People living in crowded dwellings represent a continuum within the scope of those who are marginally housed. In the context of the elements developed for the ABS definition of homelessness, people living in 'severely' crowded dwellings are considered to be homeless because they do not have control of, or access to space for social relations. In 'severely' crowded dwellings inhabitants are generally unable to pursue social relations, or have personal (i.e. family or small group) living space, or maintain privacy, nor do different family / groups within the dwelling have exclusive access to kitchen facilities and a bathroom. In such circumstances, if people had accommodation alternatives it would be expected that they would have exercised them.
There are many situations of overcrowding which do not threaten the health and safety of the occupants. For example, the overcrowding may be slight, or for a short period of time. However, severe and sustained overcrowding can put the health and safety of the occupants at risk.
'Persons living in severely crowded dwellings' are considered to be in the sixth ABS homeless group. Severely crowded conditions are operationalised in the Census as living in a dwelling which requires 4 or more extra bedrooms to accommodate the people who usually live there, as defined by the Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS).
The concept of crowding 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, their age and their sex.
Operationalisation using Census data for overcrowding as homelessness at this severe level of 4 or more extra bedrooms is designed to prevent the misclassification of people as homeless who may choose to live together under some crowding to save money, to be close to family or for other reasons. In addition, it also takes account of the limitation of the Census household form which only seeks relationship information within the household in relation to 'person 1', as well as child relationships to 'person 2'. This limitation of Census family coding results in misclassification of family relationships, particularly for large households with complex family relationships or households which contain multiple families, or where persons are temporarily absent. Households that look like crowded group households in the Census may actually include a number of couples. Under CNOS a single adult requires their own bedroom but a couple can share a bedroom, and the masking of relationships can inflate the crowding measure.
Persons living in other crowded dwellings are usual residents living in dwellings reported in the Census requiring 3 extra bedrooms to accommodate them according to the CNOS. Under the operationalisation of the ABS definition they are not classified as homeless but are considered to be in marginal housing and may be at risk of homelessness. The ABS presents estimates of marginal housing from the Census, including persons living in other crowded dwellings alongside estimates of homelessness.
For more information on the definition of homelessness or the methodology for estimating homelessness from the Census see the Information Paper - A Statistical Definition of Homelessness, 2012 (cat. no. 4922.0) and the Information Paper: Methodology for Estimating Homelessness from the Census of Population and Housing, 2012 (cat. no. 2049.0.55.001).