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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2002  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 09/05/2002   
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Contents >> Housing >> Housing Stock: Housing condition and maintenance

Housing Stock: Housing condition and maintenance

In 1999, over half (57%) of all occupied dwellings in Australia were reported to be in need of some repairs, with 2% in need of essential and urgent repairs.

A dwelling's physical condition can affect the wellbeing of its occupants. Major structural problems such as cracks in walls and floors, sinking or moving foundations, rising damp and electrical or plumbing faults can reduce the amenity of a dwelling and may present health or safety risks to occupants. Even the need for repainting or minor repairs, like replacing tap washers, can impair the comfort and enjoyment of occupants if not carried out reasonably promptly. If, over time, more serious problems are not addressed through repairs and maintenance, the condition of a dwelling may deteriorate, leaving households living in poor condition housing.


Australian Housing Survey
This article draws on data from the ABS Australian Housing Survey, most recently conducted between September and December 1999. The survey collected information from persons in private dwellings throughout Australia and covered a range of housing related topics including major structural problems, need for repairs, and the types and cost of repairs undertaken in the previous 12 months. Data on the need for repairs and major structural problems were based on respondent perception.

Repairs or maintenance involve any work undertaken with the purpose of either preventing deterioration or repairing something to its original condition or functionality. They exclude work carried out as part of alterations or additions. Repairs or maintenance comprise:

external repairs which are repairs to the outside structure of the dwelling (e.g. roof, tiles, external window frames) and other external structures such as fences; and

internal repairs which are repairs to the internal structure of the dwelling (e.g. floors, walls, plumbing and electrical fixtures) excluding repairs to internal amenities such as cupboards or built-in robes.

Major structural problems are those which relate to the main physical structure of the dwelling such as the walls, floors, foundations, roof, electrical wiring and plumbing.


Repairs and maintenance
In 1999, over half (57%) of all occupied dwellings in Australia were reported to be in need of repairs. In all, 45% of dwellings needed external repairs. A similar proportion (44%) needed internal repairs, while almost a third (31%) of all occupied dwellings needed both internal and external repairs. Of all householders, 41% rated the need for repairs on their dwelling as low, 19% reported a moderate need, 6% reported a need for essential repairs and 2% reported a need for essential and urgent repairs.

CONDITION AND MAINTENANCE OF DWELLINGS - 1999

Number of dwellings
Proportion of all occupied dwellings
‘000
%

Need for repairs
    Both external and internal
2,259.5
31.3
    External only
956.7
13.3
    Internal only
879.8
12.2
    Total in need of repairs
4,096.0
56.8
Need for repairs
    Desirable but low need
2,964.8
41.1
    Moderate need
1,382.3
19.2
    Essential need
425.5
5.9
    Essential and urgent need
141.7
2.0
    Total in need of repairs(a)
4,096.0
56.8
Repairs or maintenance undertaken in the previous year
4,004.7
55.5
With major structural problems
1,369.3
19.0

(a) Components do not add to totals because some dwellings in need of both external and internal repairs are counted in two different categories.

Source: ABS 1999 Australian Housing Survey.


Over half (56%) of dwellings in 1999 had received some kind of repairs and/or maintenance work in the previous year. This excluded any work carried out as part of alterations or additions. (For information about alterations and additions, see Australian Social Trends 2002, Home renovation). Painting, plumbing and electrical work were the most common types of repairs or maintenance work carried out.

TYPES OF REPAIRS OR MAINTENANCE UNDERTAKEN IN PREVIOUS YEAR - 1999

Source: Australian Housing Survey: Housing Characteristics, Costs and Conditions (ABS cat. no. 4182.0).


Major structural problems
In 1999, 19% of dwellings were reported to have one or more major structural problems, despite only 8% of households reporting their dwelling as being in need of either essential or essential and urgent repairs. However, not all major structural problems need immediate repair or can be repaired. The most common structural problem was major cracks in walls or floors (reported in 7% of all dwellings). Sinking or moving foundations were reported in 5% of dwellings, followed by rising damp, walls or windows out of plumb, and major plumbing problems (around 4% each). The least common type of structural problem was major electrical problems, reported in around 1% of all dwellings.

TYPES OF MAJOR STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS - 1999

Source: Australian Housing Survey: Housing Characteristics, Costs and Conditions (ABS cat. no. 4182.0).


Age of dwellings
In 1999, 18% of Australia's housing stock was less than 10 years old, and over half (55%) was less than 30 years old. Around 12% of all occupied dwellings were aged 60 years and over. In general, the effects of wear and tear and weathering over time mean that the physical condition of dwellings tends to deteriorate, and the need for repairs to increase, as dwellings age. While older dwellings were more likely than newer dwellings to have had repairs or maintenance carried out in the previous year, and to have had more spent for this purpose, the most common types of repairs or maintenance (i.e. painting, plumbing and electrical work) were the same for all dwellings regardless of age.

In 1999, fewer than 10% of dwellings aged less than 10 years had major structural problems, compared with almost 30% of dwellings aged 30 years and over. More than a third (35%) of dwellings aged 60 years and over had major structural problems. All types of major structural problems increased with the age of the dwelling and, for the most part, older dwellings had the same types of problems as newer dwellings. For example, major cracks in walls or floors was the most common type of problem in all dwellings regardless of age, and major electrical problems was the least common type of problem in all dwellings except those less than 5 years old.

In 1999, the proportion of dwellings in need of external repairs ranged from 11% of dwellings under 5 years old to 63% of dwellings aged 60 years and over. The proportions of dwellings in need of internal repairs were similar and ranged from 16% of dwellings under 5 years old to 59% of dwellings aged 60 years and over. The proportion of dwellings that had received repairs or maintenance work in the previous year ranged from 30% of dwellings less than 5 years old to around 60% of dwellings aged 20 years and over.

For owner households which had undertaken repairs or maintenance work on their homes in the previous year, the average amount spent for this purpose ranged from $1,070 for those in dwellings less than 5 years old to $3,230 for those in dwellings aged 60 years and over. A comparable figure is not available for renter households, as the bulk of costs associated with repairs and maintenance is incurred by the landlord (and therefore the resident household is unlikely to have knowledge of the amounts spent).

PHYSICAL CONDITION AND AGE OF DWELLING - 1999

Source: ABS 1999 Australian Housing Survey.


Tenure and income
Renters are more likely than owners to report their dwelling as being in need of repair. In 1999, 64% of renter households indicated their dwelling needed repair, compared with 54% of owner households. Further, the proportion of renter households in dwellings in need of essential or essential and urgent repairs (14% combined) was almost three times that for owner households (5%). Renters were also more likely to report major structural problems than owners (32% compared with 14%).

The proportion of owner households which reported their dwelling as being in need of repair increased slightly with the income of the household (from 49% of households with incomes in the lowest 20% to 55% of those with incomes in the highest 20%). The proportion of renter households which reported their dwelling as being in need of repair increased from 51% of those whose income was in the lowest 20% to around 60% of those in the higher income groups.

HOUSING CONDITION AND TENURE TYPE - 1999

Tenure type of household

Owner(a)
Renter
Total(b)
Proportion of occupied dwellings
%
%
%

In need of repairs(c)
53.7
64.1
56.8
    In need of essential/essential and urgent repairs(c)
5.0
13.7
7.5
With major structural problems
13.6
32.1
19.0

(a) Comprises owners with or without a mortgage.
(b) Includes rent-free and other tenure arrangements.
(c) External and/or in internal repairs.

Source: ABS 1999 Australian Housing Survey.


In 1999, the dwellings of renter households were slightly more likely than those of owner households to have undergone some repairs or maintenance in the past 12 months (57% compared with 55%). The likelihood of repairs having been undertaken during this period tended to increase with household income for both renter and owner households, although the tendency was more evident for owners. The proportion of dwellings of owner households which had undergone some repairs or maintenance in the 12 months to 1999 increased from 45% of households with incomes in the lowest 20%, to 62% for those households with incomes in the highest 20%. This is in keeping with high income home owners being more able to afford repairs and maintenance than low income home owners.

HOUSEHOLDS IN DWELLINGS WHICH HAD REPAIRS OR MAINTENANCE IN PREVIOUS YEAR: HOUSEHOLD INCOME AND TENURE TYPE - 1999

Gross weekly household income quintiles

Lowest
Second
Third
Fourth
Highest
Total
Tenure type
%
%
%
%
%
%

Owner(a)
45.4
50.7
56.5
58.0
61.9
55.1
Renter
50.6
57.9
60.5
59.6
59.4
57.2
Total(b)
47.1
52.7
57.7
58.3
61.6
55.5

(a) Comprises owners with or without a mortgage.
(b) Includes rent-free and other tenure arrangements.

Source: ABS 1999 Australian Housing Survey.


Household income quintiles
Household income quintiles are formed by ranking all households in the population in ascending order by income (in this case gross weekly income), and then dividing them into five groups (or quintiles), each containing 20% of households.


Cost of repairs and maintenance
In 1999, 52% of owner households had incurred costs associated with repairs and maintenance in the past 12 months, a similar proportion to those who had undertaken repairs and maintenance (55%). In contrast, less than 6% of renter households reported paying for repairs and maintenance in the past 12 months, even though 57% of them lived in dwellings where repairs or maintenance had been undertaken during the period. This reflects that most costs associated with repairs and maintenance on rental dwellings are paid for by the landlord.

For those owner households which had spent money on repairs and maintenance for their dwelling in the past 12 months, the average amount spent was $1,960. The average amount spent tended to increase with income for owner households. In 1999, households with incomes in the highest 20% spent an average of $2,800 on repairs and maintenance over a 12 month period, compared with an average of $1,350 for owner households with incomes in the lowest 20%.

OWNER HOUSEHOLDS(a): EXPENDITURE ON REPAIRS OR MAINTENANCE - 1999

Average amount spent(b)
Gross weekly household income quintiles
$

Lowest
1,348
Second
1,716
Third
1,864
Fourth
1,622
Highest
2,797
Total
1,959

(a) Comprises owners with or without a mortgage.
(b) Average amount per household with expenditure on repairs or maintenance in the previous year. Excludes expenditure by someone outside the household.

Source: ABS 1999 Australian Housing Survey.



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