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This project was funded by the Ronald Henderson Foundation aiming to identify barriers that impact on women of non-English speaking backgrounds from successfully accessing housing through the private rental market.


Research work commenced in May 1999. The main elements of the study include:

The focus of the study is on non-English speaking back-ground women who are residents in Sydney and have experience accessing housing through the private rental market. To further focus the study, consultations have taken place with non-English speaking background women tenants residing in the Western region of Sydney (excluding outer Western Sydney areas) as these areas have high concentration of non-English speaking background women residents. The choice of consultation groups was intended to include women from a wide range of cultural backgrounds with variations in English language ability, labour market participation, and category of entry into Australia.

The key access issues that have been identified through the focus group consultations are summarised below:

Limited financial ability to afford high rent and access costs
Non-English speaking background migrant women suffer more serious rental affordability problems than other Australian households. Their comparatively high unemployment rate, lower employment status and lower earning ability indicate their financial predicament.

Language barrier
NESB women's lower level of English language proficiency impedes them from successfully accessing housing information and related services, and understanding important documents relating to private renting such as the tenancy agreement and the condition report.

Availability of housing information
Overall, very little housing information is translated, and the quality of housing information varies according to the country of origin of migrants. Lack of housing information generally prevents non-English speaking background migrant women from maximising their housing choices and understanding their rights and responsibilities.

Access to tenancy services
Once non-English speaking background women become aware of available tenancy services, these services sometimes display a number of structural barriers in providing appropriate tenancy services to this target group.

Legal barrier
NESB women generally have a lower level of awareness and understanding of the legal issues relating to private renting. This signifies that they are more vulnerable in the private rental market when conflicts between tenants and landlords/real estate agents occur.

Discrimination experienced is often unreported/under-reported for a number of reasons: mainly, 'fears' of reporting, lower level English-language skills and insufficient knowledge of protective legislative provisions.

Housing availability in terms of housing design and sizes
The private rental market has often demonstrated little physical flexibility to the needs of NESB women in terms of housing sizes and designs. This lack of diversity constrains their ability to access appropriate housing.

Security of tenure
Private renting is widely accepted as a less secure form of tenure than home ownership or public renting. For NESB women, with their comparatively lower level financial stability, insecure housing can lead to serious financial hardship and also prevent them from settling in other aspects of their lives. Bad tenant's databases - NESB women are particularly vulnerable to these databases due to their insufficient knowledge of such databases and their inability to prevent their names being listed.

Report into NESB Women and Private Rental Market in NSW was launched on 25 July 2001. Copies are available at $10.00 per copy. For more information please contact Speakout on 9635 8022 or email us.