Australian Housing Survey

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    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)


    The 1994 Australian Housing Survey (AHS) was conducted in response to user demands for better information about the characteristics, physical condition and quality of housing. The conduct of the survey was a key recommendation of the 1992 National Housing Strategy.

    The 1999 Australian Housing Survey was conducted to provide further information about the characteristics, physical condition, tenure and quality of housing. The survey provides a follow-on from the 1994 survey.


    The survey results provide benchmark data on the physical condition of Australia's housing stock against which users can establish housing norms, identify populations in housing stress and monitor the effectiveness of housing policy. Users include Commonwealth and State and Territory housing authorities, DISR, FaCS, AHURI, HIA and ACOSS.


    The scope of a survey is the set of units or population about which information is required. Only usual residents of private dwellings in non-remote areas of Australia were in scope in the 1999 AHS. Private dwellings are houses, flats, home units, caravans, garages, tents and other structures that were used as places of residence at the time of interview. These were distinct from special dwellings which included hotels, boarding houses and institutions.

    • Information was collected from all persons aged 15 years and over except:
    • visitors;
    • non-Australian diplomatic personnel or staff;
    • overseas residents in Australia; and
    • members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants) stationed in Australia.

    The 1999 AHS collected information from persons in both urban and rural areas in all States and Territories. Persons living in remote and sparsely settled parts of Australia where there were fewer than 0.06 dwellings per square kilometre were excluded. The exclusion of these persons has only a minor impact on any aggregate estimates that are produced for individual States and Territories, with the exception of the Northern Territory where such persons account for over 20% of the population.


    Conceptual framework


    Main outputs

    1999 Australian Housing Survey, Housing Characteristics, Costs and Conditions (4182.0)

    Covers a number of housing related topics including housing occupancy and costs, dwelling characteristics and conditions, and housing affordability and utilisation. Information on the physical condition of dwellings is an area not previously explored in ABS housing surveys. Contains information about the concepts and methods used in sampling, data collection and processing for the 1999 Australian Housing Survey.

    1999 Australian Housing Survey Data Reference Package (4180.0.00.001)

    Contains a complete list of output data items and associated material, as well as the survey questionaire and interviewer prompt cards, to assist users in specifying data requirements.

    Australian Housing Survey: Aborigional and Torres Strait Islander Results, 1999 (4712.0)

    A series of selected cross-tabulations and as special data requests.

    The sample of Indigenous households (excluding those in remote areas) was supplemented from a broad range of Census Collection Districts (CDs) with relatively high concentrations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This was conducted in order to improve the reliability of Indigenous estimates from the 1999 AHS. Indigenous households interviewed from the supplementary sample have been combined with Indigenous households from the main sample to produce a single data set containing all Indigenous households. Information from this data set is available in a number of formats.

    1999 Australian Housing Survey: Confidentialised Unit Record File on CD-ROM (4186.0 .30.001)

    Contains confidentialised unit record data. It contains no names and addresses and the detail of some items of data has been suppressed or reduced.


    Standard ABS questions, definitions and classifications were used where possible so that information available from the 1999 AHS can be compared with other sources of standard ABS data. The main classifications used in the publication (household composition, tenure type, landlord type, age of reference person, private dwelling structure, age of dwelling, principle source of cash income, and State) generally conform to PSG standards, as documented on the PSG Standards database.

    Other concepts (summary)
    Housing costs
    AHS housing costs comprise rates payments (general and water), rent, mortgage repayments, body corporate fees, loan repayments for alterations and additions, and repairs and maintenance costs. For more detail, see Appendix 1, MEASURING HOUSING COSTS, in Australian Housing Survey: Housing Characteristics, Costs and Conditions, 1999 (Cat. no 4182.0).


    The household is the basic unit of analysis in this publication. It is defined, in its broadest sense, as a group of people who live and eat together as a single unit within a dwelling. The use of the household as the basic unit of analysis requires that the estimates of variables such as income and housing costs are based on the sum of the income and housing costs of all household members. Intra-household transfers, however, are excluded. For example, if one member of the household were to pay board to another member of the same household then this is not considered as an increase in the amount of income or housing costs of the household. Including such transfers would result in double counting.

    Tenure type

    Tenure type is the nature of a person or household’s legal right to occupy the dwelling in which they usually reside. It is determined by responses to questions about ownership, payment to purchase, and rental arrangements.

    Until 1995, tenure type classified owner occupiers of dwellings as either outright owners or purchasers. A purchaser was a household that had a mortgage or secured loan that was used to buy or build the dwelling. Households were considered to own their dwelling outright if there was no loan secured against the dwelling for the purpose of building or purchasing. Outright owners who took out loans (whether secured or not) for alterations or additions to the dwelling were considered to be outright owners rather than purchasers.

    Owner occupiers are now classified as owners without a mortgage and owners with a mortgage. This change to the classification was made to reflect the increasing use of loans secured against the dwelling in which the household usually resides for purposes unrelated to that dwelling. Such secured loans have implications for the household’s security of tenure. For example, a household with a loan for investment or other purposes which is secured against their usual residence has the same security as a household with a mortgage to purchase the dwelling. The new classification reflects this, by classifying both households as owners with a mortgage.

    Cash income

    Income in the 1999 AHS was collected according to source. Main sources of income include:

    • wage or salary and profit or loss from own unincorporated business;
    • return on assets which includes interest, dividends and rental income; and
    • non-market income which includes government pensions and allowances, workers compensation, superannuation and child support.

    Estimates of weekly cash income do not refer to a specific week.Income was collected using a number of different reporting periods and was divided by the number of weeks in the period to obtain usual weekly income. The types of reporting periods were:
    • last financial year for own unincorporated business, dividends and interest, and rental income; and
    • yearly, or any weekly or monthly combination for wages or salary and transfer income.

    Housing utilisation

    The concept of housing utilisation in this publication is based upon a comparison of the number of bedrooms in a dwelling with a series of household demographics such as the number of usual residents, their relationship to one another, age and sex. There is no single standard measure for housing utilisation, however the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has used a Canadian model which was considered by the National Housing Strategy and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to conform reasonably to social norms in Australia.

    The Canadian National Occupancy Standard

    The Canadian National Occupancy Standard for housing appropriateness is sensitive to both household size and composition. The measure assesses the bedroom requirements of a household by specifying that:

    • there should be no more than two persons per bedroom;
    • children less than 5 years of age of different sexes may reasonably share a bedroom;
    • children 5 years of age or older of opposite sex should have separate bedrooms;
    • children less than 18 years of age and of the same sex may reasonably share a bedroom; and
    • single household members 18 years or over should have a separate bedroom, as should parents or couples.

    Households living in dwellings where this standard cannot be met are considered to be overcrowded.

    New South Wales
    South Australia
    Western Australia
    Northern Territory
    Statistical Division
    Statistical Subdivision
    Statistical Local Area
    Section of State
    Capital City Statistical Division

    Comments and/or Other Regions

    Remote and sparsely settled areas are excluded. This has a significant impact on Northern Territory estimates. Northern Territory estimates are mainly representative of urban areas


    Frequency comments

    The 1999 survey is expected to be the last


    The AHS was previously conducted in 1994. These collected similar and comparable information to AHS99. Earlier data on housing costs was collected in the 1990, 1986, and 1982 Income Distribution Surveys, and since then in the continuous Income and Housing Costs Survey (SIHC). Basic housing data including housing costs was collected in the 1998/99 Housing Expenditure Survey (HES).


    Data availability comments

    Results from main survey

    1999 Australian Housing Survey, Housing Characteristics, Costs and Conditions(4182.0), released on 31 October, 2000.

    1999 Australian Housing Survey Data Reference Package (4182.0.00.001), released on 31 October, 2000

    1999 Australian Housing Survey, State and Territory tables, available from November 2000

    1999 Australian Housing Survey: Unit Record File (4186.0 .30.001) Confidentialised Unit Record File on CD-ROM released May, 2001

    Results from Indigenous supplementary survey

    1999 Australian Housing Survey -- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Results (4712.0) released 23 January, 2001.

    Further cross tabulations available on request, subject confidentiality and sampling variability constraints - consultancy charges apply

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