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% without disability)

Non-dependent people

with disability (24%) are more likely than those without disability (10%) to live alone

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 data on disability prevalence in Australia.

The SDAC considers that a person has disability if they have at least one 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 whether 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 one or more core activities, have difficulty understanding or being understood by family or friends, or can communicate more easily using sign language or other non-spoken forms of communication are referred to in this section as ‘people with severe or profound disability’.

Dependent versus non-dependent household relationships

This section provides separate descriptions of the housing situation for:

  • dependent children and students
  • non-dependent people.

In the ABS SDAC, housing information – including tenancy and landlord type – is recorded for an income unit. Dependent children are considered part of the same income units as their parents. In the SDAC, dependent children include:

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

The housing situation for the dependent child is the same as for 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.

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). A non-dependent child is a person aged 15 or over who is not a full-time student aged 15–24, lives with at least one parent and does not live with their own partner or child.

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.

 

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.


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) (ABS 2019b).

Close to one-third (29% or 1.2 million) of people with disability are renting (39% or 949,000 aged under 65; 14% or 256,000 aged 65 and over). A further 5.9% (or 248,000) live rent-free (7.4% or 179,000 aged under 65; 3.9% or 70,000 aged 65 and over) (ABS 2019b).

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) (ABS 2019b).

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 (ABS 2019b).

Dependent children and students

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

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

  • 6 in 10 (59% or 278,000) dependants with disability live in a home that is owned by someone in their income unit, compared with 66% (or 3.7 million) without disability
  • almost 4 in 10 (38% or 182,000) live in a home that is rented, compared with 32% (1.8 million) (ABS 2019b).

Living in a household as a dependent student is the most common household relationship for young people (aged 15–24) with disability (40% or 117,000). This is followed by:

  • being a non-dependent child (39% or 115,000)
  • living in other household relationships (20% or 59,000).

The most common living arrangement for young people with disability was living as a dependent student in a home that was owned (27% or 80,000), followed by being a non-dependent child living rent free (23% or 68,000) (ABS 2019b).

Non-dependent people aged 15 and over

Non-dependent people with disability aged 25–64 (55% or 971,000) and aged 65 and over (79% or 1.4 million) are less likely than those without disability (61% or 6.8 million and 86% or 1.7 million respectively) to own their home. Of young people (aged 15–24) with disability, 6.3% (or 11,000) are in the owner category. This is similar to those without disability (4.9% or 76,000) (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 15–24, 25–64, 65 and over or all ages. The chart shows people with disability aged 25–64 are more likely (39%) to rent than those without disability (33%).

Older non-dependent 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% or 180,000) are nearly twice as likely as those without disability (14% or 294,000) 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 and over. The chart shows people with disability aged 35–44 are less likely (43%) to own their home than those without disability (62%).

The proportion of non-dependent people who own their home varies by disability group. Non-dependent people aged 15–64 with sensory disability (53% or 209,000) or physical disability (53% or 667,000) are more likely to own their home than those with head injury, stroke or acquired brain injury (37% or 60,000), psychosocial disability (34% or 200,000), or intellectual disability (22% or 62,000) (ABS 2019b).

Disability group

Disability group is a broad categorisation of disability. It is based on underlying health conditions and on impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. It is not a diagnostic grouping, nor is there a one-to-one correspondence between a health condition and a disability group.

The ABS SDAC broadly groups disabilities depending on whether they relate to functioning of the mind or the senses, or to anatomy or physiology. Each disability group may refer to a single disability or be composed of a number of broadly similar disabilities. The SDAC identifies 6 separate groups based on the particular type of disability; these are:

  • sensory and speech (sight, hearing, speech)
  • intellectual (difficulty learning or understanding)
  • physical (including breathing difficulties, chronic or recurrent pain, incomplete use of limbs and more)
  • psychosocial (including nervous or emotional conditions, mental illness, memory problems, and social or behavioural difficulties)
  • head injury, stroke or acquired brain injury
  • other (restrictions in everyday activities due to other long-term conditions or ailments) (ABS 2019b).

 The relationships people have within their households vary between those with and without disability (Figure LIVING.3), by disability group and by tenure type. For example:

  • Non-dependent people with disability aged 15–64 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
    • 52% (or 1.0 million) lived with a husband, wife or partner, compared with 67% (or 8.5 million) without disability
    • 19% (or 362,000) lived alone, compared with 8.4% (or 1.1 million)
    • 8.5% (or 165,000) are lone parents, compared with 5.4% (or 685,000).
  • Non-dependent people aged 15–64 with intellectual disability are most likely to be a non-dependent child (39% or 107,000), while people with sensory or physical disability are most likely to live with a husband, wife or partner (53% or 210,000 and 53% or 674,000 respectively). Of those with head injury, stroke or acquired brain injury, 41% (or 66,000) live with a husband, wife, or partner; for those with psychosocial disability the corresponding proportion is 34% (or 201,000) (ABS 2019b).
  • Non-dependent 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 over or 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 and over. The reader can select to display the chart by the household relationship categories of 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.

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).

Rental affordability

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

  • 32% of income units receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) (at June 2020) who had at least one member receiving the Disability Support Pension (DSP) were in rental stress after receipt of CRA (that is, paid more than 30% of their gross household income on rent); without CRA, 72% of these income units would be in rental stress. This compares with 29% in rental stress after receipt of CRA and 55% in rental stress without CRA for all income units receiving CRA (AIHW 2021).
  • An Anglicare report on affordable housing found that only 0.3% (or 240) of 74,300 rental properties advertised in Australia on a selected weekend in March 2021 were affordable and appropriate for single people aged 21 and over receiving the DSP, compared with 1.2% (or 860) for a single person on minimum wage (Anglicare 2021).

Those with disability aged under 65 living in Outer regional and remote areas are less likely (31% or 32,000) to have a real estate agent as their landlord than those living in Major cities (48% or 309,000) or Inner regional areas (48% or 107,000) (ABS 2019b). 

How is remoteness defined?

The remoteness categories used in the ABS SDAC are defined by the Australian Statistical Geography Standard Remoteness Structure (ABS 2016) which divides Australia into 5 classes of remoteness on the basis of a measure of relative access to services. Very remote areas are out of scope for SDAC.

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 75 and over. 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%).

The type of landlord differs by disability group for non-dependent people aged 15­–64 living in households, who have a landlord:

  • Those with physical disability (45% or 224,000) or sensory disability (42% or 63,000) are more likely to have a real estate agent as their landlord than those with psychosocial disability (33% or 100,000), head injury, stroke or acquired brain injury (32% or 27,000), or intellectual disability (26% or 40,000).
  • Those with intellectual disability (30% or 46,000) or psychosocial disability (22% or 67,000) are more likely to have a parent or other relative living in the same dwelling as their landlord than those with sensory disability (14% or 22,000) or physical disability (12% or 59,000) (ABS 2019b).

Economic resources in area of residence

Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey

Data in this section are sourced from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. The HILDA Survey is a nationally representative, household-based longitudinal study of Australian households and individuals conducted in annual waves since 2001. Members of selected households who are Australian residents and aged 15 years or over are invited to participate in a personal face-to-face interview. This section presents cross-sectional analyses of the 17th wave (2017). In 2017 almost 18,000 people from around 10,000 households participated in the HILDA survey.

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, for6 months or more. This is similar to the definition of disability used by the ABS Short Disability Module. In this section people who always or sometimes need help or supervision with at least one core activity because of their disability are referred to as people with ‘severe or profound disability’. Core activities include self-care, mobility and communication. People who have a disability but do not always or sometimes need help or supervision with at least one core activity are referred to as people with ‘other disability’. The HILDA Survey does not collect information on level of disability in every wave. The most recent collection was in the 17th wave (2017) (Summerfield et al. 2019; Wilkins et al. 2019).

What is remoteness?

The remoteness categories used in HILDA are based on the Australian Statistical Geography Standard Remoteness Area framework (Summerfield et al. 2019).

 

Index of Economic Resources

The Index of Economic Resources is one of the Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) and focuses on the financial aspects of relative socioeconomic advantage and disadvantage. A low score indicates a relative lack of access to economic resources in general. For example, an area may have a low score if there are:

  • many households with low income, or many households paying low rent
  • few households with high income, or few owned homes (ABS 2013).

For the AIHW analysis of HILDA 2017 data, people living in an area with an Index of Economic Resources in the lowest 30% of areas are referred to as people living in disadvantaged areas.

 People with disability aged 15–64 are more likely (33%) to live in economically disadvantaged areas than those without disability (26%). This is especially true for those with severe or profound disability, with 42% living in disadvantaged areas. The percentage of people with disability living in economically disadvantaged areas differs by sex and age group:

  • males aged 15–24 with disability are more likely (37%) to live in disadvantaged areas than females (24%)
  • females aged 65 and over with disability are more likely (37%) to live in disadvantaged areas than males (31%) (DSS and MIAESR 2019).

People aged 15–64 with disability in Major cities are less likely (28%) to live in disadvantaged areas than those in Inner regional areas (38%), or Outer regional, remote and very remote areas (48%) (DSS and MIAESR 2019).