Guide to housing affordability statistics

Choosing the right data source for your purpose



Housing affordability statistics, namely estimates of the number of households paying more than a given proportion of income on housing costs, can be obtained from a number of ABS data sources. However, due to the comparative advantages of each, some may be more suitable than others. This fact sheet outlines the main data sources available, and when to use each.

Survey of Income and Housing (SIH)

The Survey of Income and Housing (SIH) is a cross-sectional survey of Australian households conducted biennially.  It has the advantage of containing the most comprehensive income data of each person in a household over the age of 15. So, in estimating the number of households spending more than a certain proportion of their income on housing costs, commonly 30%, the Survey of Income and Housing is the source that will generate the most accurate statistics. Estimates from the SIH are generally reliable at the Australia, state or territory, and Greater Capital City Statistical Area levels.

Housing affordability statistics are included in many of the data cubes of Housing Occupancy and Costs. A useful starting point may be table 5.2 which includes the proportion of lower income households paying more than 30% of their gross household income on housing costs: for renters, homeowners, as well as for households with various other characteristics. A complete listing of the data cubes with housing affordability tables, is included at the end of this fact sheet.

For housing affordability statistics of lower income renters, an additional table (13.1) is included that contains data compiled on the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA) basis. For more details of which, see the Appendix – national reporting of rental affordability measures, in Housing Occupancy and Costs, 2019-20.

For some purposes, finer geographical areas may be of interest, such as at a particular local government area; or a particular population group. In such cases the Census of Population and Housing may be the most appropriate source.

Census of Population and Housing

The Rent weekly payments data within the Housing section of the 2021 Census All persons QuickStats includes the number and proportion of renter households where rent payments are:

  • greater than 30% of household income
  • less than or equal to 30% of household income

Similarly, the Mortgage monthly repayments section includes the number and proportion of owner with mortgage households where mortgage repayments are:

  • greater than 30% of household income
  • less than or equal to 30% of household income

QuickStats can generate these statistics for any given geographical region of Australia.

Two new data items, created for the 2021 Census, make the creation of tables using TableBuilder easier. One for renters: Rental Affordability Indicator (RAID); and one for home owners with a mortgage: Mortgage Affordability Indicator (MAID).

Income data collected in the Census has some limitations when compared to data collected from the SIH: it is obtained from a single question which asks people to report the total of all income they receive, by selecting one of the listed income ranges. This limits the precision of any housing affordability statistics that are produced. The RAID and MAID entries in the 2021 Census Dictionary, linked above, contain more information on use caveats.

The Census is also conducted less frequently than the SIH, at five-yearly intervals. Nevertheless, some users may find that housing affordability tables produced from the Census are fit for their purpose, especially if seeking data for a smaller region, or specific population groups.

The Household Expenditure Survey (HES)

Other ABS household surveys, due to their respective topic focusses, do not usually collect sufficient data items to construct housing affordability indicator statistics. An exception is the Household Expenditure Survey (HES). This survey, undertaken every six years until 2015-16, contains the most detailed components of household expenditure. This may be useful for users who wish to construct their own housing affordability indicators, using other expenditure items not usually included within the housing costs of the Survey of Income and Housing.

Data cubes with housing affordability tables, Housing Occupancy and Costs, 2019-20
Table numberDescription
1.3Time series, Australia, all households
5.1Australia, All households (except negative or nil gross household income)
5.2Australia, Lower income households
6.1Australia, Age of household reference person
8.1Housing costs as a percentage of income ranges, for lower income households, by states and territories
9.1Recent home buyer households, Australia
11.3Greater Capital City Statistical Areas
11.6States and territories
12.3New South Wales
12.12South Australia
12.15Western Australia
12.21Northern Territory
12.24Australian Capital Territory
13.1Lower income renter households, National Housing and Homelessness Agreement basis, by state and territory, 2007-08 to 2019-20


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