Concept Definition
Canadian National Occupancy Standard

A measure of the appropriateness of housing that is sensitive to both household size and composition. The CNOS specifies that:

  • no more than 2 people shall share a bedroom
  • parents or couples may share a bedroom
  • children under 5, either of the same sex or opposite sex, may share a bedroom
  • children under 18 of the same sex may share a bedroom
  • a child aged 5-17 should not share a bedroom with a child under 5 of the opposite sex
  • single adults 18 and over and any unpaired children require a separate bedroom.
Community housing (mainstream) Housing provided for low- to moderate-income or special needs households, which community-based organisations manage. Community housing models vary across jurisdictions and a variety of groups, including government, own the housing stock.
Disability The umbrella term for any or all of an impairment of body structure or function, a limitation in activities, or a restriction in participation. Disability is a multidimensional and complex concept, and is conceived as a dynamic interaction between health conditions and environmental and personal factors (WHO 2011). In social housing, a proxy for a household meeting the above definition of disability may be provided through receipt of the Disability Support Pension.

A structure or a discrete space within a structure intended for people to live in or where a person or group of people live. Thus, a structure that people actually live in is a dwelling regardless of its intended purpose, but a vacant structure is a dwelling only if intended for human residence. A dwelling may include one or more rooms that is/are used as an office or workshop, provided the dwelling is in residential use. Dwelling types include:

  • a separate house
  • a semi-detached, row or terrace house, townhouse, etc.
  • a flat, unit or apartment; caravan, tent, cabin etc. either in or not in a caravan park; houseboat in marina, etc.
  • an improvised home, tent, camper
  • a house or flat attached to a shop, office, etc.
  • a boarding/rooming house unit.
Equivalised disposable household income

A measure of income that reflects economic wellbeing relative to household size and composition. It is used to determine low-income status for a household. Equivalised disposable household income is based on income after essential costs are deducted, as opposed to gross (that is, total) income, or net (that is, after-tax) income.

Family Two or more persons, one of whom is at least 15 years of age, who are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering, and who are usually resident in the same household. The basis of a family is formed by identifying the presence of a couple relationship, lone-parent–child relationship or other blood relationship.
First home buyer

A household in which the reference person (or their co-resident partner) bought the dwelling in which they reside in the 3 years before being interviewed, and neither that reference person nor their co-resident partner had owned or been purchasing a home previously.

Greatest need

A descriptor applying to a low-income household if, at the time of allocation, household members were subject to one or more of the following circumstances:

  • they were homeless
  • their life or safety was at risk in their accommodation
  • their health condition was aggravated by their housing
  • their housing was inappropriate to their needs
  • they had very high rental housing costs.
A low-income household for the greatest need definition is a household that satisfies an eligibility test to receive housing assistance.

Based on the ABS definition, the state of a person who does not have suitable accommodation alternatives and whose current living arrangement:

  • is in a dwelling that is inadequate (is unfit for human habitation or lacks basic facilities such as kitchen and bathroom facilities), or
  • has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable, or
  • does not allow them to have control, and access to space for social relations (including
  • personal―or household―living space, ability to maintain privacy and exclusive access to kitchen and bathroom facilities) (ABS 2012c).
Note: 'Homelessness' can be defined in different ways for different purposes.

A group of 2 or more related or unrelated people who usually reside in the same dwelling, and who make common provision for food or other essentials for living. A household can also be a single person living in a dwelling who makes provision for his or her own food and other essentials for living, without combining with any other person.

Household composition The grouping of people living in a dwelling. Household composition is based on couple and parent–child relationships. A single-family household contains a main tenant only, or a main tenant residing with a partner and/or the main tenant’s children. Group households consist of 2 or more tenants aged 16 or over who are not in a couple or parent–child relationship. Mixed households are households not described by the other two types—for example, multiple single-family households.
Housing affordability

The cost of housing compared with the financial situation of households. This term is generally used to refer to housing across major cities, states or nationally, as opposed to individual households. Housing affordability is often measured using the proportion of households in a given area in housing stress.

Housing stress A measure of housing affordability where the proportion of household income spent on basic housing costs (that is, rent or mortgage) is calculated. So owner–occupiers without a mortgage cannot experience housing stress according to this definition. Households spending 30% or more of their income on housing are said to be in housing stress. Any households spending 50% or more are said to be in severe housing stress.
Income unit One person or a group of related persons within a household, whose command over income is shared, or any person living in a non-private dwelling who is in receipt of personal income.
Indigenous community housing Housing that Indigenous communities own and/or manage for the provision of housing services to Indigenous Australians.
Indigenous community housing organisation An Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander organisation responsible for managing housing for Indigenous Australians, including community organisations such as resource agencies and land councils. ICHOs may either own the dwellings they manage or lease them from a state housing authority.
Indigenous household A household as defined above which contains one or more people who identify as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin.
Low-income household A household whose equivalised gross income falls in the bottom two-fifths (40%) of the population. This measure does not necessarily indicate eligibility for government assistance targeted at low-income households, and assistance may also be provided to households that do not meet this definition. This definition differs from that used by the ABS; it uses different definitions of low income for different purposes.
Overcrowding A situation in a dwelling when one or more additional bedrooms are required to meet the Canadian National Occupancy Standard.
Priority allocation A new tenancy that is provided to individuals classified as being in greatest need.
Public housing

Rental housing that state and territory governments provide and manage. Included are households residing in public rental dwellings where the dwelling is either:

  • owned by the housing authority
  • leased from the private sector or other housing program areas and used to provide public rental housing
  • leased to public housing tenants.
Rebated household

A household receiving housing assistance (usually through a state or territory or community housing provider) that pays less than the market rent value of the dwelling.

Reference person

A person chosen by applying, to all household members aged 15 and over, the selection criteria below, in the order listed, until a single appropriate person is identified:

  • one of the partners in a registered or de facto marriage, with dependent children
  • one of the partners in a registered or de facto marriage, without dependent children
  • a lone parent with dependent children
  • the person with the highest income
  • the eldest person.
For example, in a household containing a lone parent with a non-dependent child, the one with the higher income will become the reference person. However, if both individuals have the same income, the elder will become the reference person.
Rental stress

The situation of a household whose housing costs (excluding CRA) are more than 30% of the gross household income.

Social housing

Rental housing that is funded or partly funded by government, and that is owned or managed by the government or a community organisation and let to eligible persons. This includes public rental housing, state owned and managed Indigenous housing, mainstream and Indigenous community housing and housing provided under the Crisis Accommodation Program.

Social and economic participation

Economic and social participation refers to a range of ways in which people contribute to and have the resources, opportunities and capability to learn, work, engage with and have a voice in the community. This can also be referred to as social inclusion. Social participation can include social engagement, volunteering, working with community organisations and accessing services. Economic participation can include paid employment, training and education or self-employment.

Special needs

A descriptor for those households that have a member with disability, a main tenant aged under 25 or 75 and over, or households defined as Indigenous households. Indigenous households in SOMIH are not considered special needs households, as SOMIH is an Indigenous-targeted program.

Tenancy (rental) unit

For the purposes of the public housing, SOMIH and community housing data collections, the unit of accommodation for which a rental agreement can be made.

In the majority of cases, there will be only one tenancy (rental) unit within dwelling; in a small number of cases (for example, boarding houses, special group homes, semi-institutional dwellings), there may be more than one tenancy (rental) unit.


A situation where a dwelling contains one or more bedrooms surplus to the needs of the household occupying it, according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard.

Unemployed person

A person aged 15 or more who was not employed during the reference week but had actively looked for work and was currently available for work.