Housing assistance policy in Australia has developed in relative isolation from fundamental changes in labour markets and significant changes to income support programs. The Report of the Reference Group on Welfare Reform in 2000 recognised the potential importance of housing in the overall structure of welfare and tax reform but did not address this issue in any depth. This lack of focus on the role of housing is also reflected in the research literature: while there is a growing literature in social policy and labour market studies generally on work disincentives, none has explicitly assessed the role housing assistance as a potential disincentive for unemployed people to take paid work. The paper aims to fill a part of this gap. It will report on the findings of AHURI funded research on the financial and behavioural impacts of private and public rental housing assistance programs, including the locational outcomes of these different forms of assistance, on the capacity and willingness of unemployed tenants to take work or increase working hours. These findings will be based on a sample survey of 400 unemployed people in Sydney and Melbourne. The paper will draw implications for housing assistance policy and practice from this research.