Changes in the supply of and need for low rent dwellings in the private rental market


In 2001 there was an overall shortage in affordable and available housing suitable for low-income households (defined as receiving less than $335 per week) equal to 134 000 dwellings. Shortages were especially acute in cities such as Sydney, Darwin, Canberra and Melbourne. Only 39 per cent of low rent dwellings were occupied by households with low incomes, but 60 per cent of private renters on low incomes were paying rents above the lowest rent segment.

Project Number: 60190
Research Theme(s): Private rental
Project Leader: Yates, Judith
Funding Year: 2003
Research Centre: Sydney


This research proposed to extend to 2001, the work undertaken by Yates and Wulff (2000) on changes in the low rent stock in the private rental market. This extension to changes between 1996 and 2001 of the earlier study for changes between 1986 and 1996 drew on data from a special matrix tabulation from the 2001 Australian Census, using definitions that allow for a direct comparison with data already obtained from the 1996 Australian Census. The ability to use consistent definitions of what constitutes the private rental market across census years will address one of the perceived weaknesses of the earlier study and will provide a means of determining whether the patterns identified in the earlier results have been reversed or reinforced. It also aimed to expand the analysis in Wulff and Yates (2001) to further explore the impact that the observed changes in low rent stock have on both young and older renters.

The research aimed to provide a spatially disaggregated analysis of the changes that have taken place between 1996 and 2001. This will be conducted first at an Australia wide level and then at a metropolitan and non-metropolitan breakdown for the 6 states and for the 2 territories. For 2001, this analysis will provide an update of the extent of mismatch (or otherwise) between the supply of and need for low rent housing and of the extent to which medium to high-income earners utilise the low rent private rental housing supply. Additionally, the data generated will enable changing demand and supply characteristics of the private rental market to be compared directly with a detailed analysis of the socio-demographic characteristics of low income renters.

The pressing need to continually map trends in the low rent end of the private rental market is prompted by shifts in the economy and changes in policy focus. The late 1990s saw a number of broad social and economic changes which are likely to have impacted on the private rental market. These included continued worsening housing affordability (ABS 2002), further growth in the proportion of employed persons in part time work (ABS 2002) and increasing numbers of students in higher education (which may increase the demand for low rent dwellings particularly in the capital cities). In general, the opportunity to obtain data sufficient to undertake detailed analyses as those proposed arise only every 5 years with the publication of census data. It is critical that newly available data are fully exploited to ensure that the information base for policy is as current as possible.