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2.01 Housing

Why is it important?

Housing circumstances including overcrowding, tenure type and homelessness have potential impacts on health. The effects of overcrowding occur in combination with other environmental health factors such as poor water quality and sanitation, which are associated with increased risk of transferring infectious diseases, recurrence/exacerbation of chronic infections such as otitis media, and exposure to hazards such as smoking indoors (see measure 2.03) as well as increased risk of injury within the home (Bailie et al. 2006; Nganampa Health Council 1987; Department of Family and Community Services 2003). Overcrowding and insecure housing tenure is also associated with stress and adverse educational opportunities for students such as educational continuity, school attendance and attainment (Dockery et al. 2013; Taylor et al. 2012) (measure 2.05). However, the presence of more people in a household may decrease social isolation, which could have a positive impact on health (Greenop et al. 2014).Biddle (2011b) found structural problems and missing facilities (measure 2.02) had a greater association with wellbeing than overcrowding and tenure type.

Homelessness is strongly associated with poor health outcomes (Ford et al. 2014). Like overcrowding (Memmott et al. 2012), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples perceive, define and experience homelessness in distinct ways including being separated from traditional lands (see measure 2.14).

Findings

In 2012–13, 23% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons were living in overcrowded households (households requiring one or more additional bedrooms according to the Canadian National Occupancy Standard). In comparison, 5% of non-Indigenous Australians were living in overcrowded households. More than half (54%) of Indigenous Australians in very remote areas lived in overcrowded households, compared with 17% in major cities. A large number of Indigenous Australians in non-remote areas were living in overcrowded households (almost 85,000) in addition to those in remote areas (60,000). In 2012–13, overcrowding was higher in the NT (55%) than any other state or territory. The next highest proportion was WA (25%). Of those living in remote areas, NT had a higher proportion of overcrowding (62%) than those living in remote areas in other states and territories (43% in SA, 37% in WA and 34% in Qld). Nationally, between 2004–05 and 2012–13, the proportion of Indigenous Australians living in overcrowded households declined by 4.5 percentage points (from 27.2% to 22.7%) and the gap narrowed with non-Indigenous rates, which remained steady at around 5%.

In 2012–13, 10% of Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over reported overcrowding as a stressor, down from 21% in 2002. This change was greatest in remote areas (SCRGSP 2014a). Household overcrowding varies by socio-economic status. In 2012–13, Indigenous Australians were more likely to be living in overcrowded households if their household income was in the lowest income quintile rather than the highest income quintiles (23% compared with 3%); if living in social housing rather than being an owner-occupier (33% compared with 10%); and if unemployed or not in the labour force rather than employed (25% compared with 15%). Overcrowding was also associated with household facilities not being available/working (37%).

In 2012–13, 30% of Indigenous adults lived in homes that were owned or being purchased (referred to here as home owners); 38% lived in a property rented through social housing (provided by state/territory governments and community sectors to assist people who are unable to access private rental); and 30% lived in private rentals. In contrast, 72% of non-Indigenous adults were home owners (SCRGSP 2014a). Nationally, rates of Indigenous home ownership increased by 3 percentage points between 2002 and 2012–13. Housing tenure patterns are influenced by a range of factors including socio­ economic status and Indigenous land arrangements in some remote areas (where there are communal tenancy arrangements). In 2012–13, home ownership by Indigenous adults was higher in non-remote areas (36%) than remote areas (10%) reflecting the barriers to home ownership in remote areas. In remote areas, the largest category of housing was rental through social housing (72%), whereas in non-remote areas this represented 28% of Indigenous adults' tenure arrangements. Indigenous home ownership was highest in the ACT (53%) and lowest in the NT (13%) (SCRGSP 2014a).

In 2011, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples accounted for 28% of the homeless population (based on the new ABS definition of homelessness). Indigenous Australians were 14 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to be homeless (AIHW 2014q). The rate of homelessness among Indigenous Australians fell by 14% between 2006 and 2011. Three quarters of Indigenous homelessness is due to living in severely crowded dwellings while the remainder includes people living in supported accommodation for the homeless (12%); people in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out (6%); people staying temporarily in other households (4%); and people living in boarding houses (2.5%) and other temporary lodging (0.2%) (AIHW 2014q). In 2011, 42% of Indigenous homeless people were under 18 years. In 2012–13, 22% of those accessing specialist homelessness services were Indigenous Australians (9 times the non-Indigenous rate), while 33% of children aged 0–9 years using these services were Indigenous children. Domestic/family violence was the main reason for both Indigenous (28%) and non-Indigenous (30%) female clients seeking specialist homelessness services. Indigenous clients (29%) were more likely than non-Indigenous clients (19%) to be presenting as a single person with children. Almost one-third (31%) of Indigenous clients were living in improvised inadequate accommodation prior to accessing homelessness support, and 25% of Indigenous males were living without shelter prior to accessing support.

Implications

While there have been improvements in overcrowding and home ownership for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households, outcomes for Indigenous Australians remain lower than those for non-Indigenous Australians. The National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) aims to ensure that all Australians have access to affordable, safe and sustainable housing that contributes to social and economic participation. Two of the six NAHA outcomes focus specifically on Indigenous Australians: that Indigenous Australians have the same housing opportunities (homelessness services, housing rental, housing purchase and access to housing through an efficient and responsive housing market) as other Australians; and that Indigenous Australians have improved housing amenity and reduced overcrowding.

The NAHA is supported by the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) and the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing (NPARIH). Specific NPAH initiatives aimed at addressing Indigenous homelessness include youth facilities, domestic and family violence support and outreach to rough sleepers. The NPARIH is designed to help address significant overcrowding, homelessness, poor housing condition and severe housing shortages in remote Indigenous communities. Under the NPARIH, the Australian Government, in partnership with the state and territory governments, has committed $5.5 billion over ten years to 2018. The NPARIH is expected to deliver up to 4,200 new houses by 2018 and rebuild or refurbish around 4,876 existing houses in remote Indigenous communities by 2014. The NPARIH includes standardised tenancy arrangements for all remote Indigenous housing consistent with public housing standards. Initiatives include progressive resolution of land tenure on remote community-titled land to secure investment and home ownership opportunities. The NPARIH reforms also provide for employment-related accommodation to support people from remote communities to access training, education and employment. The NPARIH maintains a 20% employment workforce development target to provide employment and training for Indigenous Australians on all NPARIH construction. The Australian Government provides direct support for home ownership through financial literacy support and assisted loans through Indigenous Business Australia.

Figure 2.01-1 Proportion of persons living in overcrowded households, by Indigenous status, 2004–05, 2008 and 2012–13
proportion of persons living in overcrowded households

Source: AIHW and ABS analysis of 2012–13 AATSIHS, 2008 NATSISS, 2004–05 NATSIHS

Figure 2.01-1 shows the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians (in 2004-05, 2008 and 2012–13) living in overcrowded households. Data is presented for personsof all ages. Refer to the findings section of this measure for a description of key results found in this figure.

Figure 2.01-2 Proportion of persons living in overcrowded households, by Indigenous status and remoteness, 2012–13
proportion of persons living in overcrowded households

Figure 2.01-2 shows the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians living in overcrowded households in 2012–13, based on the Canadian National Occupancy Standard. Data is presented separately for major cities; inner regional areas; outer regional areas; remote areas; very remote areas; and Australia as a whole. Data is presented for persons of all ages. Refer to the findings section of this measure for a description of key results found in this figure.

Source: AIHW and ABS analysis of 2012–13 AATSIHS

Figure 2.01-3 Proportion of persons 18 years and over, by Indigenous status, tenure type and remoteness, 2012–13
proportion of persons 18 years and over

Figure 2.01-3 shows the proportion of different tenure types in 2012–13 by Indigenous status. Data is presented separately for persons aged 18 years and over; and for remote and non-remote areas. Data is presented for the following tenure types: home owners; private renters; state or territory housing authority; community or cooperative housing; and other renters. Refer to the findings section of this measure for a description of key results found in this figure.

Source: AIHW and ABS analysis of 2012–13 AATSIHS

Figure 2.01-4 Proportion of Indigenous persons 18 years and over, by tenure type, 2002, 2008 and 2012–13
proportion of Indigenous persons 18 years and over

Figure 2.01-4 shows the proportion of different tenure types among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons aged 18 years and over, in 1994, 2002, 2008 and 2012–13. Data is presented for the following tenure types: home owners; private renters; state or territory housing authority; community or cooperative housing; and other renters. Refer to the findings section of this measure for a description of key results found in this figure.

Source: AIHW and ABS analysis of 2012–13 AATSIHS, 2008 and 2002 NATSISS