1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2008  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/02/2008   
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Contents >> Housing >> Housing utilisation


While Australian households are becoming smaller on average, dwelling size (as indicated by the number of bedrooms) is increasing. The average number of persons per household has declined from 3.1 in 1976 to 2.5 in 2005-06. In the same period, the proportion of dwellings with four or more bedrooms has risen from 17% to 28% and the average number of bedrooms per dwelling has increased from 2.8 to 3.1.

In 2005-06, most households enjoyed relatively spacious accommodation. For example, 87% of lone-person households were living in dwellings with two or more bedrooms; 75% of two-person households had three or more bedrooms; and 35% of three-person households had four or more bedrooms. Over a fifth (23%) of three-bedroom dwellings, and 9% of four-bedroom dwellings, had only one person living in them (table 10.3).

10.3 ALL HOUSEHOLDS, By number of bedrooms and number of persons - 2005-06

One bedroom
Two bedrooms
Three bedrooms
Four or more bedrooms
All households(a)

Lone person
2 033.3
Two persons
1 401.3
2 673.5
Three persons
1 296.6
Four persons
1 245.6
Five or more persons
1 559.8
3 787.6
2 245.9
7 926.2

** estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use
- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
(a) Includes bed-sits and dwellings with no bedrooms.
Source: ABS data available on request, Survey of Income and Housing.

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:
  • there should be no more than two persons per bedroom
  • children less than 5 years of age and of different sexes may reasonably share a bedroom
  • children less than 18 years of age and of the same sex may reasonably share a bedroom
  • single household members aged 18 years and 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.

Only 2.8% of Australian households in 2005-06 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 (18%), and among households living in one-bedroom (4%) or two-bedroom (5%) dwellings.

In contrast, 78% 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 (90%) and among households living in dwellings with four or more bedrooms (91%).

As households pass through different life-cycle stages, particularly with having children and later children leaving home, their utilisation of housing changes. 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 64% in Darwin to 86% in Perth (graph 10.4), while the proportion across all capital cities was 77%. Outside of capital cities, the proportion of households with spare bedrooms was higher at 82% - possibly associated with higher proportions of separate houses in these areas. Conversely, overcrowding was more common in capital cities. In 2005-06, 3% of capital-city households were in need of one or more bedrooms compared with 2% of households in the rest of Australia. Sydney had the highest overcrowding rate (5%), and also the highest proportion of flats, units and apartments.

10.4 Households with one or more spare bedrooms - 2005-06
Graph: 10.4 Households with one or more spare bedrooms—2005–06

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