4160.0 - Measuring Wellbeing: Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/10/2001   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All  
Contents >> Chapter 8: Housing >> Data sources

Data sources


National housing surveys have been run by the ABS in 1988, 1994 and 1999 to support the analysis of various issues of housing demand and supply, and to provide measures of housing outcomes for the general population and special sub-groups within the population. Along with data describing the characteristics of households in occupied private dwellings and the dwellings they occupy, the surveys provide a range of status and outcome measures such as those describing tenure type, the ratio of persons to rooms, housing affordability, and on levels satisfaction with dwelling and neighbourhood conditions. The surveys have also variously collected details on the housing history of households and their reasons for moving.


Conducted every five years, the Censuses have provided national and small area data for people living in private and non-private dwellings and more recently some data about homeless people. While the range of housing related data is limited compared to that collected in housing surveys they provide data on small groups of special interest, such as caravan park dwellers, which cannot be easily provided by surveys. The housing related data items collected in the Censuses have included: dwelling type, number of rooms in the dwelling, tenure type, landlord type, and amounts paid in rent or in mortgage payments.


More extensive data on housing costs and their relationship to income, available at State, Territory and national levels, have been provided by the ABS Survey of Income and Housing Costs and the Household Expenditure Survey, conducted on a regular basis over recent decades. These surveys support detailed analysis of households that may be experiencing housing affordability problems. The most extensive data on current housing costs is provided by the Household Expenditure Surveys. Details collected include expenditures on rents and mortgage payments, rates, home insurance, repairs and maintenance, and fuel and power. This data can be related to household income and family type and used to investigate how spending on housing compares to spending on other commodities and services.


The 1999 Community Housing and Infrastructure Needs Survey (CHINS) was conducted by the ABS on behalf of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission to assist in the evaluation of policies and programs designed to improve housing and infrastructure services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in discrete communities and other community managed housing. The Survey collected information from: Indigenous housing organisations, concerning the number, characteristics and condition of their housing stock, the amount of rent collected and expenditure on repairs and maintenance; and from discrete Indigenous communities, concerning housing and related infrastructure, such as water and power supply, sewerage systems, drainage and roads. Information relating to access to health, education and other services was also obtained.


There have been a number of one off, State specific, surveys conducted over the last two decades concerned with housing and locational preferences. These included those undertaken by the ABS in Victoria (in 1982, 1994 and 1999), in Western Australia (in 1983, 1988 and 1998), in Queensland (in 1991) and the Australian Capital Territory (in 1998). Information was obtained on duration of residence in the current dwelling, main advantages and disadvantages of the dwelling, type and tenure of previous dwelling and reason for moving, and intentions to move in the next two years, including type and tenure of future dwelling. Similar data items were collected in a number of capital city specific surveys (namely Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra) conducted during the early 1990s.


This survey has collected information on the demographic characteristics and economic resources of people who invest in residential rental property in Australia, and the characteristics of their most recently acquired properties. The survey, last conducted in 1997 and previously in 1993, also sought information on reasons for investment. Information collected from the survey is used to develop policies to encourage the private sector to invest in rental property, particularly at the low cost end of the market, and so help ensure the supply of rental housing is maintained.


This annual survey, conducted since 1992, has included various topics, some repeated at two to three yearly intervals. Examples of topics to do with housing include: sources and usage of water, modes of transport to work and study, motor vehicle usage, type of home insulation, sources of energy for heating and cooking, the use of appliances such as heating and air conditioning and household waste management.


The Commonwealth and State and Territory governments administer the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) on a joint funding basis. SAAP provides recurrent funding for programs, generally provided by non-government agencies, designed to assist homeless people or those at imminent risk of becoming homeless. The SAAP National Data Collection Agency within the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), provides information on SAAP operations through five collections: the Client Collection, the Administrative Data Collection, the Unmet Demand Collection: the Casual Client Collection; and the Special Issue Surveys. Together these provide measures of the numbers and types of clients being serviced, service usage patterns as well as the numbers of outlets and the money being spent. The collections have been designed to identify individual clients who use services on a frequent or regular basis. As such, no information is available on those homeless people who do not make contact with the SAAP establishments.3


This collection is a monthly collection of housing finance commitments by significant lending institutions in Australia. Separate sets of information are provided for the construction or purchase of owner-occupied dwellings and for the construction and purchase of dwellings for rental or resale which are considered to be personal and commercial finance activity respectively. The number and value of housing finance commitments are a leading economic indicators of the building cycle. Pronounced swings in housing finance flows over time may point to the emergence of supply/demand imbalances. Estimated numbers of loans made to first home buyers indicate the numbers of borrowers accessing home ownership.


This survey, most recently undertaken in relation to activities in 1998-99, provides key measures on the size and performance of the Real Estate industry. The survey provides information that describes; the nature and structure of the industry; its activity in terms of employment, income and costs; and, its contribution to the Australian economy.


Conducted at five (or so) yearly intervals and most recently in 1996-97 this survey provides data necessary to understand the size and structure of the home construction industry, and to monitor changes in industry structure over time. It provides details of the activities of a diverse range of private sector organisations such as those that provide house construction and other residential building services, site preparation services, concreting services, bricklaying services, plumbing services, electrical services, carpentry services, and painting and decorating services.


The quarterly Building Activity Survey, conducted since 1980, collects data relating to all stages (commenced, under construction, completed) of both residential and non-residential building activity undertaken in the reference quarter. The statistics are compiled from returns collected from builders, and other individuals and organisations, engaged in building activity. The survey provides regular estimates of 'value of work done' and 'value of commencements' used for national accounts purposes and by economic policy departments. It also provides official National and State estimates of the number of dwellings commenced each quarter.


The monthly Building Approvals collection collects data relating to residential and non-residential building work above certain value limits approved within the reference month. Data from this collection provides timely estimates of future building activity and is an important leading economic indicator. The statistics are used extensively by both public and private sector organisations to monitor Australian building approval numbers. In the private sector, almost every major manufacturer or supplier of building materials uses the statistics to assist in making decisions on issues such as planning of future production, location of warehousing and other distribution facilities, and in the preparation of future marketing strategies. Market consultants and private individuals researching the economic, social and financial aspects of Australian housing also use monthly building approvals statistics as important inputs to much of their work.


The monthly collection of Dwelling Unit Commencements provides data on the number of new dwelling units reported by approving authorities as having commenced. This collection provides numbers of dwelling commencements at a more detailed regional level and on a more timely basis than the quarterly Building Activity Survey. The statistics are compiled from data provided by local and other government authorities on commencements of new house and other residential building jobs. Since the December quarter 1996 the collection has been restricted to Western Australia and South Australia. The data provides contemporary views of regions of growth.


Quarterly price indexes for a range of housing items are constructed for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) from a series of special surveys. Price indexes are available for each capital city for project and established houses, rent levels for both privately owned and government owned dwellings, mortgage interest charges, land rates, repairs and maintenance, and charges for electricity, gas and telephone. A separate set of quarterly surveys provide the basis for producing price indexes for materials used in building houses.


Various industry groups have joined to produce quarterly indexes which aim to monitor trends in housing affordability over time. These include the 'housing affordability index' jointly produced by the Housing Industry Association and the Commonwealth Bank and the 'home loan affordability index' jointly produced by
The Real Estate Institute of Australia and AMP Banking. While differing in their construction the indexes essentially aim to measure the costs of housing for home purchasers against household incomes. The first measure, for example, is based on the ratio of average household disposable income for all households in Australia to the 'qualifying' income required to meet payments on a typical dwelling, based on Commonwealth Bank lending data. When repayments consume 30% of household disposable income the index equals 100. The second index, on the other hand, takes the ratio of family income (updated on the basis of average weekly earnings) to average loan repayments. Both indexes are calculated so that increases in index values represent improvements in affordability. A part of the weakness of these two measures is that the house price element does not refer to houses of 'constant quality' so the measure is less consistent than it might be if the procedures used to produce house price indexes for the CPI, as produced by the ABS, were adopted.


Data on rent levels is available from a number of other agencies. The Master Builders' Association produces estimates of average capital city rents based on classified advertisements in the 'To Let' columns of major newspapers. Based on administrative data required by State and Territory government agencies the Real Estate Institute of Australia produces quarterly estimates of property sales and median sale prices along with data on rent levels by dwelling type and number of bedrooms. The New South Wales Housing Department derives estimates of rent levels from bond lodgements with the Rental Bond Board. Because of the nature of the data sources used all these estimates suffer from deficiencies of scope and coverage.

Previous PageNext Page