any time between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.

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