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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2000  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/07/2000   
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Contents >> Housing >> Housing Stock: Caravan park residents

Housing Stock: Caravan park residents

The number of caravan park residents decreased by 32% between the 1991 and 1996 censuses.

There were 10,000 fewer family households in caravan parks in 1996 than in 1991.

Counting caravan park residents
Caravan park residents can be identified in 1996 Census data on the basis that: their dwelling type was 'caravan, cabin, houseboat'; their dwelling location was a caravan park; and they indicated that the dwelling was their usual residence. People who indicated that their usual residence was elsewhere in Australia were classified as visitors to caravan parks.

Visitors to caravan parks
There were 61,300 visitors counted at the 1996 Census, similar to the count of 62,300 in 1991. As the number of residents decreased while the number of visitors remained about the same, the ratio of residents to visitors fell, from 1.6 to 1.1. Ratios were much lower in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia than in other States in both censuses. In 1996 the Northern Territory had the lowest ratio (0.4). The Australian Capital Territory had the highest (8.9). However, this was an extreme case: the ACT had few caravan park residents and even fewer visitors. The second highest ratio was 2.9 (in Victoria).


Caravan park residents began to attract the attention of Australian social policy analysts towards the end of the 1970s, when mobile home living was a topical subject in the United States, and caravan sales increased in Australia. Caravan park living was seen as a form of housing which had the potential to socially marginalise the residents.1 It was argued that, as a very low cost form of housing, caravan parks would tend to attract disadvantaged people, many of whom had special needs. Their problems might then be compounded by living in a caravan park, even though it was probably their least expensive housing option.2

In Australia, caravan parks had been regulated mainly as tourist accommodation, which for various reasons, it was thought, made them unsuitable for permanent residence.1 Zoning restrictions meant they were located away from residential areas and associated services. Residents lacked tenancy and other consumer rights. Caravans were not covered by residential building codes and, furthermore, the amenities of parks were not necessarily designed for long-term residence. In addition, there was a degree of social stigma attached to caravan park living. Residents reported difficulty in obtaining goods and services on credit, and in using local community services, such as libraries, through being seen as itinerant and lacking in assets.2

Various inquiries into caravan-park living were held at this time, and policies were developed across a diverse range of agencies.1 There was naturally an interest in the demographic characteristics of caravan park residents. The 1986 Census was the first in which residents were distinguished from visitors in caravan parks. It was found that around 105,600 people (about two thirds of those in caravan parks on 1986 Census night) were residents, making up 0.7% of the Australian population. By 1991 their number had decreased by 4%, to 101,800 (see Australian Social Trends 1994, Caravan park residents).

CARAVAN PARK RESIDENTS, BY STATE AND TERRITORY, 1991 AND 1996

Residents
in 1991(a)
Residents
in 1996
Decrease in number of residents, 1991 to 1996
Proportion of
population 1996(b)
no.
no.
%
%

New South Wales
34,040
22,810
33.0
0.4
Victoria
12,270
8,550
30.3
0.2
Queensland
36,570
23,630
35.4
0.7
South Australia
4,120
2,570
37.7
0.2
Western Australia
9,870
7 960
19.4
0.5
Tasmania
800
630
21.8
0.1
Northern Territory
3,540
2,350
33.4
1.3
Australian Capital Territory
550
340
38.0
0.1
Australia
101,800
68,850
32.3
0.4

(a) Includes residents of boats in marinas, whereas in 1996 Census data marina residents can be enumerated separately and are not included here. In 1996 there were 1,600 such residents.
(b) Caravan park residents as a proportion of the Australian population.

Source: Unpublished data, 1991 and 1996 Censuses of Population and Housing.


Fewer people live in caravan parks

A much more substantial decrease (32%) was recorded between the 1991 and 1996 Censuses. The number of caravan park residents decreased from 101,800 to 68,800. Decreases were recorded in all States and Territories, ranging from 19% in Western Australia to 38% in South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

The distribution of caravan park residents by State and Territory was not greatly affected by these decreases. As in previous censuses, the warmer climate States, Queensland and Western Australia and the Northern Territory, had a greater share of caravan park residents than they did of the total population, while the reverse was true in the cooler southern States. New South Wales’ share of caravan park residents (33%) was roughly in line with its share of the total population (34%).

In contrast to the total population, caravan park residents tended to be located away from major urban areas (those with a population of at least 100,000). Although about 29% of caravan park residents did live in such areas, a much larger group (42%) lived in other urban areas (those with populations from 1,000 to 99,999). Also, the number living in major urban areas was matched by the 29% who lived either in small towns (bounded localities with populations from 200 to 999) or other rural areas. In each of these latter three areas, caravan park residents made up a larger proportion of the total population (about 0.8% in each case) than they did in major urban areas (0.2%).

The number of caravan park residents decreased in all four areas between 1991 and 1996. The decreases in bounded localities (47%) and the balance of rural areas (44%) were higher than in major urban areas (26%) or other urban areas (26%). The decrease in the rural balance made the largest contribution to the overall decrease (39%).

GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION, 1996

GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION, 1996 - GRAPH

Source: Unpublished data, 1996 Census of Population and Housing.


Fewer family households
In both 1986 and 1991, different types of households predominated in caravan parks compared to the total population. There were proportionally more males living alone, and more older couple-only households than among the total population, and proportionally fewer couples with dependant children. This pattern has been accentuated since 1991, as most types of family households living in caravan parks recorded greater proportional decreases than other household types.

There were about 10,000 fewer family households in caravan parks in 1996 than in 1991, a decrease of 39%. Households of couples with dependant children decreased by 59%, and lone parents with dependant children fell by 35%. The large group of couple-only households decreased by 32%, from about 15,000 to about 10,000. The decrease in group households (38%) was similar to that for family households, but the decrease in lone-person households was considerably lower (9%).

As a result, the contrast between household types in caravan parks and the total population was sharper in 1996. For example, lone persons made up 59% of households in caravan parks, compared to 23% in the total population, whereas they had made up 47% in 1991.

TYPES OF HOUSEHOLDS, 1991 AND 1996

Households in caravan parks
Households in total population

1991
1996
1996

Household type
no.
no.
%(a)
%(a)

Lone persons
27,220
24,690
58.6
22.8
Family households(b)
26,000
15,970
37.9
72.9
Couple-only family
14,880
10,130
24.0
24.0
Couple & dependant child/children(c)
5,770
2,360
5.6
25.7
Lone parent & dependant child/children(c)
2,880
1,860
4.4
5.9
Group households
2,440
1,500
3.6
4.2
Total(a)
58,010
43,960
100.0
100.0

(a) The total number includes some households which were not classifiable by type. These have been excluded when calculating proportions.
(b) Includes other family types, therefore specified family types will not add to total family households. There were a small number of households of more than one family, in these cases the family type is that of the primary family.
(c) dependant children include any child under 15 years and dependant students under 25. These families may include other members in addition to the parent/s and dependant children.

Source: Unpublished data, 1991 and 1996 Censuses of Population and Housing.


Age and sex composition of residents

In line with the greater proportional decrease in the number of people living in families than other residents, were changes in the age and sex composition of residents. Between 1991 and 1996, the larger proportional decreases were among younger people and females.

The age group 35-44 years decreased by about the same proportion as did total caravan park residents (just over 32%). Age groups younger than this recorded decreases ranging from 45% to 51% (with the greatest decreases among children). Older age groups recorded decreases ranging from 6% to 19%.

The number of female residents decreased by 37% while the number of male residents decreased by 29%. Males aged 75-84 years were the only group to increase in caravan parks (by 2%). In other age groups the number of both males and females decreased, and in each age group over 14 years there was a greater proportional decrease among females than males.

These changes in age and sex composition also increased the contrast with the total population. In 1996, males made up 60% of caravan park residents, compared to 57% in 1991 and to about 49% of the total population at both censuses. People aged 45 years and over made up 52% compared to 42% in 1991 and to just under a third of the total population at both censuses.

SEX, AGE AND LIVING ARRANGEMENTS OF CARAVAN PARK RESIDENTS, 1991 AND 1996

1991
1996
Decrease 1991 to 1996


no.
%(a)
no.
%(a)
%

Males
57,900
56.9
41,180
59.8
28.9
Females
43,860
43.1
27,670
40.2
36.9
Age group (years)
    Under 15
13,950
13.7
6,820
9.9
51.1
    15-24
15,420
15.2
8,060
11.7
47.7
    25-34
16,100
15.8
8,820
12.8
45.2
    35-44
13,520
13.3
9,100
13.2
32.7
    45-54
14,000
13.8
11,340
16.5
19.0
    55-64
14,190
13.9
11,620
16.9
18.1
    65-74
10,530
10.4
9,340
13.6
11.4
    75-84
3,610
3.5
3,390
4.9
6.2
    85 and over
430
0.4
370
0.5
15.0
Living arrangements
    Living alone
27,220
28.0
24,690
37.7
9.3
    In a family
64,840
66.8
37,660
57.5
41.9
    In a group
5,040
5.2
3,110
4.7
38.3
Total(a)
101,800
100.0
68,850
100.0
32.3

(a) Total number includes some residents who could not be classified by living arrangement, so components do not add to total. Proportions by living arrangements have been calculated with unclassifiable residents excluded from the total.


Labour force status, occupation and education

In 1996, 47% of caravan park residents were in the labour force (that is, either working or looking for work). This was a lower proportion than in the total population (62%), partly because caravan parks contain relatively more people in the retirement or early retirement age ranges (over 50 years). However, labour force participation was lower for caravan park residents than for the total population in all age groups except youth (ages 15-24 years). Youth in caravan parks had a higher labour force participation rate than the total population, consistent with their lower participation in full-time study (12% compared to 42%).

The labour force participation rate was lower in 1996 than 1991 among male caravan park residents in each ten-year age group, while among females it was lower in younger age groups but slightly higher in older age groups (over 45 years).

Of caravan park residents in the labour force, 71% were employed. The more common occupations among employed males were tradesmen and related workers (25%), production or transport workers (23%) and labourers and related workers (20%). Employed females included many clerical, sales and service workers (45%) and labourers and related workers (21%).

The majority of caravan park residents (78%) either had no post-school qualifications or did not describe them sufficiently for classification. The most common highest qualification that residents had attained was a skilled vocational qualification (13%), with the remaining 9% spread across the several other types of post-school qualification.

The unemployment rate of 29% among caravan park residents was much higher than the rate of 9% recorded for the total population at the Census. The unemployment rates were similar for male and female residents. The youth unemployment rate (i.e. the proportion of those aged 15-24 years in the labour force who were unemployed) was particularly high in caravan parks (39% compared to 16% of youth in the total population).

LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION RATES, 1996

LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION RATES, 1996 - GRAPH

Source: Unpublished data, 1996 Census of Population and Housing.


UNEMPLOYMENT RATES(a), 1996

UNEMPLOYMENT RATES(a), 1996 - GRAPH

(a) Unemployed persons as a proportion of all those in the labour force.

Source: Unpublished data, 1996 Census of Population and Housing.


Household income

The median weekly household income of households in caravan parks was $293, less than half the median of $637 for all households in Australia. One main reason for the lower median income is that caravan parks include a much greater proportion of lone-person households (who have single incomes), and households of retired people (many of whom receive the aged pension as their main income). However, not only do caravan park residents include proportionally more of these types of lower-income households, but for each household type, caravan park residents had lower median incomes than the total population. For example, the median income of lone people in caravan parks ($217) amounted to 77% of that of the equivalent group in the total population. The proportional difference in median income was greatest for working-age couple-only households.

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME, BY HOUSEHOLD TYPE, 1996

Households in caravan parks
All households
Ratio(c)
Household type
$
$

Lone persons
217
282
0.77
    Lone persons aged 15-64 years
251
435
0.58
    Lone persons aged 65 years and over
191
193
0.99
Total family households(a)
396
766
0.52
    Couple-only aged 15-64 years(b)
436
860
0.51
    Couple-only aged 65 years and over(b)
310
368
0.84
    Couples with dependant children
533
900
0.59
    Lone parent with dependant children
310
424
0.73
Group households
454
796
0.57
Total
293
637
0.46

(a) Includes family households other than the types specified.
(b) Age refers to age of household reference person.
(c) Median income of households in caravan parks divided by median income of all households in Australia.

Source: Unpublished data, 1996 Census of Population and Housing.


Tenure type

Outright owners made up the majority of caravan park resident households (62%), followed by renters (31%). A small proportion were buying their caravans (5%). Over 60% of family and lone-person households owned their caravans, while group households were more likely to live in a rented (51%) than a fully owned (42%) van. There were differences by family type: 79% of couple-only households were owners, compared to 46% of couples with dependant children and 29% of lone parents with dependant children.

The pattern by household type is consistent with the clear pattern by age: 82% of park residents aged 45 years and over lived in a fully owned caravan, compared to 38% of those under 45 years. Half of those under 45 were in a rented caravan.

Rent
Of caravan park households who were renting, 55% paid between $50 and $99 per week in rent and a further 34% paid between $100 and $149 per week. Rents paid by caravan park households were more highly concentrated within these two ranges than were those paid by all other households in Australia. About 7% of caravan park households paid more than $149 per week, compared to 37% of households in the general community. The proportion of caravan park households paying less than $50 per week was also lower than in the general community (3% compared to 11%). Dwellings rented for less than $50 per week in the general community included a large proportion which were rented from a State and Territory housing authority (69%) and a further 12% rented from employers. However, it should be noted that low-income households, including those in caravan parks, are eligible for government support in the form of rental assistance payments.

MEAN WEEKLY RENT, 1996

MEAN WEEKLY RENT, 1996 - GRAPH

Source: Unpublished data, 1996 Census of Population and Housing.


Vehicle ownership

Not having a car may be particularly inconvenient for caravan park residents, as zoning restrictions mean that caravan parks tend to be located away from residential areas and their associated services. Of all caravan park households, 29% had no car on Census night 1996, compared to 12% of households in the total population. Proportions of caravan park households with no car were higher for renters (49%), households of lone parent and dependant children (47%), people living alone (38%) and group households (31%). Proportions were lower for couple-only households (9%), and couples with dependant children (17%). While 24% of caravan park residents lived in a household with no car on Census night, proportions were higher for unemployed people (40%) and people aged 15 to 24 years (37%).

Mobility
Caravan park residents were more likely to have moved within the previous year than people in the total population. Nevertheless, the majority of caravan park residents had been at the same address for a year or more, confirming that for most residents, caravan parks are not a stop-gap measure. Of caravan park residents, 64% had been at the same address a year previously, compared to 82% of the total population.

The proportion of residents who said they had been at the same address a year previously was highest in New South Wales (72%) and the ACT (70%) and lowest in the Northern Territory (43%) and Western Australia (55%). The remaining States recorded proportions at about the national level. The proportion who had been at the same address a year ago increased with age, from 33% of those aged 15-24 years to 87% of those aged 65 or over.

Residents who were more likely to have been at the same address for at least one year were: couple-only families (72%), people living alone (69%), people who fully owned their caravans (79%) and people who were not in the labour force (75%). Those less likely to have been at the same address for at least one year were: lone-parent families (41% at the same address); couples with dependant children (51%); renters (35%) and unemployed people (45%). More than a third of caravan park residents had been at the same address five years previously (36%).

Manufactured home estates
In addition to the 68,000 people living in caravans or cabins in caravan parks, there was a small number (240) living in caravans or cabins which were located in retirement villages. Another 2,200 lived in caravans or cabins located in manufactured home estates. These two types of locations were first classified separately in the 1996 Census. (However, caravans in such locations would not have been included in totals for caravan parks in 1991.)

Developing land specifically to provide sites for manufactured homes is relatively new in Australia. Sites in these estates can be sold but more often they are rented. Planning guidelines state that such developments should have reticulated water, sewerage, drainage and electricity connected to each lot. Further, some community and transport facilities should be available, as well as reasonable access to medical care and other services.3 In 1996 there was a total of 9,700 people living in manufactured home estates, whether in caravans or cabins, or more commonly, in houses.

Manufactured home estates seem to attract older couples. Residents tended to be older (82% were aged 45 years or more) than the total population, even more so than were caravan park residents. In contrast to caravan parks, there were more females than males (54% were female). About 70% of manufactured home estate residents lived in families and 27% lived alone, with more women than men living alone (1,600 compared to 1,000).


Endnotes


1 Centre for Urban Research and Action (CURA) 1978, Long term caravan residents in Melbourne: a case study of housing marginality, CURA, Fitzroy.

2 Department of Health, Housing and Community Services 1991, Long-term caravan park residency; a summary compiled from reports and studies in Australia 1978-1991, Canberra.

3 Commonwealth Department of Health, Housing, Local Government and Community Services and The New South Wales Department of Planning 1993, Manufactured Homes: a guide to planning and design of manufactured home estates.


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