Social housing occupants data are provided by state and territory housing authorities. ‘Occupants’ refers to all people who lived in social housing during any part of the reference year in public housing, SOMIH and community housing (for exceptions see the data quality statements). Data for Indigenous community housing were not available.

Quick facts

  • In 2020–21, there were around 790,000 occupants living in three of Australia’s main social housing programs (public housing, state owned and managed Indigenous housing (SOMIH) and community housing; the majority (70%) were in public housing.
  • 55% of the occupants in each social housing program were female.
  • Around a third of occupants were aged 55 and over in public housing and community housing, but only around 1 in 7 occupants were in this age group in SOMIH.

Occupants in social housing

In 2020–21, there were around 790,000 people living in Australia’s 3 main social housing programs: public housing, state owned and managed Indigenous housing (SOMIH) and community housing (complete data were not available for all programs in Queensland and the Northern Territory). This represents the lowest number of occupants reported since 2013–14.

Of the reported social housing occupants in 2020–21 (Table OCCUPANTS.1):

  • 70% (around 554,700 people) were in public housing
  • 24% (around 185,800 people) were in community housing
  • 6% (around 49,500 people) were in SOMIH.

State and territory

The location of social housing occupants across the states and territories has been relatively consistent over time, with most occupants in Australia’s three most populous states. Following the location of social housing dwellings, over one-third of social housing occupants lived in New South Wales (34%) and almost one fifth lived in Victoria (18%) and one sixth in Queensland (17%).

The number of occupants in each social housing program varied between states generally reflecting the different housing available. For all states except Tasmania and the Northern Territory, highest number of occupants were in public housing, followed by community housing. The opposite pattern was seen in Tasmania and the Northern Territory had the highest number in SOMIH followed by public housing. Note that community housing data was unavailable for NT.

Age and sex of occupants

Females made up the majority of occupants across the three main social housing programs. In 2020–21, there were 306,700 (55%) females in public housing, 27,200 (55%) in SOMIH and 102,200 (55%) in community housing.

Public housing and community housing had occupants had a relatively similar age profiles. In 2020–21, key similarities and differences in the age profile of public and community housing occupants include (Figure OCCUPANTS.1; Table OCCUPANTS.2):

  • The public housing program had 37% of occupants aged 55 years and over compared to 33% of occupants in this age group in community housing.
  • 1 in 3 occupants in both public housing (33%) and community housing (33%) were under the age of 25.
  • Across the other age groups, community housing (34%) and public housing (31%) had a relatively similar proportion of occupants aged 25–55.

The age profile of SOMIH occupants was unique compared to the public housing and community housing, with just under half of occupants (49%) aged under 25 with around a third (30%) aged 0–14. In contrast, around 14% of SOMIH occupants were aged 55 or over (Figure OCCUPANTS.1; Table OCCUPANTS.2).

Figure OCCUPANTS.1: Household members by social housing program, age and sex, 2020–21

Figure OCCUPANTS.1: Household members, by social housing program, age, and sex, 2020–21. The butterfly graph shows the age profile of male and female household members in three social housing programs (public housing, community housing and SOMIH). In 2020–21, the highest number of females household members in public housing were aged 60–64 years (23,400), whereas the highest number of males were aged 10–14 years (23,900). For SOMIH, the highest number of female (3,100) and male (3,300) household members were aged 10–14 years

Indigenous occupants in social housing

In 2020–21, there were around 117,700 Indigenous Australian’s living in public housing and SOMIH. Of these occupants (Table OCCUPANTS.3):

  • 73,300 occupants lived in public housing
  • 44,400 occupants lived in SOMIH.

Changes over time

The number of Indigenous occupants in public housing and SOMIH has fluctuated over time, particularly for public housing. Around 117,700 Indigenous Australians were living in public housing and SOMIH in 2020–21 which was the largest number of Indigenous occupants across both programs since 2013–14 (Table OCCUPANTS.3). Over this time, the number of occupants with unknown Indigenous status has fallen, which may have contributed to the apparent rise in Indigenous Australians living in these social housing programs.

Occupant satisfaction

Results from the 2018 National Social Housing Survey (NSHS) show that occupant satisfaction with services from their housing provider is closely associated with the condition of their home, with satisfaction falling significantly as the number of structural problems increased (AIHW 2019). This relationship holds after accounting for a wide range of geographic, demographic and housing-related factors. There were also facilities in the home, time spent living in social housing, household composition, housing program and geographic variables such as state or territory.

Further information about occupant satisfaction with amenities, locations and services as well as the economic, health and social benefits of social housing, is published in the National Social Housing Survey 2018 (AIHW 2019). Two short supplementary reports were added in July 2019:

  • Social housing stock transfers: tenant experiences in South Australia and
  • Indigenous community housing: Queensland.



AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2019) National Social Housing Survey 2018, Cat. no. HOU 311., AIHW, Australian Government.