Social housing dwellings

Social housing dwellings data are provided by state and territory housing authorities. The data in this section are a snapshot of dwellings available on 30 June of the reference year.

Quick facts

  • At June 2021, there were around 440,200 social housing dwellings.
  • The majority of these social housing dwellings were public housing stock (299,500 dwellings or 68%); a decrease from 341,400 (84%) in 2006.
  • The number of community housing dwellings more than tripled from 32,300 dwellings in 2006 to 108,500 in 2021; in part due to the transfer of ownership or management of public housing dwellings to community housing organisations during this period.
  • The highest proportion of social housing dwellings were separate houses and dwellings most commonly had 3 bedrooms.
  • The vast majority (69%) of dwellings were located in Major cities.

There is considerable diversity in the number and characteristics of dwellings in the main four social housing programs in Australia (public housing, state owned and managed Indigenous housing (SOMIH), community housing and Indigenous community housing). The diversity in the number and characteristics of available social housing dwellings stems partly from the sale and redevelopment or refurbishment of social housing dwellings across time. The information presented throughout this report provides insights into this diversity and serves as a snapshot of the condition and functioning of Australia’s social housing system and programs in 2021.

What is a dwelling?

In this report, a dwelling is defined as a structure, or a discrete space within a structure, intended for a person or group of people to live. Dwelling types include:

  • a separate house
  • a semi-detached, row or terrace house, townhouse, etc.
  • a flat, unit, apartment, or cabin, etc.

A full list of dwelling types can be found METEOR.

The concept of a dwelling may be different across the social housing collections; see the Data quality statements page for more information.

Social housing dwellings

At June 2021, there were around 440,200 dwellings in Australia’s major social housing programs. Of these social housing dwellings (Table DWELLINGS.1):

  • 68% or 299,500 dwellings were public housing
  • 25 or 108,500 dwellings were community housing
  • 3% or 14,700 dwellings were state owned and managed Indigenous housing (SOMIH)
  • 4% or 17,400 dwellings were Indigenous community housing.

Social housing dwellings changes over time

From June 2006 to 2021, Australia’s social housing stock increased by 31,400 dwellings (Table DWELLINGS.1).

There have been sizable changes to the social housing stock among the four programs, especially with the transferring of ownership and/or management of public housing stock to community housing organisations. That is:

  • In 2018, a large number of dwellings were transferred from public housing and/or SOMIH to community housing in South Australia and New South Wales.
  • Between 2008 and 2010, around 5,000 dwellings were transferred from Indigenous community housing to NT remote public housing.
  • In 2017, around 5,000 NT remote public housing dwellings were transferred to the SOMIH program.

These changes have driven most of the fluctuations in the numbers of SOMIH and Indigenous community housing dwellings over this time.

From 2006 to 2021 (Figure DWELLINGS.1; Table DWELLINGS.1):

  • The number of public housing dwellings decreased from 341,400 in 2006 to 299,500 in 2021.
  • The number of community housing dwellings increased over three-fold from 32,300 in 2006 to 108,500 in 2021.
  • There was a decrease in the number of Indigenous community housing dwellings from 22,200 to 17,400.
  • The number of SOMIH dwellings fluctuated with stock transfers between 2006 and 2016. Since 2017, the number of SOMIH dwellings has remained stable at just under 15,000 dwellings.

Figure DWELLINGS.1: Dwellings by social housing program, at 30 June 2006 to 2021

Figure DWELLINGS.1: Dwellings, by social housing program, at 30 June 2006 to 2021. This vertical stacked bar graph shows that from 2006 to 2021, public housing has consistently had the most social housing dwellings. The number of public housing dwellings decreased from 341,400 (or 84%) in 2006 to 299,500 (or 68%) in 2021.The number of community housing dwellings increased from 32,300 (or 8%) in 2006 to 108,500 (or 25%) in 2021. The number of SOMIH dwellings increased from 12,900 (3.2%) in 2006 to 14,700 (3.3%) in 2021. The number of Indigenous community housing dwellings decreased from 22,200 (5.4%) in 2006 to 17,400 (4%) in 2021.

States and territories

At June 2021, there was considerable diversity in the social housing profiles of the states and territories (Figure DWELLINGS.2; Table DWELLINGS.2).

  • New South Wales had the largest number of public and community housing dwellings (96,700, and 53,200 dwellings, respectively).
  • For Indigenous community housing, Queensland (5,200) had the most dwellings.
  • For SOMIH, the Northern Territory (5,400) had the most dwellings.
  • For Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia, the majority of dwellings were public housing (69% to 79%), followed by community housing (16% to 27%).
  • Nine in ten (92% or 10,900) dwellings in the Australian Capital Territory were in public housing; the remainder were in community housing (8% or 1,000).
  • Tasmania had a near equal proportion of public housing (49%) and Community housing (49%) dwellings (7,000 in each housing program).
  • In the Northern Territory, 43% (or 5,400) of dwellings were SOMIH dwellings and 14% (or 1,800) were Indigenous community housing.

Figure DWELLINGS.2: Dwellings by social housing program and states and territories, at 30 June 2014 to 2021

Figure DWELLINGS.2: Dwellings, by social housing program, and states and territories, at 30 June 2014 to 2021. This vertical stacked bar graph shows the variation in dwellings in each social housing program (public housing, SOMIH, community housing and Indigenous community housing) across the states and territories by number and per cent. In 2021, the Australian Capital Territory (92%) had the highest proportion of public housing dwellings, while the Northern Territory (39%) had the lowest proportion. Tasmania had the highest proportion of community housing dwellings (49%), while the Northern Territory had the lowest (3.8%), in 2021. Queensland had the highest number of Indigenous community housing dwellings increasing from 5,000 in 2014 to 5,200 dwellings in 2021.

Location of dwellings

The location of social housing is an important component of suitability. Location is often associated with employment opportunities, health services, transportation services etc. (AIHW 2019). For further information on the suitability of social housing in terms of location, see the National Social Housing Survey 2018: Key results.

The location of social housing largely reflects the geographic population distribution of Australia, with large concentrations of people in urban centres in the south-east and east coastal areas. The location of dwellings managed by the four different social housing programs typically align with the locations of the target groups of each program.

The proportion of social housing dwellings varied across remoteness areas. At June 2021 (Table DWELLINGS.3):

  • Most of the public and community housing dwellings were in Major cities (75% and 66% of dwellings, respectively).
  • Most of the SOMIH and Indigenous community housing dwellings were in Very remote areas (31% and 52%, respectively).

What is the Australian Statistical Geography Standard?

The Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) is a social geography that aims to capture the location of people and communities and is commonly used for the publication and analysis of social, economic and demographic statistics. The ASGS categorises the regions of Australia into a hierarchy of statistical areas and consists of ABS structures and Non ABS structures (such as local government area and postal areas). The ABS structures are made up of six interconnected hierarchies of regions. It is an inclusive hierarchy of geographies, where each level is included (or excluded) directly into (or from) the next (ABS 2021). For further information on the ASGS and the structures, see the latest release of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard.

Statistical Area level 4 (SA4) refers to the geographical area of sub-state regions in the main structure of the Australia Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS). SA4 broadly represents the labour markets or groups of labour markets within each state and territory, with the boundaries reflecting the separation of sub-state regions by different labour markets. For the largest regional cities, including Wollongong and Townsville, SA4s broadly reflects the labour markets of the city. For outer regional and remote area, SA4s broadly reflects the aggregation of smaller and localised labour markets that are geographically, socially and economically similar (ABS 2021).

Across the states and territories, the number of dwellings managed by the different social housing programs varied by geographical region. In 2021 (Figure DWELLINGS.3; Table DWELLINGS.5):

  • Melbourne – Inner had the highest number of social housing dwellings, with 18,900 dwellings, followed by the Parramatta, Inner South West, and City and Inner South regions of Sydney and Adelaide - North with dwelling numbers ranging from 13,400 to 13,900
  • the highest number of public housing dwellings was in Melbourne – Inner, with 14,800 dwellings, followed by the Australian Capital Territory, with 10,900 dwellings. And the Sydney areas of Paramatta (10,600), Inner South West (10,300), and City and Inner South (10,200).
  • the highest numbers of community housing dwellings were in the Hunter Valley excluding Newcastle (4,600), Melbourne – Inner (4,100) and Adelaide – North (3,800).

Similarly, the number of social housing dwellings varied across Local Government Areas (LGA). Brisbane LGA (19,000) and ACT (11,800) had the highest numbers of social housing dwellings, followed by Sydney, Canterbury-Bankstown and Blacktown, with total dwellings ranging from 10,300 to 10,800 (Table DWELLINGS.6).

Data were not available for Indigenous community housing dwellings.

Figure DWELLINGS.3 Dwellings by social housing program statistical area 4 (SA4), June 2021

Figure DWELLINGS.3: Dwellings, by social housing program and statistical area 4 at June 2021. Melbourne-Inner has the highest number of public housing dwellings, Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) had the highest number of community housing dwellings and Northern Territory- Outback had the highest number of SOMIH dwellings.

Occupancy

Occupancy describes whether a dwelling is occupied under a formal tenancy. In social housing, occupancy rates are influenced by tenancy turnover, housing supply and demand, as well as the need for the redevelopment or replacement of dwellings. At times, major maintenance work needs to be completed before dwellings can be allocated to a new household.  The data presented in the following section provides data on tenantable status and dwelling characteristics.

In Australia, social housing occupancy rates have remained high from year to year. At June 2021, public housing (97%) had a higher occupancy rate than SOMIH (95%), community housing (95%) and Indigenous community housing (92%) (Table DWELLINGS.7). There was little variation in occupancy rates in the social housing programs across the states and territories. At June 2021:

  • For public housing, the highest occupancy rates were in Queensland (98%), Tasmania (98%) and New South Wales (98%). The lowest occupancy rate was in South Australia (94%).
  • The highest occupancy rate for SOMIH was in Queensland (99%) compared to the Northern Territory, which had the lowest occupancy rate (91%).
  • For community housing, the highest occupancy rate was in New South Wales (97%), whereas the lowest was in the Australian Capital Territory (80%).

Tenantable status

The tenantable status of a dwelling relates to whether a dwelling provides certain level of basic amenity, and that maintenance is completed to the required minimum level.

At June 2021, almost all public housing dwellings were tenantable (99% or 295,600); higher than the proportion of SOMIH (97% or 14,300) and community housing dwellings (94% or 102,100) (Table DWELLINGS.9). Around 3,300 (1%) public housing dwellings were not tenantable and 600 (0.2%) were undergoing major development. For SOMIH, over 400 (3%) dwellings were not tenantable, with 33 (0.2%) that were undergoing major development. A similar proportion of community housing dwellings were not tenantable (2% or 2,000). Data were not available for Indigenous community housing dwellings.

Dwelling characteristics

Dwelling type

Dwelling types vary across public housing, community housing and SOMIH programs. At June 2021, most public housing dwellings were a separate house (37%), flat, unit or apartment (35%) or semi-detached, townhouse, etc. (27%). In comparison, the vast majority of SOMIH dwellings were a separate house (82%), followed by a relatively small proportion of semi-detached, townhouse etc (14%). The pattern of SOMIH’s dwelling types is likely a reflection of the location of these dwellings and the target group. More than half of community housing dwellings were a flat, unit or apartment (51%), followed by a separate house (30%) (Figure DWELLINGS.4; Table DWELLINGS.10).

The proportion of different dwelling types has varied over time for public housing and community housing, while SOMIH has remained relatively stable. From June 2012 to 2021 (Figure DWELLINGS.4; Table DWELLINGS.10):

  • There was an increase in the proportion of public housing dwellings that were a flat, unit or apartment, from 33% in 2012 to 35% in 2021. In contrast, there was a decrease in the number of separate houses, from 40% to 37% of dwellings.
  • There was an increase in the proportion of flat, unit or apartment type dwellings in community housing since 2012; from 43% of dwellings in 2012 to 51% in 2021.

Number of bedrooms

The number of bedrooms in social housing dwellings differed across program types. At June 2021 (Figure DWELLINGS.4; Table DWELLINGS.11):

  • Public housing dwellings were most likely to be 3 bedroom dwellings (36% or 107,500 dwellings), followed by 2 bedroom dwellings (31% or 93,800).
  • The majority of SOMIH dwellings were 3 bedroom dwellings (59% or 8,600 dwellings), with very few 1 bedroom dwellings (2%).
  • Community housing dwellings were most commonly 2 bedroom (35% or 35,700) or 1 bedroom (33% or 33,500) dwellings.
  • Around half of the Indigenous community housing dwellings were 3 bedroom dwellings (49% or 6,500) and a further 24% (or 3,200) were 4 bedroom dwellings. Similar to SOMIH, few were 1 bedroom dwellings (3%).

Over time, the proportion of dwellings that have 3 bedrooms has declined for public housing (39% in 2012 to 36% in 2021), SOMIH (62% in 2012 to 59% in 2021) and Indigenous community housing (51% in 2014 to 49% in 2021).

Figure DWELLINGS.4: Dwellings by dwelling type, number of bedrooms and social housing program, at June 30 2012 to 2021

Figure DWELLINGS.4: Dwelling type and number of bedrooms by social housing program, at 30 June 2012 to 2021. This figure consists of two sections with both showing a vertical stacked bar chart of social housing program. The first section shows a comparison of the number of dwellings by dwelling type across social housing programs from 2012 to 2021 In 2021, the most common dwelling type in both public housing (111,100) and SOMIH (12,100) were separate houses, while for community housing the most common dwelling were flats, units, or apartments (51,800). The second section shows a comparison of dwellings by number of bedrooms across social housing programs. In 2021, 3 bedroom dwellings were the most common number of bedrooms for public housing (107,500), SOMIH (8,600) and Indigenous community housing (6,500). In contrast, the most common number of bedrooms in community housing (35,700) dwellings were 2 bedrooms, in 2021.

Dwellings managed by non-government providers

Community housing and Indigenous community housing dwellings are managed by non-government providers. There is some variation between the number of dwellings on average providers manage.

At June 2021, there were around 531 community housing providers across Australia. The majority (73% or 385 providers) of these providers managed less than 50 dwellings.

New South Wales (147 organisations) had the most community housing providers, and most of these providers managed less than 20 dwellings (61% or 89 organisations). New South Wales also had the highest number of community housing providers that managed 200 or more dwellings (29 organisations) (Table DWELLINGS.12). Notably, there was a relatively high increase in the number of community housing providers in Queensland, rising from 97 in 2020 to 145 in 2021, with the number of providers managing less than 20 dwellings more than doubling from 38 to 86. 

At June 2021, there were around 200 Indigenous community housing providers. New South Wales had the highest number of Indigenous community housing providers (over 100 organisations). Most of these providers managed fewer than 20 dwellings (Table DWELLINGS.12).

Glossary