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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 2.8% 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.