Living arrangements

Almost two-thirds

(64%) of people with disability own their home either with (22%) or without (41%) a mortgage.

16% of people with disability

who rent, do so from a state or territory housing authority, (4% of those without disability).

41% of households

in social housing programs include at least 1 person with disability.

On this page:


Introduction

Living arrangements in this section refer to:

  • the type of tenure a person has
  • who they live with
  • their relationship within the household
  • their type of landlord (for those who have a landlord).

Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers

Data in this section are sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC). The SDAC is the most detailed and comprehensive source of disability prevalence in Australia.

The SDAC considers that a person has disability if they have at least 1 of a list of limitations, restrictions or impairments, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least 6 months and restricts everyday activities.

The limitations are grouped into 10 activities associated with daily living—self-care, mobility, communication, cognitive or emotional tasks, health care, reading or writing tasks, transport, household chores, property maintenance, and meal preparation. The SDAC also identifies 2 other life areas in which people may experience restriction or difficulty as a result of disability—schooling and employment.

The severity of disability is defined by if a person needs help, has difficulty, or uses aids or equipment with 3 core activities—self-care, mobility, and communication—and is grouped for mild, moderate, severe, and profound limitation. People who ‘always’ or ‘sometimes’ need help with 1 or more core activities are referred to in this section as ‘people with severe or profound disability’.

Dependent versus non-dependent household relationships

In the ABS SDAC, housing information—including tenancy and landlord type—is recorded for 1 person per income unit. An income unit is 1 person, or group of related people in a household who share decisions about income. Married and de facto couples, and parents with dependent children, are considered part of the same income unit.

In the SDAC, dependent children include:

  • all children under 15 years
  • those people aged 15–24 years who are full-time students, live with at least 1 parent, and do not live with their own partner or child.

A household is defined as a private dwelling and the residents share the cost of living, or if a person lives alone they pay for their own living costs.

A family is defined as 2 or more people, 1 of whom is aged at least 15 years, who are related and who are usually resident in the same household (ABS 2019a).

Because parents and dependent children are part of the same income unit, the housing situation for the dependent child is the same as the parent (or other person) they depend upon. For example, a dependent student may have ‘owner’ as their tenure type even though someone else in their income unit is the owner. As a result a tenure type of ‘owner’ will not necessarily be the owner of the dwelling. For this reason, this section provides separate descriptions of the housing situation for these 2 groups:

  • dependent children and students
  • non-dependent people.

In the SDAC, non-dependent people are defined by their household relationship to the main respondent being interviewed in the survey. These include: husband, wife or partner, lone parent, non-dependent child, other related person, unrelated person, and lone person (ABS 2019a).

Being ‘non-dependent’ is not the same as being ‘independent’. Non-dependent refers to a person who is not part of their parent’s or carer’s income unit. This includes anyone aged 15–24 who is not a full-time student and those who may have other limitations or care needs and are not necessarily independent across all contexts.


Tenure type

Almost two-thirds (64% or 2.7 million) of people with disability own their home. They belong to an income unit with ‘owner’ as tenure type, either with (22% or 939,000) a mortgage or without (41% or 1.7 million).

Close to one-third (29% or 1.2 million) are renting, and 5.9% (or 248,000) live rent free.

Interpreting tenure

Tenure type refers to whether a dwelling is rented or owned (with or without a mortgage). Looking at tenure type can help monitor housing security, mobility issues and home ownership trends.

Overall, people with disability (64%) are more likely than those without (60%) to own their home (ABS 2019b). However, tenure type of people with disability is affected by:

  • age
  • level of disability
  • whether the person with disability is living in a household as a dependant.

Home ownership is highest in people with disability aged 65 and over. Considering that the likelihood of disability increases with age (see Prevalence of disability), some older people with disability who are home owners may have bought their house before onset of disability.

People with severe or profound disability are:

  • less likely to own their own home—56% (or 692,000) compared with 67% (or 2.0 million) of people with other disability
  • more likely to rent—32% (or 397,000) compared with 27% (or 807,000)
  • more likely to live rent free—9.2% (or 114,000) compared with 4.6% (or 136,000).

Older people (aged 65 and over) with disability (79% or 1.4 million) are more likely than younger people (aged 25–64) with disability (55% or 971,000) to own their home.

Dependent children and students

Dependent children (aged 0–14) and students (aged 15–24) share the tenure type with their income unit. Around:

  • 6 in 10 (59% or 278,000) dependants with disability live in a household that owns their home
  • almost 4 in 10 (38% or 182,000) live in households that are renting their home.

Dependants with disability are more likely than those without disability to live in households with less secure tenure types:

  • 59% with disability live in a home that is owned by someone in their income unit, compared with 66% (or 3.7 million) without disability
  • 38% live in a home that is rented, compared with 32% (1.8 million).

Living in a household as a dependent student is the most common household relationship for young people (aged 15–24) with disability (40%). This is followed by:

  • being a non-dependent child (39%)
  • living in other household relationships (20%).

The most common living arrangement for young people with disability was living as a dependent student in a home that was owned (27%), followed by being a non-dependent child living rent free (23%).

Non-dependent people aged 15 and over

Non-dependent people with disability aged 25–64 (55%) and aged 65+ (79%) are less likely than those without disability (61% and 86% respectively) to own their home. Those aged 15–24 with disability (6.3%) are as likely to be in the ‘owner’ category of tenure type as those without disability (4.9%) (Figure LIVING.1).

Figure LIVING.1: Tenure type for non-dependent people, by disability status and broad age group, 2018

Pie chart showing 4 categories of tenure type for non-dependent people with and without disability. The reader can select to display the chart by age group, including 15–24, 25–64, 65+ and all ages. The chart shows people with disability aged 25–64 are more likely (39%) to rent than those without disability (33%).

Older people (aged 65 and over) with and without disability are more likely to own their home. However, older people without disability have higher home ownership rates than those with disability (Figure LIVING.2).

The decrease in renting as people age is more gradual for those with disability than without disability. For example, non-dependent people aged 55–64 with disability (26%) are nearly twice as likely as those without disability (14%) to be renting (Figure LIVING.2).

Figure LIVING.2: Tenure type for non-dependent people, by disability status and age group, 2018

Column chart showing 3 categories of tenure type for non-dependent people with and without disability. The reader can select to display the chart by 10-year age groups, from 15–24 to 85+. The chart shows people with disability aged 35–44 are less likely (43%) to own their home than those without disability (62%).

The relationships people have within their households vary between those with and without disability and by tenure type. For example:

  • non-dependent people with disability are more likely than those without disability to live alone or as single parents, and less likely to live with a husband, wife or partner:
    • 56% lived with a husband, wife or partner, compared with 67% without disability
    • 24% lived alone, compared with 10%
    • 6.7% are lone parents, compared with 5.0% (Figure LIVING.3)
  • people living with a husband, wife or partner are the most likely to own their home (Figure LIVING.4).

Figure LIVING.3: Household relationships for non-dependent people, by disability status and age group, 2018

Bar chart showing 6 household relationship categories for non-dependent people with and without disability. The reader can select to display the chart by age group, including 15–24, 25–64, 65+ and all ages. The chart shows people with disability aged 25–64 are more likely (20%) to live alone than those without disability (9%).

Figure LIVING.4: Ownership for non-dependent people, by disability status, age group and household relationship, 2018

Stacked column chart showing home ownership for non-dependent people with and without disability in 10-year age groups from 15–24 to 85+. The reader can select to display the chart by household relationship categories including husband, wife or partner, other, such as lone person, lone parent, non-dependent child, other relative or unrelated person, and all household relationships. The chart shows people with disability, with a husband, wife or partner, aged 45–54 are less likely (76%) to own their home than those without disability (83%).


Landlords

Who a person rents from provides additional information on housing security for people with disability. For example, renting from a state or territory housing authority may provide more security than renting in the private rental market. It may also hint at rental affordability and access issues, with the private rental market generally more competitive and expensive than social housing schemes. For more information on social housing, see Housing assistance.

Rental affordability

Rental affordability, especially in the private rental market, can be an issue for people with disability. For example:

  • 31% of income units receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) (at June 2018) who had at least 1 member receiving the Disability Support Pension (DSP) are in rental stress after receipt of CRA (that is, paid more than 30% of their gross household income on rent); without CRA, 71% of these income units would be in rental stress (AIHW 2019). This compares with 40% in rental stress after receipt of CRA and 68% in rental stress without CRA for all income units receiving CRA.
  • An Anglicare report on affordable housing found that only 0.4% of 70,000 rental properties advertised in Australia on a selected weekend in March 2020 are affordable and appropriate to single people aged 21 and over receiving the DSP (excluding the coronavirus supplement), compared with 2.4% for a single person on minimum wage (Anglicare 2020).

Housing affordability case study

A cross-sectional analysis of the 11th wave (2011) of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey used data from 11,394 participants aged between 25 and 64 years (Aitken et al. 2019). Almost 1 in 4 (23% or 2,729) respondents have disability. The study found people with disability were:

  • less likely (32%) to live in households servicing a mortgage compared to without disability (43%)
  • more likely (32%) to live in houses that were owned outright (compared to 24%)
  • more likely (7.9%) to live in public rented accommodation (compared to 1.5%)
  • more likely (11%) to live in unaffordable housing (compared to 7.6%). Among those with disability, this is higher for people with intellectual impairment (19%) and psychological impairment (17%)
  • more likely (12%) to be unable to pay rent (compared to 6.7%). Among those with disability, this is higher for people with psychological impairment (15%)
  • more likely (4.9%) to have moved because of a health reason (compared to 0.6%)
  • more likely (16%) to be dissatisfied with their homes (compared to 11%)
  • more likely (17%) to be dissatisfied with the neighbourhoods in which they live (compared to 7.6%) (Aitken et al. 2019).

The HILDA Survey is a household-based longitudinal study of Australian households and individuals conducted in annual waves since 2001. All household members aged 15 years or older are invited to participate in a personal face-to-face interview. The HILDA Survey defines disability as an impairment, long-term health condition or disability that restricts everyday activities and has lasted, or is likely to last, for a period of 6 months or more.

Unaffordable housing was defined using a housing expenditure to income ratio. It includes households in the lowest 40% of disposable income who had rent or mortgage payments that exceeded 30% of their gross household income (Aitken et al. 2019).

The most common types of landlords for people with disability, living in households who have a landlord, are:

  • real estate agent—42% (or 525,000) compared with 63% (or 4.2 million) without disability
  • state or territory housing authority—16% (or 198,000) compared with 4.1% (or 272,000)
  • parent or other relative living in the same dwelling—12% (or 150,000) compared with 8.1% (or 531,000)
  • other person not in same dwelling—12% (or 148,000) compared with 12% (or 777,000) (ABS 2019b).

Compared with others with disability, people with severe or profound disability are:

  • less likely to have a real estate agent as their landlord—36% (or 149,000) compared with 46% (or 377,000)
  • more likely to have a parent or other relative in the same dwelling as their landlord—19% (or 78,000) compared with 8.6% (or 71,000)
  • slightly more likely to have a state or territory housing authority as their landlord—17% (or 71,000) compared with 15% (or 127,000) (ABS 2019b).

This suggests that, while many people with disability do rent in the private rental market, they are much less likely to do so than people without disability. They are far more likely to be living in social housing.

Dependent children and students

The landlord type of dependent children and students is that of the parent (or other person) they depend upon.

Dependent children or students with disability, living in households who have a landlord, are:

  • less likely (58% or 107,000) to rent from a real estate agent (compared with 67% or 1.2 million without disability)
  • more likely (11% or 20,000) to rent from a state or territory housing authority (compared with 6.2% or 110,000) (ABS 2019b).

Non-dependent people aged 15 and over

The type of landlord a person has varies by age (Figure LIVING.5). For example, non-dependent people with disability aged 25–34 most commonly rent from a real estate agent, but, from that age on, renting from a state or territory housing authority becomes more common.

Figure LIVING.5: Landlord type for non-dependent people, by disability status and age group, 2018

Stacked column chart showing 4 categories of landlord type for non-dependent people who have a landlord, with and without disability, in 10-year age groups from 15–24 to 85+. The chart shows people with disability aged 55–64 are more likely (22%) to rent from a state or territory housing authority than those without disability (8.2%).