Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS): 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: 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).

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 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.

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.

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 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.

Homeless, for the purpose of defining greatest need, is a household with no housing or a household residing in temporary or emergency accommodation. It includes households who:

  • lived in accommodation provided by a specialist homelessness services agency or some other form of emergency accommodation
  • were totally without permanent shelter
  • lived in shelter that was unlawful such as those who were forced to live in derelict buildings
  • stayed temporarily with friends or relatives in the short term

homelessness: Homelessness can be defined in different ways for different purposes. Based on the ABS statistical 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);
  • has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable; or
  • does not allow them to have control of, and access to space for social relations (including personal or household living space, ability to maintain privacy and exclusive access to kitchen and bathroom facilities) (ABS 2018).

For the purpose of the Specialist Homelessness Services collection, a person is experiencing homelessness if they are:

  • in non-conventional accommodation or 'sleeping rough'; or
  • living in short-term or emergency accommodation due to a lack of other options.

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. Housing affordability is often measured using the proportion of households in financial 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 related to income. (Owner-occupiers without a mortgage cannot experience housing stress according to this definition.) Households considered to be in financial housing stress are those 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): 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. ICHOs may either own the dwellings they manage or lease them from a state housing authority

Indigenous household: A household 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.

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. It can also be referred to as Person 1 or Tenant 1 on application or tenancy forms, or the principal tenant, household head or the mortgagee

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

overcrowding: A situation in a dwelling when one or more additional bedrooms are required for a household 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. 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 Commonwealth Rent Assistance) 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 housing, state owned and managed Indigenous housing, community housing 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 (50 and over for SOMIH), 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. Services provided may 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 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.

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.

See the METeOR  Glossary items for more information.


Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018. Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016. ABS Cat. No. 2049.0. Canberra: ABS. 

World Health Organisation (WHO) 2011. World Report on Disability: Summary, WHO/NMH/VIP/11.01 Viewed 19 June 2019


ABS: Australian Bureau of Statistics
AHURI: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute

AGHDS: Australian Government Housing Data Set
AIHW: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
CH: Community housing
CHO: Community housing organisation
CNOS: Canadian National Occupancy Standard
COA: Commonwealth of Australia
COAG: Council of Australian Governments
CRA: Commonwealth Rent Assistance

DSS: Department of Social Services
FHOG: First Home Owner Grant
FTBA: Family Tax Benefit Part A
HPA: Home purchase assistance
IBA: Indigenous Business Australia
ICH: Indigenous community housing
ICHO: Indigenous community housing organisation

METeOR: Metadata Online Registry
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 housing
PRA: Private rent assistance

RA: Remoteness area
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

WHO: World Health Organisation

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