Indigenous housing report highlights continued disparities

Indigenous Australians are more likely to rent than to own their homes, and they are more likely to be homeless and to live in overcrowded conditions than non-Indigenous Australians, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Indigenous Housing Needs 2005, a Multi-measure Needs Model assesses five aspects of Indigenous housing: homelessness, overcrowding, affordability, dwelling condition and connection to essential services.

The report shows that in 2001 just under 2% of Indigenous Australians (7,500 to 10,500 people) were considered homeless.

The rate of homelessness was 18 per 1,000 - 3.5 times as high as for non-Indigenous people and the pattern of homelessness also differed from that of non-Indigenous Australians.

'Well over a third (35%) of homeless Indigenous people have no conventional accommodation in contrast to 13% of non-Indigenous people,' said report author, Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman, Head of the AIHW's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Welfare Unit.

The report also found that a higher proportion of Indigenous households just under (10%) were overcrowded, with the rate of overcrowding among Indigenous people 953 per 10,000 households - six times the rate of overcrowding among non-Indigenous people.

'Overcrowding is a serious issue and, coupled with poor dwelling condition and lack of connection to essential services, can contribute to the spread of infectious diseases.

'We found that in 2001, 27% of dwellings (5,814 of 21,287) were in need of major repair or replacement. Some of these dwellings were not connected to essential services - 147 were not connected to water, 257 were not connected to electricity, and 301 were not connected to sewerage,' Dr Al-Yaman said.

About two-thirds of Indigenous households rented (66%), with 25% renting privately and 38% renting public or community housing.

Only 30% of Indigenous households in 2002 owned or were buying their own home - with two-thirds of these having a mortgage.

Insecurity of tenure was found to be a problem for people living in caravan parks and in the private rental market. It is estimated that over 1,700 people lived in caravan parks and nearly 126,000 people (40,700 households) in the private rental market.

Data from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey show that 38% of those renting privately had lived in two dwellings in the previous 12 months, and 15% had lived in three dwellings or more in that time. Similarly, Census data show that 45% of Indigenous private rental households had moved in the last year.

'Because the Indigenous population has a generally younger age profile and a higher fertility rate, the population is projected to increase, and demand on housing and associated infrastructures is likely to increase,' Dr Al-Yaman said.

25 October 2005

Further information: Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1146, or mob. 0407 068 033

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel 61 2 6244 1032.