Ideal bureaucracy? The application and assessment process for social housing in three Australian states

Taylor and Francis Group
Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Housing Policy, 2022, pp. 1-22
Issue Date:
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Social housing in Australia is an extremely scarce resource in high demand. This scarcity makes how applicants are prioritised for this resource a crucially important process with significant consequences. We examine the assessment process in three Australian states, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania. In all three, the processes in place are premised on the assumption that they allow for the fair assessment and allocation of social housing to those most in need. Drawing on interviews with 40 informants with expert knowledge of the application process, we examine the three different approaches. We use Weber’s concept of ideal type bureaucracy to assist and frame the analysis. A central premise of Weber’s analysis is that to avoid corruption, discretion in the making of decisions should not be a feature of a bureaucracy. We conclude that although the assessment processes in place are rule-bound, in many instances discretion is essential and beneficial for the applicant. Further, we demonstrate (in line with Weber’s analysis), that the expertise of assessment workers is key. However, there is limited transparency and appealing a decision is possible but can be a challenging task.
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