Report Population Private rental

Affordable private rental supply and demand: short-term disruption (2016–2021) and longer-term structural change (1996–2021)

Final Report No. 416

Date Published: 21 Feb 2024

Authors: Margaret Reynolds Sharon Parkinson Jacqueline De Vries Kath Hulse

This research analyses the ABS Census to reveal changes in the supply of private rental housing affordable and available to lower-income households (Q1 and Q2 households) over both the short term (2016–21) and the longer term (1996–2021). It also provides analysis of how COVID-19 policy and population responses temporarily altered the long-run structural trajectory of the private rental sector (PRS) in Australia.

In 2021, the Australian PRS housed more than 2.363 million households, a 17 per cent increase of nearly 340,000 households since the 2016 Census. This growth has been greater than total household growth in each intercensal period since 1996.

Between 2016 and 2021 PRS growth was concentrated at mid-market levels; in dwellings renting from around $300–$530 per week ($2021). This continues a major change trend first established in 2011, reinforcing the structural shift to a market concentration of dwellings renting at mid-to-higher levels.

The long-term shift in the national distribution of PRS household incomes reveals the growth of households with incomes at mid to high levels ($1,246 a week and above). In 1996, these ‘wealthier’ households comprised 40 per cent of all PRS households (or 489,000 households); in 2021, they comprised 64 per cent (or 1,519,000 households), a 211 per cent increase. In comparison, the total number of PRS households increased by 91 per cent between 1996 and 2021 (from 1,234,000 households to 2,362,000).

Over the same time frame, there has been a relatively constant total number of lower income renters in the PRS; 508,000 households in1996 and 488,000 in 2024. Nevertheless, there was a shortage of 348,000 affordable and available private rental homes for very-low income (Q1) households in 2021 and that, as a result, 82 per cent of Q1 PRS households paid unaffordable rents.

DOI: 10.18408/ahuri5128501

Published by: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited

ISSN: 1834-7223

ISBN: 978-1-922498-84-7


Reynolds, M., Parkinson, S., De Vries, J and Hulse, K. (2024) Affordable private rental supply and demand: shortterm disruption (2016–2021) and longer-term structural change (1996–2021), AHURI Final Report No. 416, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited, Melbourne,, doi: 10.18408/ahuri5128501.