Notes on the data: Housing/ Transport

Social housing: persons living in rented social housing dwellings and social housing (rented) dwellings, 2016


Policy context:  Social housing includes all rental housing owned and managed by government or non-government organisations (including non-profit); social housing rents in general are set below market levels and determined by household income [1]. The social housing services system seeks to provide low income people with access to social housing assistance; supporting their wellbeing and contributing to their social and economic participation by providing services that are timely and affordable, safe, appropriate (meeting the needs of individual households), high quality and sustainable [2].The distribution of public rental housing remains an indicator of socioeconomic disadvantage. Public housing tenants are increasingly welfare-dependent (especially single parents; those who are unemployed, aged or with a disability; and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples) and public housing stocks have declined substantially since 1996.

There is a clear link between cold homes and ill-health, where existing conditions such as respiratory illnesses or mental health conditions are exacerbated [3].

Waiting lists for social housing are long, with 394,300 households in Australia’s main social housing programs in 2015-16 which comprise public rental housing, State owned and managed Indigenous housing (SOMIH) and mainstream community housing. From 2007-08 to 2015-16, there was a 103 percent increase in the number of households in community housing from around 35,700 to 72,400 [2]. Moreover, housing affordability has declined in Australia as increases in median income has not kept pace with growth in median mortgage and rental payments. From 2001-2011, median mortgage and rental payments increased by 100 percent whereas median household income increased by only 60 percent in the same period [4].

At the 2016 Census of Population and Housing, the largest number of social housing rentals were rented from a State or territory housing authority (299,949 dwellings), with a further 51,068 rented from a housing co-operative, community or church group, or 13.7% of all rented dwellings [5].


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2017) Housing Assistance in Australia 2017, accessed 5 December 2017. Available from:
  2. Productivity Commission (2017) Housing and Homelessness in 2017 Report on Government Services, accessed 5 December 2017. Available from
  3. Public Health England (2014) Local action on health inequalities: Fuel poverty and cold home-related health problems.
  4. Muir, K. et al. (2017) The opportunities, risks and possibilities of social impact investments for housing and homelessness, AHURI Final Report No.288. Melbourne: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute.
  5. ABS. 2016 Census Community Profiles. Canberra: ABS; 2017 Mar, accessed 8 August 2017. Available from:

Notes:  The data include households in private dwellings only.

Private dwelling: A private dwelling can be a house, flat or even a room. It can also be a caravan, houseboat, tent, or a house attached to an office, or rooms above a shop.

Social housing: Occupied private dwellings rented from the government housing authority, a housing co-operative, community or church group.

The numerator excludes the 2.7% of dwellings or 2.2% of persons for which tenure type was not stated: however, these records are included in the denominator.


Geography: Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Remoteness Area


Numerator: Persons living in rented social housing dwellings (counting persons) and social housing rented dwellings (counting dwellings)


Denominator: Total persons living in private dwellings and total occupied private dwellings


Detail of analysis:  Per cent


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on the ABS Census of Population and Housing, August 2016.


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