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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2003  
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Contents >> Housing >> Housing stock: Changes in Australian housing

Housing stock: Changes in Australian housing

Between 1991 and 2001 there was a 37% increase in higher density housing, and an 18% increase in separate houses.

During the last decade of the 20th century, a number of factors influenced the types of dwellings being added to Australia's housing stock. The demand for more variety in dwelling types was influenced by changes in the age structure of the population, household and family composition and size, as well as demand for lower priced accommodation and housing closer to employment centres.1

During this period, government and urban planners supported and promoted increased housing choice, essentially seeking to increase the availability of various types of higher density housing. Other factors influenced this policy push towards more higher density housing, including the price of land close to city centres, the infrastructure costs of developing non-urban land, and environmental concerns relating to the spread of urban development.


Dwellings
Data presented in this article are drawn from the 1991 and 2001 ABS Censuses of Population and Housing.

Private dwellings are separate houses; semidetached, row or terrace houses, townhouses; flats, units or apartments; and other dwellings (which includes caravans, cabins, houseboats; improvised homes, tents, sleepers out; houses or flats attached to a shop, office, etc.). Hotels, boarding houses, hostels, hospitals and prisons are regarded as non-private dwellings and are not discussed in this article.

In this article, dwellings refer to occupied private dwellings. Unoccupied private dwellings are excluded from this article.

Households include a group of two 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; or, a 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.

In this article, higher density housing refers to the combination of 'semidetached, row or terrace houses and townhouses' and 'flats, units and apartments'. Since the 1991 Census additional dwelling types were included in this category, which will have resulted in a small increase in the number of higher density dwellings in the 2001 Census.


Australia's housing stock
While influenced to a certain extent by overall population growth, demand for housing is more specifically influenced by changes in the number and composition of households occupying dwellings, as well as their financial situation. Between 1991 and 2001, Australia's population increased by 12% while the number of occupied private dwellings increased by 21%. Of the 1.2 million additional dwellings, separate houses represented 66% of the total increase and higher density housing represented 35% (other dwellings dropped by 1%).

OCCUPIED PRIVATE DWELLINGS(a)
Dwelling structure
1991
2001
Change in number of dwellings 1991-2001

%
%
%
Separate houses
78.0
75.9
17.5
Higher density housing
19.5
22.2
37.2
Semidetached, row or terrace house, townhouse etc.
7.8
9.0
39.6
Flat, unit or apartment
11.7
13.2
35.6
Other dwellings
2.5
1.9
-6.1

Total
100.0
100.0
20.8

'000
'000
'000

Total
5,852.5
7,072.2
1,219.7

(a) Dwellings where the dwelling structure was not stated were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.

Source: ABS 1991 and 2001 Censuses of Population and Housing.


The greater increase in the number of dwellings compared with population growth is largely due to social and demographic changes leading to smaller households. For example, fewer group households, declining marriage rates, an increasing number of divorces and an ageing population have all contributed to more and smaller households. Between 1991 and 2001 there was a 43% increase in the number of lone person households, a 37% increase in the number of lone-parent households and a 29% increase in the number of couple households without children. In contrast, the number of couple households with children increased by less than 1%.

Between 1991 and 2001, while the number of separate houses increased by 18%, the increase in the number of higher density dwellings was twice as high (37%). However, the faster growth in higher density housing did not dramatically change the balance of housing stock in Australia, with the number of separate houses decreasing slightly as a proportion of all dwellings (from 78% in 1991 to 76% in 2001). In 2001, there were 5.3 million separate houses compared with 1.6 million higher density dwellings.

Despite the trend toward smaller households and the slight shift towards higher density housing, the average number of bedrooms in Australian dwellings has increased over the past decade (2.97 bedrooms per dwelling in 2001 compared with 2.85 in 1991). The proportion of separate houses with four bedrooms increased from 20% in 1991 to 27% in 2001, while the proportion of higher density dwellings with three bedrooms increased from 18% in 1991 to 25% in 2001.

Geographic differences
Over the 10 years to 2001, the number of dwellings in Australia grew by 20% in Capital Cities, 45% in Large Population Centres and 6% in Country Areas. In each area, the majority of this growth was met by separate houses. Increases in the number of higher density dwellings were confined to Capital Cities and Large Population Centres. In the 10 years to 2001, the number of higher density dwellings increased by 72% in Large Population Centres and by 36% in Capital Cities. Despite this, in 2001, the proportion of housing that was higher density was still highest in Capital Cities (27% of all dwellings in these areas), compared with 21% of dwellings in Large Population Centres and 9% of dwellings in Country Areas.

Between 1991 and 2001, the growth in higher density housing varied between Capital Cities. In Sydney, higher density housing increased at more than three times the rate of separate houses, with a similar pattern observed in Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra. In 2001, Hobart had the highest proportion of separate houses (83%) of all Capital Cities, and was the only capital city where the number of separate houses increased at a faster rate than higher density housing. In Adelaide and Perth the rates of increase were similar across the two housing types. Overall, in 2001, Sydney had the highest proportion of higher density housing across the Capital Cities (36% of all dwellings in this city), followed by Darwin (30%). The lowest proportions of higher density housing were in Hobart (16%) and Brisbane (18%).

SELECTED OCCUPIED PRIVATE DWELLINGS: GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION(a) - 2001
Separate houses
Higher density housing


2001
Change in number of dwellings 1991-2001
2001
Change in number of dwellings 1991-2001
Total dwellings(b)
%
%
%
%
'000

Capital Cities
72.4
16.1
26.7
36.2
4 453.4
Sydney
63.7
10.2
35.5
36.5
1 438.4
Melbourne
74.5
13.9
24.7
36.0
1 243.4
Brisbane
80.6
25.9
18.3
73.5
601.1
Adelaide
75.5
13.5
24.0
13.9
430.2
Perth
77.9
26.1
21.5
30.5
511.2
Hobart
83.1
15.4
16.2
8.2
76.1
Darwin
62.6
32.8
29.8
55.4
38.2
Canberra
76.9
18.0
22.8
49.6
114.7
Large Population Centres
76.8
40.0
20.8
71.5
1 257.9
Country Areas
86.5
7.0
8.5
-0.1
1 361.0

Australia
75.9
17.5
22.2
37.2
7,072.2

(a) Dwellings where the dwelling structure was not stated were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.
(b) Includes Other dwellings.

Source: ABS 1991 and 2001 Censuses of Population and Housing.


Geographical classifications
This article uses a range of different geographic classifications from the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC). For further information see Statistical Geography: Volume 1 - Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), 2001 (ABS cat. no. 1216.0).

To examine the distribution of dwellings, Australia is divided into three areas. Capital Cities are Capital City Statistical Divisions from each of the Australian states and territories. Large Population Centres are Statistical Districts (excluding the Canberra Statistical Division), which are predominantly urban areas that contain population centres totalling 25,000 persons or more (e.g. Newcastle and Geraldton) and which are not located within a Capital City Statistical Division. The remainder of Australia is referred to as Country Areas.

Characteristics of residents
Australians' housing choices tend to be related to the life-cycle stages through which many households progress. Australians tend to follow the pattern of renting in early adulthood, moving to purchasing and paying off a home when forming relationships and raising a family, and owning the home outright (i.e. without a mortgage) in older age (see Australian Social Trends 2001, Housing experience through life-cycle stages).

Overall, the dwelling choice of the life-cycle groups examined changed little between 1991 and 2001. In 2001, lone persons aged less than 35 years were the life-cycle group most likely to live in higher density housing (52%). One-third of young couples (with a male partner aged less than 35 years) without children lived in higher density housing (105,000 families), compared with 8% of couple families with dependent children (144,000 families). Higher density housing may offer young people a more affordable option when renting or purchasing a dwelling. In addition, the location and relatively easy maintenance of many higher density dwellings may also suit their lifestyles.

Families with dependent children were far more likely to live in separate houses than higher density housing. In 2001, 92% of couple families with dependent children (1.7 million families) and 78% of one-parent families with dependent children lived in separate houses (386,000 families). Older couples (with a male partner aged 65 years or over) without children were also more likely to live in separate houses (84% in 2001) than higher density housing. In contrast, older lone persons (aged 65 years or over) were more than twice as likely to live in higher density housing (38% in 2001) than older couples.

LIFE-CYCLE GROUPS BY HOUSING DENSITY(a)
Separate houses
Higher density housing


1991
2001
1991
2001
Selected life-cycle groups
%
%
%
%

Lone person aged under 35 years
44.7
44.7
50.3
52.3
Couple only, male partner aged under 35 years
69.4
66.2
28.4
33.0
Couple, dependent children(b)
92.5
91.8
6.5
7.7
One-parent family, dependent children(b)
74.9
77.8
23.6
21.4
Couple only, male partner aged 65 years or over
84.6
84.1
14.3
14.8
Lone person aged 65 years or over
61.9
60.5
36.2
37.7

Total(c)
78.0
75.9
19.5
22.2

(a) Dwellings where the dwelling structure was not stated were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.
(b) Dependent children includes children under the age of 15 years and full-time students aged 15-24 years.
(c) Includes life-cycle groups not specified.

Source: ABS 1991 and 2001 Censuses of Population and Housing.


Tenure type varied according to the type of dwelling, as well as the life-cycle stage of households. In 2001, higher density housing was more likely to be rented (60%) than separate houses (18%). Almost half (47%) of separate houses were owned outright, while 33% were being purchased. On the other hand, 24% of higher density dwellings were owned outright and 13% were being purchased. The comparatively high rate of outright home ownership among lone persons aged 65 years or over (75% in 2001) is likely to have contributed to the greater outright ownership rate for higher density dwellings (24%), compared with the proportion being purchased (13%). On the other hand, the high proportion of lone persons aged less than 35 years who pay rent for their dwelling (60%) may be a factor contributing to the high proportion of higher density dwellings that are rented.

DWELLINGS BY TENURE TYPE(a) - 2001
Graph - Dwellings by tenure type - 2001

(a) Dwellings where the dwelling structure was not stated were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.

Source: ABS 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


Housing occupancy
In 2001, few separate houses and higher density dwellings in Australia were overcrowded (according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard), with 3% and 4% respectively requiring one or more extra bedrooms to meet the minimum bedroom requirement. In contrast, a large proportion of dwellings had bedrooms in excess of the minimum set by this standard. In 2001, 75% of separate houses and 53% of higher density housing had rooms in excess of the standard. This includes 43% of separate houses and 12% of higher density housing which had two or more bedrooms above minimum requirement.


Housing occupancy
The Canadian National Occupancy Standard for housing suitability is often used to assess the bedroom requirements of a household according to its size and composition, and specifies that:
  • there should be no more than two persons per bedroom
  • a single, lone person may occupy a bedsitter (i.e. no bedrooms)
  • couples are expected to share a bedroom
  • children less than 18 years of age and of the same sex are expected to share a bedroom
  • children less than 5 years of age are expected to share a bedroom with siblings less than 5 years of age of the opposite sex;
  • single household members 18 years or over should have a separate bedroom.

Households living in dwellings where this standard cannot be met are considered to be overcrowded (i.e. have insufficient bedrooms).

HOUSING OCCUPANCY(a)(b) - 2001
Graph - Housing occupancy - 2001

(a) Dwellings where the dwelling structure was not stated were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.
(b) Based on the Canadian National Occupancy Standard for housing suitability.

Source: ABS 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


The degree of overcrowding (i.e. insufficient number of bedrooms) in Australian dwellings declined slightly from 5% in 1991 to 3% in 2001. There has also been a decrease in the proportion of dwellings with the exact number of bedrooms required by the standard. In 2001, 20% of dwellings had just the minimum required number of bedrooms, compared with 25% in 1991. Consistent with smaller household sizes and an increase in the average number of bedrooms in homes, the number of dwellings with bedrooms in excess of the minimum requirement increased over the 10 years to 2001. In 2001, 35% of dwellings had two or more bedrooms above the minimum requirement compared with 27% in 1991.

Families with dependent children were the most likely to live in one of the 239,000 dwellings that had insufficient bedrooms, with 45% of these dwellings containing couple families with children and 23% containing one-parent families. On the other hand, couple families without children were the life-cycle group who were most likely to live in dwellings with two or more bedrooms above the minimum requirement (48% of these dwellings in 2001). However, only a small proportion of all dwellings with two or more bedrooms above the minimum requirement contained couple families without children where the male partner was aged less than 35 years (8%). This is consistent with many older couples remaining in the family home after their children have left home.

SELECTED LIFE-CYCLE GROUPS: HOUSING OCCUPANCY(a)(b) - 2001
Proportion of households with:

Insufficient bedrooms
Minimum number of bedrooms
One bedroom above minimum requirement
Two or more bedrooms
above minimum requirement
All households(e)

%
%
%
%
%
Lone person aged under 35 years
-
4.6
5.0
4.8
4.4
Couple only, male partner aged under 35 years
1.0
1.9
4.4
7.5
4.5
Couple with dependent children(c)
45.4
38.9
33.8
13.4
26.4
Lone parent with dependent children(c)
22.7
14.2
7.3
1.5
7.1
Couple only, male partner aged 65 years or over
0.7
1.0
5.5
16.3
7.8
Lone person aged 65 years or over
-
6.9
9.4
10.7
8.6

All households(d)
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

'000
'000
'000
'000
'000

All households(d)
238.6
1,410.6
2,367.9
2,456.2
7,072.2

no.
no.
no.
no.
no.

Average number of bedrooms
2.5
2.4
2.8
3.5
2.9

(a) Dwellings where the dwelling structure was not stated were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.
(b) Based on the Canadian National Occupancy Standard for housing suitability.
(c) Dependent children includes children under the age of 15 years and full-time students aged 15-24 years.
(d) Includes life-cycle groups not specified.
(e) Includes not applicable, and unable to determine.

Source: ABS 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


Endnotes
1 Yates, J. 2002, Housing implications of social, spatial and structural change, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Sydney.

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