Canadian National Occupancy Standard: A measure of the appropriateness of housing that is sensitive to both household size and composition. The CNOS specifies that:

  • no more than 2 people shall share a bedroom
  • parents or couples may share a bedroom
  • children under 5, either of the same sex or opposite sex, may share a bedroom
  • children under 18 of the same sex may share a bedroom
  • a child aged 5–17 should not share a bedroom with a child under 5 of the opposite sex
  • single adults 18 and over and any unpaired children require a separate bedroom.

community housing (mainstream): Housing provided for low- to moderate-income or special needs households, which community-based organisations manage. Community housing models vary across jurisdictions and a variety of groups, including government, own the housing stock.

community housing organisation: A not-for-profit organisation that provides safe, secure, affordable and appropriate rental housing.

couch surfer: A term used to describe any person who typically moves from household to household intermittently, who is not regarded as being part of those households, and who does not have any form of leased tenure over any accommodation.

disability: The umbrella term for any or all of an impairment of body structure or function, a limitation in activities, or a restriction in participation. Disability is a multidimensional and complex concept, and is conceived as a dynamic interaction between health conditions and environmental and personal factors (WHO 2011).

In social housing, a proxy for a household meeting the above definition of disability may be provided through receipt of the Disability Support Pension.

dwelling: A structure or a discrete space within a structure intended for people to live in or where a person or group of people live. Thus, a structure that people actually live in is a dwelling regardless of its intended purpose, but a vacant structure is a dwelling only if intended for human residence. A dwelling may include one or more rooms that is/are used as an office or workshop, provided the dwelling is in residential use. Dwelling types include:

  • a separate house
  • a semi-detached, row or terrace house, townhouse, etc.
  • a flat, unit or apartment; caravan, tent, cabin etc. either in or not in a caravan park; houseboat in marina, etc.
  • an improvised home, tent, camper
  • a house or flat attached to a shop, office, etc.
  • a boarding/rooming house unit. 

equivalised disposable household income: A measure of income that reflects economic wellbeing relative to household size and composition. It is used to determine low-income status for a household. Equivalised disposable household income is based on income after essential costs are deducted, as opposed to gross (that is, total) income, or net (that is, after-tax) income.

family: Two or more persons, one of whom is at least 15 years of age, who are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering, and who are usually resident in the same household. The basis of a family is formed by identifying the presence of a couple relationship, lone-parent–child relationship or other blood relationship.

first home buyer: A household in which the reference person (or their co-resident partner) bought the dwelling in which they reside in the 3 years before being interviewed, and neither that reference person nor their co-resident partner had owned or been purchasing a home previously.

Funded organisations (for Indigenous community housing)

Indigenous community housing organisations that received government funding in the relevant financial year. Funded organisations may also be referred to as actively registered organisations.

greatest need: A descriptor applying to a low-income household if, at the time of allocation, household members were subject to one or more of the following circumstances:

• they were homeless

• their life or safety was at risk in their accommodation

• their health condition was aggravated by their housing

• their housing was inappropriate to their needs

• they had very high rental housing costs.

A low-income household for the greatest need definition is a household that satisfies an eligibility test to receive housing assistance.


homelessness: Based on the ABS definition, the state of a person who does not have suitable accommodation alternatives and whose current living arrangement:

  • is in a dwelling that is inadequate (i.e. is unfit for human habitation or lacks basic facilities such as kitchen and bathroom facilities), or
  • has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable, or
  • does not allow them to have control, and access to space for social relations (including personal or householdliving space, ability to maintain privacy and exclusive access to kitchen and bathroom facilities) (ABS 2012c).
  • note: ‘Homelessness’ can be defined in different ways for different purposes.

household: A group of 2 or more related or unrelated people who usually reside in the same dwelling, and who make common provision for food or other essentials for living. A household can also be a single person living in a dwelling who makes provision for his or her own food and other essentials for living, without combining with any other person.

household composition: The grouping of people living in a dwelling. Household composition is based on couple and parent–child relationships. A single-family household contains a main tenant only, or a main tenant residing with a partner and/or the main tenant’s children. Group households consist of 2 or more tenants aged 16 or over who are not in a couple or parent–child relationship. Mixed households are households not described by the other two types—for example, multiple single-family households.

housing affordability: The cost of housing compared with the financial situation of households. This term is generally used to refer to housing across major cities, states or nationally, as opposed to individual households. Housing affordability is often measured using the proportion of households in a given area in housing stress.

housing mobility: The movement of people due to a change in their place of usual residence. Housing mobility may occur due to changes in tenure arrangements, such as from rental to home-ownership, or moving from one geographic location to another for various housing, employment or lifestyle reasons.

housing stress:  A measure of housing affordability where the proportion of household income spent on basic housing costs (that is, rent or mortgage) is calculated. So owner–occupiers without a mortgage cannot experience housing stress according to this definition. It is defined as the situation of a household whose housing costs are more than 30% of the gross household income. 

income unit:  One person or a group of related persons within a household, whose command over income is shared, or any person living in a non-private dwelling who is in receipt of personal income. Indigenous community housing  Housing that Indigenous communities own and/or manage for the provision of housing services to Indigenous Australians. Indigenous community housing organisation (ICHO) An Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander organisation responsible for managing housing for Indigenous Australians, including community organisations such as resource agencies and land councils. ICHOs may either own the dwellings they manage or lease them from a state housing authority.

indigenous community housing: Housing that Indigenous communities own and/or manage for the provision of housing services to Indigenous Australians.

indigenous community housing organisation: Any Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander organisation that is responsible for managing housing for Indigenous people. This includes community organisations such as resource agencies and land councils, which have a range of functions, provided that they manage housing for Indigenous people. It may also include tenancies managed by a state/territory housing authority.

indigenous household: A household as defined above which contains one or more people who identify as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin.

low-income household: A household whose equivalised gross income falls in the bottom two-fifths (40%) of the population. This measure does not necessarily indicate eligibility for government assistance targeted at low-income households, and assistance may also be provided to households that do not meet this definition. This definition differs from that used by the ABS; it uses different definitions of low income for different purposes.

main tenant: The ‘household reference person’ or ‘main tenant’ is used as the basis for the identification of income units and families and the classification of the household. Can also be referred to as Person 1 or Tenant 1 on application or tenancy forms, and can be referred to as the principal tenant, household head or the mortgagee.

newly allocated household: A newly allocated households is a household that is a new allocation for housing assistance in the financial year.

overcrowding: A situation in a dwelling when one or more additional bedrooms are required to meet the Canadian National Occupancy Standard.

priority allocation: A new tenancy that is provided to individuals classified as being in greatest need.

public housing:  Rental housing that state and territory governments provide and manage. Currently public housing operates in all jurisdictions. Included are households residing in public rental dwellings where the dwelling is either:

  • owned by the housing authority
  • leased from the private sector or other housing program areas and used to provide public rental housing
  • leased to public housing tenants.

rebated household:  A household receiving housing assistance (usually through a state or territory or community housing provider) that pays less than the market rent value of the dwelling.

  • Reference person A person chosen by applying, to all household members aged 15 and over, the selection criteria below, in the order listed, until a single appropriate person is identified:
  • one of the partners in a registered or de facto marriage, with dependent children
  • one of the partners in a registered or de facto marriage, without dependent children
  • a lone parent with dependent children
  • the person with the highest income
  • the eldest person.

For example, in a household containing a lone parent with a non-dependent child, the one with the higher income will become the reference person. However, if both individuals have the same income, the elder will become the reference person.

rental stress: The situation of a household whose housing costs (excluding CRA) are more than 30% of the gross household income.

social housing: Rental housing that is funded or partly funded by government, and that is owned or managed by the government or a community organisation and let to eligible persons. This includes public rental housing, state owned and managed Indigenous housing, mainstream and Indigenous community housing and housing provided under the Crisis Accommodation Program.

social and economic participation: Social and economic participation refers to a range of ways in which people contribute to and have the resources, opportunities and capability to learn, work, engage with and have a voice in the community. This can also be referred to as social inclusion. Social participation can include social engagement, volunteering, working with community organisations and accessing services. Economic participation can include paid employment, training and education or self-employment.

special needs: A descriptor for those households that have a member with disability, a main tenant aged under 25 or 75 and over, or households defined as Indigenous households. Indigenous households in SOMIH are not considered special needs households, as SOMIH is an Indigenous-targeted program.

specialist homelessness service(s): Specialist homelessness service(s) is assistance provided by a specialist homelessness agency to a client aimed at responding to or preventing homelessness. The specialist homelessness services in scope for this collection include accommodation provision, assistance to sustain housing, domestic/family violence services, mental health services, family/relationship assistance, disability services, drug/alcohol counselling, legal/financial services, immigration/cultural services, other specialist services and general assistance and support.

state owned and managed Indigenous housing (SOMIH):  Social housing administered by state and territory governments but is targeted specifically at low- to moderate-income households that have at least one member who identifies as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. Currently SOMIH operates in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.

tenancy (rental) unit: For the purposes of the public housing, SOMIH and community housing data collections, the unit of accommodation for which a rental agreement can be made. In the majority of cases, there will be only one tenancy (rental) unit within dwelling; in a small number of cases (for example, boarding houses, special group homes, semi-institutional dwellings), there may be more than one tenancy (rental) unit.

underutilisation: A situation where a dwelling contains one or more bedrooms surplus to the needs of the household occupying it, according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard.

unemployed person:  A person aged 15 or more who was not employed during the reference week but had actively looked for work and was currently available for work.


ABS: Australian Bureau of Statistics
AHURI: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute
AIHW: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
CH: Mainstream community housing
CNOS: Canadian National Occupancy Standard
COA: Commonwealth of Australia
COAG: Council of Australian Governments
CRA: Commonwealth Rent Assistance
FHOG: First Home Owner Grant
FTBA: Family Tax Benefit Part A
HPA: Home Purchase Assistance
IBA: Indigenous Business Australia
ICHO:  Indigenous community housing organisation
NAH SPP:  National Affordable Housing Special Purpose Payment
NAHA:  National Affordable Housing Agreement
NDIS: National Disability Insurance Scheme
NHHA: National Housing and Homelessness Agreement
NSHS:  National Social Housing Survey
OECD: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
OHCHR: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
PC: Productivity Commission
PH: Public rental housing
PRA: Private Rent Assistance
SCRGSP: Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision
SHS:  Specialist Homelessness Services 
SHSC: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection
SOMIH:  State owned and managed Indigenous housing