Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018. Housing assistance in Australia 2018. Cat. no. HOU 296. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 24 January 2021, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/housing-assistance/housing-assistance-in-australia-2018
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018). Housing assistance in Australia 2018. Retrieved from https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/housing-assistance/housing-assistance-in-australia-2018
Housing assistance in Australia 2018. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 28 June 2018, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/housing-assistance/housing-assistance-in-australia-2018
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Housing assistance in Australia 2018 [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018 [cited 2021 Jan. 24]. Available from: https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/housing-assistance/housing-assistance-in-australia-2018
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2018, Housing assistance in Australia 2018, viewed 24 January 2021, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/housing-assistance/housing-assistance-in-australia-2018
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Housing assistance in Australia 2018 provides up-to-date information relating to government funded provision of social housing, rent assistance, purchase assistance and support services to help households maintain their tenancies.
Nationally, between 4% and 24% of dwellings were considered overcrowded, and between 7% and 26% underutilised in 2016–17
Community housing continues to grow, more than doubling between 2008–09 and 2016–17 (from 39,800 to 82,900 dwellings)
Waitlists for social housing remain long, with 189,400 households awaiting social housing allocation at 30 June 2017
812,900 tenants in 396,100 households were living in the main social housing programs across Australia in 2016–17
A large part of providing affordable housing that suits individuals and families is ensuring that a dwelling is of an adequate size and configuration to meet the needs of the household. However, ensuring the best fit between dwelling and household requirements is not a straightforward process. It is influenced by the availability of dwellings and dwelling configuration, as well as the age, condition and location of the property. This is in addition to the availability of options and specific household requirements (such as disability modifications), and the cost to relocate existing tenants, as well as their willingness to relocate.
The accepted standard by which the dwelling size requirements of a given household are measured in Australia is the Canadian National Occupancy Standard, commonly referred to as CNOS (see below).
Whilst the CNOS is a useful guide to the proportion of dwellings that may be underutilised, or the proportion of households potentially living in overcrowded conditions, there are some cases where a dwelling may not match a household size for good reason. For example, where custody of children is shared; where tenants may have live-in care arrangements; or to take into consideration future needs of children who may need separate bedrooms in years to come.
A measure of the appropriateness of housing that is sensitive to both household size and composition, the CNOS specifies that:
At 30 June 2017, the majority of social housing households (around 80%) were considered to be residing in dwellings adequate to their household composition (Table 5.1).
Mainstream community housing(c)
Source: AIHW National Housing Assistance Data Repository. See supplementary table MATCHING.1.
In basic terms, overcrowding occurs when the dwelling is too small for the size and composition of the household living in it. In Australia, a dwelling requiring at least 1 additional bedroom is designated as ‘overcrowded’, underpinned by the CNOS standard described above.
At 30 June 2017, 4% of public rental housing and 4% of mainstream community housing households were in overcrowded dwellings (see Table 5.1), similar to the previous year. Indigenous households had a higher proportion of overcrowding, with 24% of SOMIH dwellings classified as overcrowded. This is around six times the rate experienced in both public and community housing dwellings. In 2016–17, over 5,000 remote dwellings in the Northern Territory were included in the SOMIH data collection. Previously these were reported as 'NT remote public housing dwellings'. This inclusion of remote public housing dwellings has resulted in a substantial increase in the national proportion of overcrowding for SOMIH in 2016–17, up from 9% in 2015–16. Excluding these dwellings in the Northern Territory, 9% of SOMIH dwellings were overcrowded in 2016–17.
The proportion of households in overcrowded dwellings varied across social housing programs, jurisdictions and remoteness areas.
At 30 June 2017, the Northern Territory had the highest proportion of public housing households living in overcrowded dwellings (7%), followed by Tasmania (5%). SOMIH households in the Northern Territory experienced the highest proportion of overcrowding (56%). This is the result of the inclusion in 2016–17 of over 5,000 remote dwellings in the Northern Territory in the SOMIH data collection. The highest proportion of mainstream community households experiencing overcrowding was in New South Wales (7%) (See supplementary table OVER.2).
Overall, Indigenous households were more likely than non-Indigenous households to be living in overcrowded conditions. The higher level of overcrowding among Indigenous households may be associated with a number of factors, including cultural and social factors, higher levels of unmet demand for affordable housing, and geographical location limiting their housing options.
The proportion of Indigenous households in social housing living in overcrowded conditions generally increased with increasing remoteness. Indigenous households experiencing overcrowding in public rental housing, were more likely to be in Very remote (13%) and Remote (11%) areas than Major cities (8%). SOMIH households in Very remote (17%) and Outer regional (10%) areas were more likely to be living in overcrowded conditions than SOMIH households living in Major cities (8%) (see supplementary table OVER.3).
Between 2009–10 and 2016–17, the prevalence of overcrowding has varied across social housing programs (Figure 5.1). However, the proportion of SOMIH households living in overcrowded conditions has consistently remained more than double that of other social housing programs. Apart from a slight increase to 5% in 2012–13, overcrowding in public housing has remained stable at around 4% between 2009–10 and 2016–17. Overcrowding in community housing has increased from 3% to 4% between 2009–10 and 2016–17; at the same time this sector has seen considerable growth.
Overcrowding in SOMIH decreased slightly from 10% in 2009–10 to just under 9% in 2015–16. With the addition of over 5,000 remote public housing dwellings in the Northern Territory included in the SOMIH data collection in 2016–17, there has been an increase in the proportion of overcrowding, up 14 percentage points to 24% since 2009–10.
Source: AIHW National Housing Assistance Data Repository. See supplementary table OVER.4
Just as a dwelling can be overcrowded, it can also be underutilised. A dwelling is said to be underutilised when it consists of 2 or more bedrooms surplus to the household requirements, as determined by CNOS measures.
Underutilisation can arise as a household ages and children leave the family home. Tenants may have been living in a home for a number of years and their economic, social and community life is centred around that location, and there are no suitable alternatives for relocation. Underutilisation also occurs, in part, due to the public housing stock itself being dominated by family-sized homes with 3 or more bedrooms, in addition to problems faced by social housing providers needing to adjust rental dwelling size to accommodate changing household sizes.
At 30 June 2017, 17% of public housing and 7% of community housing households were in underutilised dwellings (see Table 5.1). Social housing targeted towards Indigenous households had the highest proportion of underutilisation, with 26% of SOMIH households living in underutilised dwellings (underutilisation data were not available for the NT remote public housing reported in SOMIH in 2017).
The proportion of households in underutilised dwellings varied by jurisdiction and remoteness areas across the social housing programs.
For public housing, South Australia had the highest proportion of households in underutilised dwellings at over 1 in 4 households (26%), followed by the Australian Capital Territory (17%). The Northern Territory had the lowest proportion of underutilisation (7%) (see supplementary table UNDER.5).
For SOMIH households, South Australia also reported the highest proportion of underutilisation (31%), followed by New South Wales (29%). Tasmania reported the lowest proportion of underutilisation (16%) across all states and territories.
For households in mainstream community housing dwellings, South Australia had the highest proportion of underutilisation (22%), followed by Tasmania (15%). The Australian Capital Territory experienced the lowest proportion of underutilisation, at around 2%.
The proportion of households in underutilised dwellings in public housing varied substantially across remoteness areas. Outer regional areas were most likely to be underutilised (22%), compared with 15% in Remote areas. Underutilisation of SOMIH dwellings ranged from 21% in Very remote areas to 27% in Major cities (see supplementary table UNDER.6).
Between 2011–12 and 2016–17, trends in underutilisation across mainstream community housing households have varied, whereas SOMIH and public housing underutilisation has remained relatively static over time (Figure 5.2).
Public housing underutilisation has remained steady between 2011–12 and 2016–17, at around 16%. SOMIH underutilisation has also remained fairly steady with a slight increase to 26% in 2016–17, from 23% in 2011–12. In contrast, underutilisation in mainstream community housing has fallen; from 11% in 2011–12 to 7% in 2016–17. Mainstream community housing has maintained comparatively low levels of underutilisation when compared with other social housing programs.
Source: AIHW National Housing Assistance Data Repository. See supplementary table UNDER.7.
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