Livability: Housing

2016

Housing

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Household and family projections (ABS 2015b) estimated that the number of households in Australia would increase by between 3.7 million and 4 million from 2006 to 2031.

The structure, condition and location of housing affect the livability of the built environment. This section focuses on the stock and structure of Australia’s housing, including trends over time. Box BLT5 also highlights the state of housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Types of housing

Detached, free-standing houses situated on ‘quarter-acre blocks’ have historically been a predominant feature of Australian urban development, with attached medium-density dwellings comprising about 20 per cent of total housing for most of our urban history. More recently, governments have moved to promote higher housing density to provide greater choice of housing types, and to make better use of land and existing infrastructure (ABS 2012a). Metropolitan strategic plans are also aiming to increase the density of existing urban areas to accommodate population growth, rather than expanding outwards beyond the city fringe—see Box BLT4 and Land-use assessment and planning.

Because of the history of low-density planning and building, detached homes remain by far the most common type of property across Australia. Detached dwellings accounted for about three-quarters (78 per cent) of all occupied dwelling stock in 2014; semidetached dwellings accounted for 9 per cent, and flats, units and apartments for 13 per cent (ABS unpublished data, 2014). Among Australia’s capital cities, the proportion of households living in detached houses in 2014 ranged from 65 per cent in Sydney to 88 per cent in Hobart. The average across all 8 capital cities was 73 per cent. Outside the capital cities, the proportion of households living in detached houses was higher, averaging 86 per cent in 2014.

However, according to the National Housing Supply Council (NHSC 2013), the proportion of the entire dwelling stock accounted for by flats, units or apartments increased across all states and territories between 1983 and 2013. The increases were largest in the Australian Capital Territory (3.9 percentage points), where flats, units and apartments accounted for 14 per cent of all housing stock in 2014, and New South Wales (3 percentage points), where flats, units and apartments accounted for around 16 per cent in 2014. In addition, there are changes in the nature of apartments being built. The share of flats with 3 or more bedrooms increased from just less than 13 per cent in 2001 to almost 18 per cent in 2011, suggesting that there are now more apartments that are a closer substitute for detached dwellings.

Overall, major compositional changes to the overall stock take a long time to evolve. Despite the trends described above, nationally, the relative proportions of detached (lower-density) and ‘other’ (medium-density to higher-density dwellings) changed very little between 2008 and 2014 (ABS unpublished data, 2014). This is in part because new dwellings continue to represent a relatively small proportion of Australia’s total housing stock. The total stock of Australian residential dwellings is just over 9 million. In 2014–15, the total number of dwelling units approved across Australia was just under 227,000, with 52 per cent of these being detached houses. This compared with 56 per cent in 2013–14, and 58 per cent in 2012–13 (ABS 2016c).

At a national level, these relatively high proportions of new residential building approvals for medium-density or higher-density housing compares with around one-quarter in the 1970s and 1980s. This shift will help to bring the composition of Australia’s dwelling stock more in line with that of other developed countries (SERC 2015).

Greater Melbourne was the capital city to have the largest number of residential building approvals in 2014–15, with 56,657 approvals (Table BLT8). Fifty-eight per cent of these new residential dwellings were ‘other’ residential buildings.5 In the Inner Melbourne region, this proportion rose to 95 per cent. In many regions of Greater Melbourne, however, detached houses still represented most new dwellings—for example, in south-east Melbourne, west Melbourne and north-west Melbourne, around 70 per cent of building approvals were for detached homes.

Sixty-five per cent of residential building approvals in Greater Sydney were other residential buildings, and 60 per cent of Greater Brisbane approvals were also for this type of housing. Other capital cities (such as Greater Adelaide, Greater Perth and Greater Hobart) continue to predominantly build detached houses—63 per cent, 69 per cent and 83 per cent, respectively—with 93 per cent of new residential building approvals in the North Adelaide region being for detached houses.

For noncapital-city regions, detached houses continue to be the new dwelling type most favoured, with building approvals for these ranging from 97 per cent in South Australia (outside Greater Adelaide), to 69 per cent in Queensland (outside Greater Brisbane). The Gold Coast differs from most other noncapital-city regions in having slightly more approvals for other residential dwellings (50.5 per cent) than for detached houses in 2014–15.

Table BLT8 Building approvals, selected regions, 2014–15

State or territory

Region

New houses

New other residentiala

Total dwellingsb

New South Wales

Greater Sydney

15,107

29,733

45,486

Sydney—Parramatta

954

5,729

6,734

Sydney—City and Inner South

116

5,309

5,580

Sydney—Inner South West

1,011

3,816

4,877

Sydney—South West

3,274

1,092

4,399

Rest of New South Wales

10,872

4,001

15,078

Newcastle and Lake Macquarie

1,290

1,074

2,384

Victoria

Greater Melbourne

23,121

32,967

56,657

Melbourne—Inner

583

15,792

16,606

Melbourne—South East

5,722

2,264

8,031

Melbourne—West

5,120

2,197

7,364

Melbourne—North East

3,663

2,653

6,325

Melbourne—Inner East

1,190

3,542

4,802

Melbourne—Inner South

1,052

3,288

4,454

Melbourne—North West

2,924

1,406

4,350

Rest of Victoria

9,992

888

10,960

Geelong

2,711

505

3,260

Queensland

Greater Brisbane

11,233

17,870

29,462

Brisbane—Inner City

364

8,645

9,316

Brisbane—South

959

3,204

4,169

Rest of Queensland

11,471

5,165

16,724

Gold Coast

2,723

2,805

5,550

Sunshine Coast

2,729

780

3,527

South Australia

Greater Adelaide

5,679

3,269

9,068

Adelaide—Central and Hills

1,028

1,867

2,965

Adelaide—North

2,370

161

2,542

Rest of South Australia

2,096

56

2,168

Western Australia

Greater Perth

19,662

8,338

28,300

Perth—South East

4,781

2,880

7,692

Perth—North West

5,067

1,470

6,567

Perth—South West

4,417

1,233

5,864

Perth—North East

3,293

772

4,077

Rest of Western Australia

3,736

365

4,124

Tasmania

Greater Hobart

1,038

204

1,252

Rest of Tasmania

1,328

239

1,588

Northern Territory

Greater Darwin

822

822

1,659

Rest of Northern Territory

74

29

154

Australian Capital Territory

1,336

2,912

4,255

a Other residential buildings include semidetached houses, row or terrace houses, townhouses, flats, units and apartments.

b Totals include pre-existing buildings that are being altered or amended to add additional dwellings.

Source: ABS (2016c)

Size of housing

Overall, the floor area of total new residential dwellings decreased by 3.4 square metres (m2) (1.6 per cent) between 2003–04 and 2012–13 (Table BLT9). The average floor area of new residential dwellings peaked in 2008–09 at 218.6 m2, driven by an increase in the size of new detached houses, but has declined since then (to 207.6 m2 in 2012–13). This decline has occurred for both houses and other residential dwellings.

The average floor area of new houses completed in 2012–13 was highest in New South Wales (266.2 m2) and lowest in Tasmania (200.3 m2). Since 2008–09, most states and territories have seen a decline in the average floor size of new houses, except for South Australia and Tasmania, which saw a small increase (2.5 per cent and 2.7 per cent, respectively).

The average floor area of new other residential dwellings completed in 2012–13 was highest in New South Wales (151.1 m2) and lowest in the Australian Capital Territory (79.4 m2). Most states and territories saw a decrease in the average floor size of new other residential dwellings since 2008–09. Exceptions were South Australia (15.7 per cent increase); Tasmania (9.5 per cent increase); and New South Wales, which experienced a large 10.4 per cent increase in average floor size in this category of dwellings between 2011–12 and 2012–13 (ABS 2016d).

The Australian Capital Territory was notable in its large drop in sizes of both new houses (12.3 per cent) and new other residential dwellings (31 per cent) between 2008–09 and 2012–13.

Table BLT9 Average floor area of new residential buildings, houses and other residential, 2003–04 to 2012–13

Year

 

New houses

 

New other residentiala

Total new residential

 

Floor area (m2)

Change from previous year (%)

Floor area (m2)

Change from previous year (%)

Area (m2)

Change from previous year (%)

2003–04

235.1

2.6

142.5

4.1

211.0

1.5

2004–05

238.2

1.3

143.4

0.6

210.1

–0.3

2005–06

242.6

1.8

142.1

–0.9

213.2

1.3

2006–07

239.3

–1.4

140.9

–0.9

212.3

–0.4

2007–08

239.7

0.2

141.5

0.4

213.8

0.8

2008–09

247.7

3.2

140.5

–0.7

218.6

2.4

2009–10

238.8

–3.7

143.2

1.9

216.1

–1.3

2010–11

242.9

1.7

133.9

–6.9

213.6

–1.2

2011–12

244.9

0.8

132.2

–1.3

211.5

–1.0

2012–13

241.1

–1.6

133.9

1.3

207.6

–1.9

a Other residential buildings include semidetached houses, row or terrace houses, townhouses, flats, units and apartments.

Source: ABS (2015c)

Over time, a gradual decline in lot sizes and an increase in house dwelling sizes has occurred in new residential developments. It is now more common for the footprint of new dwellings to cover a larger share of the lot (see Box BLT4). This has resulted in detached homes in greenfield developments having less outdoor space than in the past. As a consequence, the marginal difference in amenity between a detached home and a lower-density attached dwelling (e.g. townhouse, semidetached dwelling, unit) has narrowed. This could also be a factor contributing to the growth in lower-density to mid-density multi-unit housing (HIA 2015).

Box BLT5 Indigenous communities and housing

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprise approximately 3 per cent of the total Australian population. In 2014–15, an estimated 686,800 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were living in private dwellings, most of whom (79 per cent) live in nonremote areas (an increase from 76 per cent in 2008). This was largely driven by the proportion of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in major cities, which has increased from 32 per cent in 2008 to 35 per cent in 2014–15.

Housing conditions

Housing circumstances have been identified as a major factor affecting the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. An adequate number of bedrooms and access to working facilities enables a household to function effectively, and overcrowding and/or a lack of working facilities can pose serious health risks, such as greater exposure to infectious diseases, passive smoking and a range of other stressors. Building structure and basic facilities that are considered to be important components of a healthy living environment include those that assist in washing people, clothes and bedding; safely removing waste; and enabling the safe storage and cooking of food.

In 2014–15, more than one-quarter (28 per cent) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were living in a dwelling that had major structural problems (36 per cent in remote areas compared with 25 per cent in nonremote areas). This includes electrical or plumbing problems, major cracks in walls or floors, termites or rot, and problems with the foundation. For the same period, 1 in 7 (15 per cent) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were living in a dwelling in which one or more basic facilities were not available or did not work. People in remote areas were more likely (28 per cent) than those in nonremote areas (11 per cent) to have experienced problems with household facilities.

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over living in an overcrowded dwelling decreased to 18 per cent in 2014–15, from 25 per cent in 2008 and 26 per cent in 2002. An overcrowded dwelling is one where 1 or more additional bedrooms are required, based on the age and relationships of household members. Overcrowding affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote areas more than those living in nonremote areas. Of those aged 15 years and over in remote areas, 38 per cent live in overcrowded conditions—almost 3 times the rate in nonremote areas (13 per cent). In 2014–15, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were more than 3 times as likely as non-Indigenous people to be living in a dwelling that required at least 1 additional bedroom (18 per cent compared with 5 per cent).

Homelessness also affects the Indigenous population more than the non-Indigenous population; 29 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over have experienced homelessness, which is more than twice the rate for the non-Indigenous population. People in nonremote areas were significantly more likely than those in remote areas to have experienced homelessness (32 per cent compared with 18 per cent).

Source: ABS (2016e)

Coleman S (2016). Built environment: Livability: Housing. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/built-environment/topic/2016/livability-housing, DOI 10.4226/94/58b65a5037ed8