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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1998  
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Contents >> Housing >> Housing Arrangements: Housing of recent immigrants

Housing Arrangements: Housing of recent immigrants

87% of recent immigrants shared their first accommodation in Australia with friends or relatives - 46% of these had moved within 3 to 6 months.

Securing suitable and affordable housing is an important part of the settlement process for immigrants. The nature of the accommodation and living arrangements of recent immigrants is largely dependent on their current resources and prospects for the immediate future.

The circumstances of immigrants on arrival in Australia vary widely, particularly between visa categories. Humanitarian visaed immigrants tend to lack assets, social networks, English language proficiency and prearranged employment or housing. Family visaed immigrants have family already resident in Australia and are likely to have accommodation organised prior to arrival. Skill visaed immigrants usually arrive with more assets, assured employment and more marketable skills.


Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia

This review uses data from the first wave of the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia, conducted by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs during 1994 and 1995. Interviews were conducted, within 3 to 6 months of arrival, with 5,192 immigrants who were principal applicants for permanent resident visas. The survey sample represented a total population of 75,000 principal applicants who migrated to Australia in the Migration and Humanitarian Programs during the period September 1993 to August 1995. The sample was drawn from those 96% of principal applicants who had settled in a State or Territory capital city or major urban centre. New Zealand citizens were excluded from the survey since they do not need a visa to migrate to Australia.1

Principal applicant - the person in the migrating unit upon whom the approval to migrate was based.

Migrating unit - all people who migrated with the principal applicant on the same visa application.


First accommodation in Australia
On arrival, most immigrants share accommodation with family or friends already living in Australia. In many cases, this could be because they have not yet been able to form decisions about where they will eventually settle. Others may not yet be able to afford their own accommodation. For the majority of family visaed immigrants, however, forming a household with reunited close family members is likely to have been their permanent intention.

Of all migrating units arriving during the two-year period from September 1993 to August 1995, 70% shared their initial accommodation with relatives and 17% shared with friends. The vast majority (86%) of immigrants in the family group, and two thirds of those in the humanitarian group, shared with relatives while over half of those in the independent group stayed with friends. Immigrants in the business and employer nominated categories were much less likely to share accommodation, possibly because they were more able to afford accommodation of their own.1

FIRST ACCOMMODATION IN AUSTRALIA OF IMMIGRANTS WHO ARRIVED BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 1993 AND AUGUST 1995

Migration visa group

Family
Business/
employer nomination
Independent
Humanitarian
All migrating units
Type of accommodation
%
%
%
%
%

Shared
93.8
41.7
82.9
82.5
88.6
    With relatives
85.6
15.5
27.8
65.6
70.4
    With friends
7.8
17.3
52.3
13.7
16.5
    With others
0.5
8.9
2.9
3.2
1.6
Not shared
6.2
58.3
17.1
17.5
11.4

Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total
49.0
2.6
12.8
10.6
75.0

Source: Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, unpublished data, Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia.


Migration visa categories

Because they have to meet different eligibility requirements, principal applicants migrating to Australia in the different visa categories are likely to differ in their characteristics and settlement outcomes. The following main visa groups are distinguished in this review:

Family - principal applicant is sponsored by a relative who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
  • Preferential family - primary objective is family reunion of close, and generally dependent, relatives of the sponsor such as a spouse or children.
  • Concessional family - allows for sponsorship of other, non-dependant relatives and is partly skills based.

Skill - principal applicant has particular skills/talents which are in demand in Australia.
  • Employer nomination scheme - sponsored by employers in Australia who have been unable to find or train skilled workers in Australia for the position.
  • Business skills - people with established business skills and a genuine commitment to owning and managing a business in Australia.
  • Independent - unsponsored applicants whose education, skills and ready employability will contribute to the Australian economy.

Humanitarian - primarily refugees, as identified by UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and other people overseas who are suffering discrimination (or are in other vulnerable situations) and who have family or community ties in Australia but do not meet the criteria of other categories.


Moving house
For many immigrants, initial accommodation may be unsuitable or intended only as a temporary measure while they look for more permanent housing. Many experience a period of transition during which they change their place of residence one or more times before settling down. While just over half (54%) of recent migrating units were still in their initial accommodation 3 to 6 months after their arrival, 40% had moved once and 6% had moved two or more times. Those who shared with friends were the most likely to have moved (72%) while those who shared with relatives were the least likely to have moved out of their initial accommodation (40%).

Reasons given for moving to current residence indicate that many did so because they did not want to share accommodation with others any longer1 - 33% wanted their own home/independence, 14% wanted more space and 11% wanted more privacy. On the other hand, 9% moved in with, or closer to, family or friends. Other reasons given for moving indicate that, having had some time to assess their needs and consider the housing options available, many had simply made the transition to more permanent and suitable housing - 20% had moved to a better location/closer to amenities, 9% wanted more permanent housing and 6% had purchased their own home.

REASON FOR MOVING TO CURRENT DWELLING AT TIME OF INTERVIEW(a)

%

Wanted own home/independence
32.7
Moved to better location/closer to amenities
19.9
Wanted more space
14.2
Wanted more privacy
11.4
Moved in with, or closer to, family/friends
9.3
Wanted more permanent housing
8.8
Purchased own home
6.5
Nicer house/liked house better
4.2
Cheaper/more affordable
3.6
Other
12.7

Total moved(b)
100.0

(a) Between September 1993 and August 1995.
(b) Some principal applicants gave more than one reason for moving. Therefore, components do not add to total.

Source: Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, unpublished data, Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia.


Housing tenure
Over half (54%) of all recent migrating units were renting their accommodation at the time of interview (3 to 6 months after arriving in Australia). The vast majority were renting from private landlords. Fewer than 4% of all recent migrating units were renting public housing in Australia compared to 8% before migrating. Those in the humanitarian group were the most likely to be renting public housing in Australia (7%).

Recent immigrants were much more likely to be renting and much less likely to own their accommodation in Australia than they had been before migrating. This was particularly true for those in the humanitarian group, many of whom may have experienced social and economic disruption in their home countries prior to migration, and therefore arrived in Australia with very few assets.

Of all recent migrating units, 11% were either paying off a mortgage or owned their homes outright 3 to 6 months after arriving in Australia. Those in the business/employer nomination group were the most likely to own their homes in Australia (29%) and to have owned their previous homes before migrating (62%). While 35% of those in the humanitarian group had owned their homes in their former home countries, very few were in a position to buy in Australia.

A third of all recent migrating units were either boarding or living rent free with others (mainly relatives) 3 to 6 months after arriving in Australia. Immigrants in the family and humanitarian categories were the most likely to be living with relatives (34% and 25% respectively).

The proportion of recent immigrants living with others rent free was higher before migration (35%) than after arrival in Australia (22%). This could be because there were fewer family members and friends in Australia to offer support.1 On the other hand, for many immigrants, living rent free with relatives or friends before migration may have been a relatively short transition period between selling or giving up the lease on their former home and moving to Australia. Many of these migrating units could have been in a position to rent or buy their own home within 3 to 6 months of their arrival.


HOUSING TENURE BEFORE MIGRATION AND AT TIME OF INTERVIEW(a)

(a) Between September 1993 and August 1995.


Source: Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, unpublished data, Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia.
HOUSING TENURE AT TIME OF INTERVIEW(a) AND BEFORE MIGRATION

Migration visa group

Family
Business/employer nomination
Independent
Humanitarian




Current
Before
Current
Before
Current
Before
Current
Before
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Owner
13.5
27.1
29.3
61.7
4.9
26.8
* *
34.6
    Without mortgage
6.5
19.5
16.1
40.6
1.3
12.4
* *
32.2
    With mortgage
7.0
7.6
13.3
21.1
3.6
14.4
* *
2.4
Renter(b)
46.4
27.0
58.3
25.2
74.4
33.1
66.6
24.0
    Public
3.8
7.8
* *
* *
* *
6.5
6.7
11.0
    Private
42.3
18.2
55.2
19.3
72.9
23.3
59.8
11.1
Boarder
11.7
6.7
* *
* *
10.7
10.8
19.5
2.8
    Family
9.2
6.0
* *
* *
3.5
8.6
13.7
2.2
    Other
2.5
0.7
* *
* *
7.2
2.2
5.9
* *
Rent free
27.4
38.5
10.3
9.4
8.7
29.0
12.5
34.9
    Family
24.5
35.3
* *
5.6
4.4
26.2
11.1
32.4
    Other(c)
3.0
3.2
* *
* *
4.3
2.8
* *
2.5

Total(d)
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Between September 1993 and August 1995.
(b) Includes renting from employer.
(c) Includes rent free from employer.
(d) Includes other occupancy arrangements.

Source: Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, unpublished data, Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia.


Government financial assistance
At the time of interview 30% of all recent migrating units (including over three quarters of those in the humanitarian group) were receiving financial assistance from the government for housing purposes. This included help with mortgage payments and with rental payments in both public and private rented accommodation.1

Type of dwelling
About half (49%) of all recent migrating units were living in separate houses at the time of interview - 37% were living in flats, units or apartments, and 13% were living in semi-detached housing (e.g. duplex, town house, row/terrace house).

Recent immigrants were less likely to be living in semi-detached housing in Australia than before migration, and more likely to be living in separate houses, flats, units or apartments. This is probably because semi-detached housing is a less commonly available housing option in Australia than in some of the migrant source countries, particularly the United Kingdom and Ireland.


TYPE OF DWELLING BEFORE MIGRATION AND AT TIME OF INTERVIEW(a)

(a) Between September 1993 and August 1995.


Source: Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, unpublished data, Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia.
TYPE OF DWELLING OF RECENT IMMIGRANTS(a) AND ALL AUSTRALIANS(b)

Total population
Living in Sydney: reference person(c) aged 25-34 years


Recent immigrants
All Australians
Recent immigrants
All Australians
%
%
%
%

Separate house
48.6
80.2
32.2
60.3
Flat, unit or apartment(d)
36.8
11.5
54.8
25.8
Semi-detached/row or terrace house/town house
13.0
7.5
11.0
13.7
Other
1.5
0.8
2.0
0.3

Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) At time of interview - between September 1993 and August 1995.
(b) At time of interview during 1995-96.
(c) Refers to principal applicant in recent migrating units, and reference person in income units for all Australians.
(d) Includes flat attached to house.

Source: Unpublished data, Survey of Income and Housing Costs, 1995-96; Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, unpublished data, Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia.


Housing characteristics of recent immigrants and all Australians
Compared to the total Australian population, recent immigrants were more likely to be renting privately or living rent free; less likely to be renting government housing; and much less likely to be purchasing their own home or to own it outright.

However, many aspects of housing such as tenure, housing costs and type of dwelling are related to other factors such as the life cycle stage of the occupants and geographic location of the dwelling. For example, younger households are more likely than older households to be living in flats, units or apartments (and to be paying rent) and less likely to be living in a separate house which they are either paying off or own outright. High and medium density housing options are more common in capital cities and other major urban areas than in other parts of Australia. Housing costs vary considerably between State/Territory capital cities and between major urban and other areas within States and Territories.

Therefore some of the differences in the housing characteristics between recent immigrants and the total Australian population may be partly explained by the younger age distribution of recent immigrants and their higher representation in capital cities and other major urban areas.

However when comparison is limited to equivalent subpopulations, in this case young recent migrating units/income units living in Sydney (reference person aged 25-34), there are still large differences in tenure and dwelling type between recent immigrants and all Australians.

Within this group, recent immigrants were twice as likely as all Australians to be living in a flat, unit or apartment, and only half as likely to be living in a separate house. Only 5% of recent migrating units were either paying off a mortgage or owned their homes outright compared to 29% of all Australian income units. Recent migrating units were more likely to be renting privately (62%) than all Australian income units (40%) but less likely to be renting government housing (2% compared to 4%).

Among young (reference person aged 25-34) Sydney renters and purchasers, the majority of recent migrating units (66%) paid between $100 and $199 per week in rent or mortgage payments. They were much less likely than all Australians to be paying less than $100 per week, partly because a smaller proportion of recent immigrants had low-cost government rental accommodation. Among private renters, too, only half as many recent immigrants as all Australians paid less than $100 per week. Recent immigrants were also less likely than all Australians to be paying more than $200 per week for housing, mainly because they were less likely to be paying off a mortgage.

WEEKLY RENT/MORTGAGE PAYMENTS AT TIME OF INTERVIEW(a)

Living in Sydney: reference person(b) aged 25-34 years

Recent immigrants
All Australians
Weekly payments
%
%

Less than $50
* *
*2.3
$50-99
12.7
23.0
$100-149
33.0
19.8
$150-199
32.5
17.3
$200 or more
20.4
37.7

Total
100.0
100.0

(a) Between September 1993 and August 1995.
(b) Refers to principal applicant in recent migrating units, and reference person in income units for all Australians.

Source: Unpublished data, Survey of Income and Housing Costs, 1995-96; Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, unpublished data, Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia.


Income units

An income unit may comprise one person or a group of related persons, within a household, whose income is assumed to be shared. Income sharing is assumed to take place within married (registered or de facto) couples and between parents and dependent children.

In this review the income unit, rather than the household, has been used to compare the housing characteristics of all Australians to those of recent immigrants because it more closely approximates the composition and living arrangements of the migrating unit.

HOUSING TENURE OF RECENT IMMIGRANTS(a) AND ALL AUSTRALIANS(b)

Total population
Living in Sydney: reference person(c) aged 25-34 years


Recent immigrants
All Australians
Recent immigrants
All Australians
%
%
%
%

Owner without mortgage
5.0
32.4
2.1
5.1
Owner with mortgage
5.7
21.9
2.9
23.5
Renter, private
50.4
19.9
62.1
40.0
Renter, public
3.5
4.7
1.7
4.4
Boarder, with relatives
8.5
7.8
9.7
14.2
Rent free
21.5
10.5
14.7
10.7
Other(d)
5.4
2.8
6.9
2.0

Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Between September 1993 and August 1995.
(b) At time of interview during 1995-96.
(c) Refers to principal applicant in recent migrating units, and reference person in income units for all Australians.
(d) Includes those boarding with non-relatives and those paying rent to the owner/manager of a caravan park, an employer, housing cooperative, community or church group or any other landlord not included elsewhere.

Source: Unpublished data, Survey of Income and Housing Costs, 1995-96; Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, unpublished data, Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia.


Endnotes
1 Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, 1997, The Migrant Experience: Wave One, Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia, DIMA, Canberra.



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