1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2004  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/04/2004   
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Contents >> The measures >> Housing

Housing in Australia is generally good, and Australians are continuing to invest significantly in the homes that they own. In the decade to 2002, the value of land and dwellings owned by the household sector more than doubled (in current price terms) and in 2002 represented more than half of the value of all assets owned by the sector.

Australians are tending to live in smaller household groups, with the average household size shrinking by 14% over the twenty years to 2001. One consequence of the shrinking household size in Australia is that the available housing stock can accommodate people more adequately. In 2001, while 3% of private dwellings across Australia required an extra bedroom to accommodate the residents of those dwellings, 70% of private dwellings in 2001 had one or more bedrooms spare.1 But poor or inadequate housing is a problem for some groups, especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples living in remote areas.

There is no single headline indicator to show whether housing circumstances have been getting better or worse. Some of the other dimensions of progress discuss aspects of housing, and no indicators are presented here. But we recognise that housing is a headline dimension of progress and a suitable headline indicator may be developed in future.

Housing provides people with shelter, security and privacy. Having a suitable place to live is fundamental to people's identity and wellbeing, and there are many aspects to housing that affect the quality of people's lives. Dwelling attributes, such as their size, number of bedrooms, physical condition, location relative to amenities and services, and their affordability, are all important in this regard.

Although housing is a key dimension of concern, there is no one indicator that succinctly captures whether people's many needs and desires for suitable housing are being met. And it has been difficult to find an indicator for housing that has not been used to assess the other dimensions of progress presented in this publication.

The value of Australia's housing stock is a component of our National wealth and is discussed in that commentary.

The amounts people pay in rent, rates and mortgage repayments for their dwelling are often substantial. The prevalence of households experiencing housing affordability problems, which can point to limitations in the supply of suitable low cost housing, is discussed in the commentary Financial hardship.

The extent of homelessness is an associated issue of concern, and crisis accommodation services are often overburdened.2 But because homelessness is commonly also associated with dysfunctional relationships, and is not usually the result of housing shortages, it is discussed in the commentary Families and communities.

Some differences within Australia

The quality and costs of dwellings vary greatly across Australia, and can depend on when the dwelling was constructed, the affluence of the communities in which they are located, and the local climate.

Housing standards tend to be lowest in remote area communities, especially among those least able to afford building and maintenance costs. Such costs tend to be higher in remote areas because access to modern building materials and to people with the skills to build high quality dwellings is more limited, and maintenance requirements tend to be higher in harsh environmental conditions. This all leads to the average dwelling life being shorter. Indigenous Australians, particularly those in remote communities, are less likely than other Australians to be purchasing a home or to own it outright. The small proportion of owner/purchaser households in very remote areas (8%) reflects, among other things, the types of tenure available on traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands.

Indigenous Housing Organisations (IHOs) provide some low-cost (rental) housing but the available dwelling stock is not always sufficient to adequately accommodate the residents. This is reflected in the relatively high proportion (5%) of people living in discrete Indigenous communities who are occupying temporary dwellings, such as tin sheds or humpies; and in the relatively high proportion (31%) of IHO managed houses (mostly in remote or very remote areas) requiring major repair or replacement.3

Another indicator of inadequate housing is the reported need for at least one extra bedroom. In 2001, some 16% of households with an Indigenous resident required at least one extra bedroom, compared with 3% of other households. In very remote areas, almost half (45%) of households with Indigenous residents required at least one extra bedroom to adequately accommodate the members of the household.2

Links to other dimensions of progress

Housing conditions and costs are influenced by many factors, but most particularly the affluence of households. A poor standard of housing is often associated with problems in other areas of concern such as health, financial hardship, crime and low levels of social cohesion.4 Housing development is often seen as important to the economy and is part of national wealth.

See also the commentaries National income, National wealth, Financial hardship, Health, and Family, community and social cohesion.


1. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2003, Population Characteristics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2001, cat. no. 4713, ABS, Canberra.

2. For details of unmet demand for crisis accommodation services, see Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2001, SAAP National Data Collection: Annual Report, 2000-2001, Australia, AIHW cat. no. HOU61 (SAAP NDCA Report: Series 6), AIHW, Canberra.

3. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2002, Housing and Infrastructure in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities, Australia, 2001, cat. no. 4710.0, ABS, Canberra.

4. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2001, Measuring Wellbeing: Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, cat. no. 4160.0, ABS, Canberra.

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