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The Canadian National Occupancy Standard is widely used internationally as an indicator of housing utilisation. The measure assesses the bedroom requirements of a household by specifying that:
Only 2.7% of Australian households in 2003-04 were assessed as needing one or more extra bedrooms to meet this occupancy standard. The proportion of households experiencing overcrowding was highest among households with five or more members (16%), and among households living in one-bedroom dwellings (6%).
In contrast, 77% of households had one or more bedrooms above the number required to meet the standard. The proportion of households with spare bedrooms was highest among two-person households (89%) and among households living in dwellings with four or more bedrooms (91%). While having spare bedrooms indicates a capacity to accommodate more people in reasonable comfort, it does not necessarily mean that dwellings are not being fully utilised. Households may put these 'spare' rooms to various uses (e.g. study, office, gymnasium, craft or hobby room, children's play room, guest bedroom or store room). Some may provide each child with a separate bedroom regardless of their age or sex.
In capital cities, the proportion of households with one or more spare bedrooms ranged from 68% in Darwin to 84% in Perth (graph 8.4). Outside of capital cities, the proportion of households with spare bedrooms was higher - possibly associated with higher proportions of separate houses in these areas. Conversely, overcrowding was more common in capital cities. In 2003-04, 3% of capital city households were in need of one or more bedrooms compared with 2% of households in the rest of Australia. Sydney and Darwin had the highest overcrowding rate (4%). These cities also had the highest proportions of flats, units and apartments.