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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1994  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/05/1994   
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Contents >> Housing >> Housing Stock: Housing the population

Housing Stock: Housing the population

Despite a decrease in the average number of occupants per dwelling, the size of dwellings has increased over the last thirty years.

Between 1961 and 1991 the number of dwellings in Australia more than doubled, from 3.0 million to 6.5 million. Over the same period the population increased by about 60%. The average number of occupants per dwelling has thus decreased from 3.6 in 1961 to 2.8 in 1991. Decreases were recorded for all types of dwelling and mainly reflected demographic changes in the structure of the population and of families. With the total fertility rate down from 3.6 children per woman in 1961 to 1.9 in 1991 (see Family - National summary tables), families now have, on average, fewer children. In addition, there has been an increase in the proportion of one parent families which are on average smaller than other types of families. Finally, the ageing of the population has led to an increase in the number of older people who live alone.

AVERAGE PERSONS PER DWELLING



Source: Census of Population and Housing



Types of dwellings
Most Australian dwellings are separate houses but their share of the total dwelling stock declined from 88% in 1961 to 78% in 1976. The share has since remained steady. The trend away from separate houses towards medium and higher density housing is related to a number of factors including the desire of government planners and private developers to meet the demand for lower priced accommodation and housing closer to employment centres. Growth in medium density housing in the 1960s and early 1970s was assisted by legislation which allowed separate title for units not on separately titled land. Government support for medium density housing has also strengthened in recent years with such initiatives as the establishment of the Housing Development Program in 1989 (which funded the 'Green Street' developments) and the development of the Building Better Cities program in 1991. These programs have included redevelopment directed towards better use of scarce land resources and infrastructure.

The proportion of dwellings which were unoccupied increased slightly over the 30 years 1961-91, from 7% to 9%. Unoccupied dwellings include holiday homes, temporarily vacant dwellings, recently built dwellings and dwellings for sale or lease.

NUMBERS AND TYPES OF PRIVATE DWELLINGS

1961
1971
1976
1981
1991
Dwelling type
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000

Occupied private dwellings
2,781.9
3,670.6
4,140.5
4,668.9
5,852.4
Unoccupied dwellings
194.1
339.1
431.2
469.7
597.6
Total
2,976.1
4,009.6
4,571.7
5,138.6
6,450.0
%
%
%
%
%
Separate houses
87.5
83.9
79.5
79.6
77.9
Other(a)
12.5
16.1
20.5
20.4
22.1

(a) Includes row, terrace and town house, flats and apartments.

Source: Census of Population and Housing


Dwelling size
Some insight into the size of dwellings can be obtained by examining the number of bedrooms per dwelling. Such data are not without limitations, however. Homes may have additional rooms which are not bedrooms e.g. study, family room, rumpus room etc. and room size will also vary. Nevertheless, the number of bedrooms provides a broad measure which can be used in combination with information on the floor area of newly constructed dwellings to assess changes in dwelling size.

The majority (59% in 1991) of separate houses have three bedrooms. However, the proportion with four or more bedrooms has increased, from 15% in 1971 to 24% in 1991. Furthermore, over the last 10 years, the average size of newly constructed private houses has risen by 12% to 187 square metres in 1992 (see Housing - National summary tables). Larger dwellings are on average housing fewer people than in the past.

Nature of occupancy
Home ownership has long been encouraged by Australian governments through successive Commonwealth-State Housing Agreements, and through various schemes which assisted first home buyers to obtain access to low deposit home loans. Furthermore, owner-occupied homes are exempt from capital gains tax and excluded from assets tests in assessing eligibility for government benefits.

Over the last 30 years the combined proportions of households who owned or were buying their homes has been reasonably stable at, or close to, 70%. However, there has been a shift in the respective proportions buying and owning. This reflects changes in the relative proportions of households in that part of the life-cyle where they are more likely to have paid off their mortgages. In addition, between 1981 and 1991 in particular, a number of other factors affected housing affordability. The deregulation of the financial markets and the associated increase in interest rates in the mid-1980s coupled with rising house prices affected the ability of households to raise loans to purchase dwellings. The increase in disposable income of dual earner families, resulting from the rise in labour force participation of married women, improved the capacity of buyers to pay off their mortgages and of renters to gain access to home ownership.

There was an increase in the proportion of households living in public housing, from 4% in 1961 to 6% in 1991, a consequence of the increased emphasis of government housing policy on public rental accommodation, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1991, 22% of the rental sector was public housing (see Public tenants).

TRENDS IN NATURE OF OCCUPANCY

1961
1971
1981
1991
Nature of occupancy
%
%
%
%

Owner
47.7
68.8(a)
35.1
42.9
Purchaser
22.5
(a)
35.0
28.8
Public renter
4.2
5.6
5.1
6.3
Private renter
23.3
22.3
20.6
20.7
Other(b)
2.2
3.3
4.2
1.4
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Owners and purchasers were not separately classified in 1971.
(b) Includes renting from a government agency other than a housing authority, and living rent free.

Source: Census of Population and Housing

NATURE OF OCCUPANCY BY AGE, 1991



Source: Census of Population and Housing



Life-cycle changes
Of the 16 million people counted in private dwellings in the 1991 Census, 40% were in dwellings owned by a household member, 34% were in dwellings being purchased by a household member and 26% were in rented dwellings. Whether a dwelling was owned, being purchased or rented is often related to the life-cycle stage of the occupants.

Children are most likely to live in houses being purchased, reflecting the tendency of young Australian families to start buying their own homes. In their late teens and early 20s people tend to leave the parental home and start renting. In their 20s and 30s people are likely to start buying their first home and in their 40s and 50s to pay off their mortgages. In 1991, by age 50 years, over half the population lived in homes owned by a member of their household, usually themselves or their spouse. At age 65 years, this had increased to 75%.

However, while older people had the highest rate of home ownership, after retirement, as incomes fall, so the rise in home ownership slowed and the proportion renting increased slightly. Furthermore, while the proportion of older people who rent was lower than for most other age groups, the pattern of renting differed, with the elderly having a greater tendency to rent public housing.

Differing housing needs
The kinds of housing people live in are also related to their life-cycle stage. In 1991 over 90% of couple families with children lived in separate houses compared to 82% of couples without children. Couples without children were more likely than those with children to own their homes outright (56% compared to 38%) because they tend, on average, to be older. The family reference person was over 55 years of age in 50% of couples without children compared to 5% of couples with children.

Reflecting their generally lower income and financial resources, one parent families were twice as likely to live in rental accommodation as two parent families and considerably more likely to live in public housing. One parent families were also less likely than couple families to be owners or purchasers (55% compared to 81%).

One person households and group households were the least likely to be living in separate houses, again a reflection of their life-cyle stage and housing needs. Group households are most likely to contain two young adults (see Changes in living arrangements) and rented medium or high density accommodation is likely to meet their locational and financial needs better than a house in the suburbs.

One person households have a higher than average rate of home ownership due to their older age structure. 47% of people in one person households were aged 60 years or over in 1991, and 75% of these were widowed.

DWELLING TYPE BY SELECTED FAMILY AND HOUSEHOLD TYPES, 1991

One parent family
Couple only family
Two parent family
Group household
One person household
All households

Dwelling type
%
%
%
%
%
%
'000

Separate house
76.8
81.5
92.7
55.9
55.4
78.3
4,471.2
Row/terrace etc.
10.7
7.5
3.1
15.3
14.3
7.7
442.6
Flat/apartment
11.0
9.1
3.1
26.6
26.5
11.4
653.6
Other(a)
1.5
1.9
1.1
2.2
3.8
2.5
143.4
Total(b)
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
5,749.4


(a) Includes improvised dwelling, caravan, camping out, house or flat attached to a shop, office etc.
(b) Includes dwelling type not stated.


Source: Census of Population and Housing


NATURE OF OCCUPANCY BY SELECTED FAMILY AND HOUSEHOLD TYPES, 1991

One parent family
Couple only family
Two parent family
Group household
One person household
All private dwellings
Nature of occupancy
%
%
%
%
%
%

Owner
31.8
56.2
38.3
14.1
48.9
43.0
Purchaser
22.7
23.6
42.6
15.7
13.7
29.0
Government renter
20.4
4.1
5.7
5.2
10.1
7.6
Private renter
25.1
16.1
13.3
65.1
27.2
20.4
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0


Source: Census of Population and Housing


Home ownership

In addition to varying with life-cycle stage, nature of occupancy also varies with the type of dwelling. In 1991, almost 90% of homes owned or being purchased were separate houses, indicative of the continuing strength of the 'great Australian dream' of owning a home on its own block of land. There has, however, been an increase in the purchase of flats and townhouses for owner-occupation.


In the private rental market about half of homes were separate houses and one-third were flats or apartments. Over half of all flats and apartments were rented privately.

NATURE OF OCCUPANCY AND DWELLING TYPE, 1991

Owner
Purchaser
Government renter
Private renter
All private dwellings
Dwelling type
%
%
%
%
%

Separate house
87.7
91.7
55.2
49.2
77.9
Row/terrace
5.1
4.0
21.9
13.8
7.8
Flat/apartment
4.8
3.5
22.4
32.7
11.7
Other(a)
2.4
0.7
0.5
4.4
2.5
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0


(a) Includes improvised dwelling, caravan, camping out, house or flat attached to shop, office etc.

Source: Census of Population and Housing





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