General housing allowance: Recipient households

Updated: 18 Dec 2017
Next update: 17 Dec 2018

The number of households receiving general housing allowance at the end of December analysed by type of household.

The indicator represents the trend in the number of low-income households whose housing costs are subsidised by the government. It also shows the percentage of certain groups, including families with children, as a share of the total recipient population.

General housing allowance payments are made primarily to households consisting of persons of working age. Pensioners living alone or together with a spouse or partner are covered by a separate scheme providing housing allowances for pensioners.

The number of recipient households typically rises during economic downturns. A number of legislative amendments have also had an impact on the number of housing allowance recipients. Students are behind much of the fluctuation in the number of recipients, having at certain times been covered by the general housing allowance scheme and at others by a separate housing supplement scheme for students. In August 2017, all students renting their accommodation were transferred into the general housing allowance scheme, which increased the number of recipient households by nearly 120,000. Between 2000 and 2016, only student families with children and students who owned their residence were covered by the general housing allowance scheme. Before 2000, also students who were married or cohabiting or who lived in communal households were eligible for general housing allowance.


A total of 381,526 households were in receipt of the general housing allowance as of December 2017, 43% more than in the previous year. The large increase of the recipient population is due to the transfer of students renting their accommodation to the general housing allowance scheme in August 2017. Prior to the transfer, only students who had dependent children or owned their residence were covered by the general housing allowance scheme.

In December 2017, general housing allowance was paid to 140,874 student households, up from 21,819 one year earlier. The number of non-student households was 240,652, 2% fewer than in the previous year. Were the student recipients excluded from the total, the number of general housing allowance recipients would have decreased slightly.

The transfer of students into the general housing allowance scheme increased the share of recipients living alone or living together without children. Even before the latest change, all families with children were covered under the general housing allowance scheme. At the end of 2017, one-person households accounted for 66% of all recipient households. This includes both those living alone and those living in communal households where each resident has a separate rental agreement. Families with children accounted for 24% of all recipient households.