Social housing dwellings
On this page:
- At June 2022, there were around 442,700 social housing dwellings.
- The majority of social housing dwellings were public housing (297,600 dwellings or 67%); a decrease from 341,400 (84%) in 2006.
- The number of community housing dwellings more than tripled from 30,100 dwellings in 2006 to 112,800 in 2022, steadily rising ever year, mainly due to the transfer of ownership or management of public housing dwellings to community housing organisations during this period.
- The most common social housing dwelling type was flats, units, or apartments, and dwellings most commonly had 3 bedrooms.
- The majority (69%) of social housing dwellings were located in Major cities.
There is considerable variation in the number of dwellings and dwelling attributes across the four main social housing programs in Australia (public housing, state owned and managed Indigenous housing or SOMIH, community housing and Indigenous community housing). The variation in dwelling numbers and attributes is in part a reflection of the various housing programs in place across states and territories and changes in policies and programs over time.
The information presented throughout this report provides insights into dwelling stock variability and is a snapshot in time describing tenantable status and housing provision of Australia’s social housing system and programs in 2021–22.
What is a dwelling?
In this report, a dwelling is defined as a structure, or a discrete space within a structure, intended for a person or group of people to live.
Dwelling types include:
- a separate house
- a semi-detached, row or terrace house, townhouse, etc.
- a flat, unit, apartment, or cabin, etc.
A full list of dwelling types can be found METEOR.
For more information on how dwellings differ to households see Households.
The concept of a dwelling may be different across the social housing collections; see the Data quality statements page for more information.
At June 2022, there were around 442,700 dwellings in Australia’s four main social housing programs, of which (Table DWELLINGS.1):
- 67% or 297,600 dwellings were public housing (PH)
- 25% or 112,800 dwellings were community housing (CH)
- 3.2% or 14,300 dwellings were state owned and managed Indigenous housing (SOMIH)
- 4.1% or 18,000 dwellings were Indigenous community housing (ICH).
Social housing dwellings changes over time
From June 2006 to 2022, Australia’s social housing stock increased by around 36,200 dwellings (Table DWELLINGS.1).
There have been considerable changes to the composition of social housing stock among the four programs, including the transfer of ownership and/or management of public housing dwelling stock to community housing organisations, involving:
- A transfer of a large number of dwellings from public housing and SOMIH to community housing in South Australia and New South Wales (an additional 4,100 and 11,200 dwellings respectively) between 2018 and 2019.
- The transfer of around 5,000 dwellings from Indigenous community housing to NT remote public housing between 2008 and 2010.
- A transfer of over 2,000 Tasmanian public housing dwellings to community housing between 2021 and 2022.
- The number of SOMIH dwellings has fluctuated between 2006 and 2016 due to stock transfers. A transfer of approximately 5,000 NT remote public housing dwellings to the SOMIH program in 2017, has led to a relatively stable number of SOMIH dwellings since 2017.
From 2006 to 2022 (Figure DWELLINGS.1; Table DWELLINGS.1):
- The number of public housing dwellings decreased from 341,400 in 2006 to 297,600 in 2022.
- The number of community housing dwellings increased over three-fold from 30,100 in 2006 to 112,800 in 2022.
- There was a decrease in the number of Indigenous community housing dwellings from 22,200 in 2006 to 18,000 in 2022.
- The number of SOMIH dwellings fluctuated as a result of stock transfers.
Over time, the above data shows a gradual but steady shift towards growing the community housing sector.
Figure DWELLINGS.1: Dwellings by social housing program, at June 2006 to 2022
This vertical stacked bar graph shows that from 2006 to 2022, public housing has consistently had the most social housing dwellings. The number of public housing dwellings decreased from 341,400 (or 84%) in 2006 to 297,600 (or 67%) in 2022.The number of community housing dwellings increased from 30,100 (or 7.4%) in 2006 to 112,800 (or 25%) in 2022. The number of SOMIH dwellings increased from 12,900 (3.2%) in 2006 to 14,300 (3.2%) in 2022. The number of Indigenous community housing dwellings decreased from 22,200 (5.5%) in 2006 to 18,000 (4.1%) in 2022.
States and territories
At June 2022, there was considerable variation in the profile of social housing across states and territories (Figure DWELLINGS.2; Table DWELLINGS.2).
- New South Wales had the highest number of public and community housing dwellings (96,700 and 54,300 dwellings, respectively).
- For Indigenous community housing, New South Wales (5,500) had the most dwellings, followed closely by Queensland (5,200 dwellings).
- For SOMIH, the Northern Territory (5,400) had the most dwellings.
- For New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory, the majority of dwellings were public housing (60–92%), followed by community housing (8–34%).
- From 2015 to 2021, Tasmania had a near equal proportion of public housing (around 49%) and community housing (around 45%) dwellings (about 7,000 dwellings per housing program). However, due to public housing stock transfer in 2021–22, community housing dwellings (9,300) now outnumber public housing dwellings (5,000).
- The majority of Northern Territory social housing dwellings were SOMIH (43% or 5,400), followed by public housing (39% or 4,900 dwellings), and Indigenous community housing (14% or 1,800 dwellings).
Figure DWELLINGS.2: Dwellings by social housing program by state or territory, at June 2014 to 2022
Figure DWELLINGS.2: Dwellings, by social housing program, by state or territory, at June 2014 to 2022. This vertical stacked bar graph shows the variation in the number of dwellings in each social housing program (public housing, SOMIH, community housing and Indigenous community housing) across states and territories by number and per cent. In 2022, the Australian Capital Territory (92%) had the highest proportion of public housing dwellings, while Tasmania (34%) had the lowest proportion. Tasmania had the highest proportion of community housing dwellings (64%), while the Northern Territory had the lowest (3.9%) in 2022. New South Wales had the highest number of Indigenous community housing dwellings increasing from 4,700 in 2014 to 5,500 dwellings in 2022.
The location of social housing is an important component of the suitability of a dwelling for an occupant. Location is associated with access to amenities, employment opportunities, health services, and transportation services (AIHW 2022). For further information on the suitability of social housing in terms of location, see the National Social Housing Survey 2021: Did the location of a tenant’s home meet their needs?
The location of social housing largely reflects the geographic distribution of the population of Australia, with large concentrations of people living in urban centres of both the south-east and east coasts. Further, dwellings managed by the four different social housing programs align with where target groups of each program are largely situated.
The proportion of social housing dwellings vary across remoteness areas.
At June 2022 (Table DWELLINGS.3):
- Most of the public and community housing dwellings were in Major cities (76% and 65% of dwellings, respectively).
- Most of the SOMIH and Indigenous community housing dwellings were in Very remote areas (33% and 50%, respectively).
What is the Australian Statistical Geography Standard?
The Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) is a classification of Australia into a social geography to reflect the location of people and communities to assist in the publication and analysis of social, economic, and demographic statistics. The ASGS categorises the regions of Australia into a hierarchy of statistical areas and consists of ABS structures and non-ABS structures (such as local government and postal areas). The ABS structures are made up of six interconnected hierarchies of regions. It is an inclusive hierarchy of geographies, where each level is included (or excluded) directly into (or from) the next (ABS 2021). For further information on the ASGS and the structures, see the latest release of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard.
Statistical Area level 4 (SA4) refers to the geographical area of sub-state regions in the main structure of the Australia Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS). SA4 broadly represents the labour markets or groups of labour markets within each state and territory, with the boundaries reflecting the separation of sub-state regions by different labour markets. For the largest regional cities, including Wollongong and Townsville, SA4s broadly reflects the labour markets of the city. For outer regional and remote area, SA4s broadly reflects the aggregation of smaller and localised labour markets that are geographically, socially, and economically similar (ABS 2021).
Across the states and territories, the number of dwellings managed by the different social housing programs varied by geographical region.
In 2022 (Figure DWELLINGS.3; Table DWELLINGS.4):
- Melbourne – Inner had the highest number of social housing dwellings, with 19,300 dwellings, Sydney – Parramatta, City and Inner South, and Inner South West regions, followed by Adelaide - North dwelling numbers ranging from 14,100 to 13,200 dwellings.
- the highest number of public housing dwellings was in Melbourne – Inner, with 14,800 dwellings, followed by the Australian Capital Territory, with 10,700 dwellings, followed by the Sydney areas of Paramatta (10,600), Inner South West (10,300), and City and Inner South (10,200).
- the highest numbers of community housing dwellings were in the Hunter Valley excluding Newcastle (4,600), Melbourne – Inner (4,500) and Hobart (4,200).
Similarly, the number of total social housing dwellings varied across Local Government Areas (LGA). Brisbane LGA (19,000) and the ACT (11,700) had the highest numbers of social housing dwellings, followed by Sydney, Canterbury-Bankstown and Blacktown, with total dwellings ranging from 10,400 to 11,100 (Table DWELLINGS.5).
Figure DWELLINGS.3: Number of dwellings by social housing program Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4), at June 2022
Click on the interactive map to explore the data
- For the best experience use Chrome, Edge or Firefox browsers. For more information on browser compatibility, see Supported browsers
- Best viewed on a desktop, laptop or tablet.
Occupancy describes whether a dwelling is occupied under a formal tenancy agreement. In social housing, the rate of occupancy is calculated by analysing occupied dwellings in reference to total social housing dwellings for the reference year. The occupancy rate is influenced by tenancy turnover, changes to the number of available dwellings over time, as well as the need for redevelopment or replacement of dwellings whereby major maintenance work needs to be completed before dwellings can be allocated to a new household.
In Australia, social housing occupancy rates have remained high year to year. At June 2022, public housing (97%) had the highest occupancy rate of all housing programs, followed by community housing (95%), SOMIH (95%), and Indigenous community housing (94%) (Table DWELLINGS.6).
At June 2022 (Table DWELLINGS.6):
- For public housing, the highest occupancy rates were in Queensland (98%) and Tasmania (98%). The lowest occupancy rate was in Victoria (95%).
- The highest occupancy rate for SOMIH was in Queensland (99%) compared to the Northern Territory, which had the lowest occupancy rate (90%).
- For community housing, the highest occupancy rate was in New South Wales (98%), whereas the lowest was in the Australian Capital Territory (77%).
- For Indigenous Community Housing, Tasmania had the highest rate of occupancy (98%), with the lowest rate in Western Australia (87%).
The tenantable status of a dwelling relates to whether a dwelling provides a certain level of basic amenity, and that maintenance is completed to the required minimum level (see also NSHS 2021: were tenants satisfied with maintenance services?).
At June 2022, almost all public housing dwellings were tenantable (99% or 293,500); higher than the proportion of SOMIH (97% or 13,800) and community housing dwellings (93% or 105,400) (Table DWELLINGS.8).
Around 3,500 (1.2%) public housing dwellings were not tenantable and over 600 (0.2%) were undergoing major development. For SOMIH, over 400 (3.1%) dwellings were not tenantable, and 32 (0.2%) undergoing major development. A similar proportion of community housing dwellings were not tenantable (2.1% or over 2,300).
Data were not available for Indigenous community housing dwellings.
At June 2022, most public housing dwellings were a separate house (37%), flat, unit or apartment (35%) or semi-detached, townhouse, etc. (27%). In comparison, the vast majority of SOMIH dwellings were a separate house (82%), followed by a relatively small proportion of semi-detached, townhouse etc. (15%). This pattern of SOMIH dwelling types likely reflects the location of dwellings and the target group. More than half of all community housing dwellings were a flat, unit or apartment (52%), followed by a separate house (30%) (Figure DWELLINGS.4; Table DWELLINGS.9).
The proportion of the different dwelling types has varied over time among public housing and community housing dwelling, while SOMIH has remained relatively stable.
From June 2012 to 2022 (Figure DWELLINGS.4; Table DWELLINGS.9):
- In public housing, there was a decrease of around 19,400 separate houses.
- There was an increase in the proportion of flat, unit or apartment type dwellings in community housing; from 43% in 2012 to 52% in 2022.
Number of bedrooms
At June 2022 (Figure DWELLINGS.4; Table DWELLINGS.10):
- Public housing dwellings were most likely to have 3 bedrooms (36% or 105,900 dwellings), followed by 2 bedroom dwellings (31% or 93,500).
- The majority of SOMIH dwellings were 3 bedroom dwellings (58% or 8,400 dwellings), with very few 1 bedroom dwellings (2.3% or 300).
- Community housing dwellings were most commonly 2 bedroom (37% or 39,800) or 1 bedroom (32% or 34,200) dwellings.
- Around half of Indigenous community housing dwellings were 3 bedroom dwellings (49% or 6,600) and a further 24% (or 3,300) were 4 bedroom dwellings.
Over time, the proportion of 3 bedrooms dwellings declined among public housing stock (39% in 2012 to 36% in 2022), SOMIH (62% in 2012 to 58% in 2022) and Indigenous community housing (51% in 2014 to 49% in 2022).
Figure DWELLINGS.4: Dwellings by dwelling type, number of bedrooms and social housing program, at June 2012 to 2022
Figure DWELLINGS.4: Dwelling type and number of bedrooms by social housing program, at June 2012 to 2022. This figure consists of two sections with both showing a vertical stacked bar chart of social housing program. The first section shows a comparison of the number of dwellings by dwelling type across social housing programs from 2012 to 2022. In 2022, the most common dwelling type in both public housing (110,000) and SOMIH (11,700) were separate houses, while for community housing the most common dwelling were flats, units, or apartments (55,300). The second section shows a comparison of dwellings by number of bedrooms across social housing programs. In 2022, 3 bedroom dwellings were the most common number of bedrooms for public housing (106,000), SOMIH (8,400) and Indigenous community housing (6,600). In contrast, the most common number of bedrooms in community housing (39,800) dwellings were 2 bedrooms.
Community housing and Indigenous community housing dwellings are managed by non-government organisations. At June 2022 there were (Table DWELLINGS.11):
- Around 520 community housing providers across Australia, a decrease from 531 providers the previous year. The majority (71% or 370) of these providers managed less than 50 dwellings.
- Over 200 Indigenous community housing providers. Nearly half of these providers managed fewer than 20 dwellings (Table DWELLINGS.11).
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (2021) ‘Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) Edition 3’, ABS Website, accessed on 29 April 2022.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2022) ‘National Social Housing Survey 2021’, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed on 28 February 2023.