Skip to main content


Editor’s note: Click here for interactive digital maps that break down poverty rates by suburb/town and demographic group. Attached is a spreadsheet which also segments data by location and demographic.


The state’s housing crisis is pushing more people into poverty, as new research shows that private renters and public housing tenants in NSW are increasingly falling below the poverty line.

People experiencing poverty in NSW are most likely to live in the private rental market, where more than 413,000 tenants (20 per cent of all NSW renters) are now living below the poverty line, as inflation and cost of living pressures soar.

With home ownership becoming more out of reach, the research notes that older people reaching retirement age but still in the private rental market are contributing to this increase.

It’s particularly an issue for older women with 53 per cent of older women in the private rental market now living below the poverty line, up from 34 per cent in 2016.

The research was commissioned by peak social services body NCOSS, and conducted by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) at the University of Canberra.

NATSEM analysed 2021 census data to reveal the dire state of poverty across NSW and how it has changed in the five years since the previous census.

Today’s release of the full report is accompanied by interactive maps which show the poverty rates in each suburb and town across NSW in 2021 compared to 2016, broken down by demographic groups.

NCOSS CEO Joanna Quilty said the report is a wakeup call for the state’s leaders, urging the NSW Government to respond quickly.

“These statistics are devastating, showing the grim reality of poverty reaching into every suburb and town in NSW – but with some communities really bearing the brunt,” Ms Quilty said.

“What we are seeing is a housing crisis on multiple fronts – whether it’s people renting in Sydney, paying off a mortgage in regional areas, living in public housing, having to move back in with family, or resorting to some other temporary arrangement to get by.

“And we know that the situation has only gotten worse since 2021, with relentless rate hikes and soaring cost of living pressures.

“People living in poverty are resourceful and do whatever they can to survive. But we know for some, this can mean forgoing medication, healthcare or food to cover housing costs, or living in overcrowded or unsafe situations because there is no other option.

“And public housing is no longer the safety net for people in these dire circumstances. Even for the so-called ‘lucky’ few who secure public housing, it’s not keeping them out of poverty.”

Other concerning findings from the report include:

  • Public housing tenants have the highest rate of poverty (60 per cent) of all demographic groups across NSW.
  • There are pockets in Sydney – such as Zetland and Springwood – where 100 per cent of public housing tenants now live below the poverty line.
  • And the issue is not confined to Sydney – 100 per cent of public housing tenants in Mullumbimby on the Far North Coast, and Lake Munmorah on the Central Coast are also living in poverty.
  • In regional NSW, there’s also been a sharp increase in the number of people paying off a mortgage who are living below the poverty line – up by more than 80 per cent since 2016.
  • The growing trend of people reliant on income support payments (such as JobSeeker or Youth Allowance) or working part-time, moving into others’ households (family, friends or other informal arrangements) because government support payments are inadequate.

“We are pleased the newly elected NSW Government has recognised the urgent need to address the state’s housing crisis,” Ms Quilty said.

“To help, we have put forward a set of actionable and practical recommendations for the NSW Government to consider, and we look forward to working with the Government on these solutions.”

NCOSS has called on the NSW Government to adopt a set of recommendations, including:

  1. Bolster supply of social housing in NSW to 10 per cent of all housing stock, via a long-term plan with established targets and identified locations.
  2. Make renting more affordable and secure, including increasing rental supply and capping rents, which build on commitments to remove ‘no grounds’ evictions and establish a Rental Commissioner.
  3. NSW Government should advocate to the Federal Government to lift the income support payments to above the poverty line, and increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 50 per cent to enable an acceptable standard of living for recipients.

“I’d like to thank NATSEM for its thorough work on this report, and I look forward to working with the NSW Government on addressing these issues,” Ms Quilty said.

About this research:

  • The Mapping Economic Disadvantage in NSW report was undertaken by the National Centre of Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) at the University of Canberra, and was commissioned by NCOSS.
  • The report breaks down poverty rates by suburb and demographic – including age, sex, employment, family arrangement and housing tenure. It uses the most recent data available, the 2021 census data, and compares the trends from the previous census data in 2016.
  • NCOSS has published a Key Themes Report which provides an analysis of the key themes and trends, examining how poverty has changed between 2016 and 2021.
  • The Online Mapping Tool of interactive maps allows users to filter data by suburb and demographic across NSW.

Media contact: Billy Briggs | 0474 697 235