Census: Dwelling trends

Two minute read

Over the next couple of weeks, we will try to make some sense of the 2016 Census results.

This evening, let’s cover private occupied dwellings.


Type No. Ten year change 2006 2016
Houses 6.334m 649k 11% 75% 71%
Attached* 1.129m 427k 61% 9% 13%
Apartments 1.214m 138k 13% 14% 14%
Other** 175k 43k 32% 2% 2%
Total 8.861m 1.265m 17% 100% 100%

*Townhouses, terraces and ‘plexes.  **Other dwellings like caravans.  Includes ‘not stated’.

Some observations:

  • There are 9.9m private dwellings across Australia. Some one million or 11.2% were unoccupied at the time of the latest census. Five years ago, about 934,000 dwellings were not being used, which was 10.7% of the total.  So, it seems that we are using our dwellings less. More on this soon. property
  • Of the 8.861m private occupied dwellings counted at the time of the 2016 Census, most (71%) were detached houses. This market share has dropped from 75% share, ten years ago.
  • Overall, some 1.265m new homes have been built over the past ten years across Australia; half were detached houses, with another third being townhouses, terraces, duplexes or something similar.
  • This ‘townhouse’ market has grown a big 61% in size since 2006. The new apartment market – whilst getting a lion’s share of the property promotional space – has only increased by some 138,000 new digs over the past ten years. Overall, this market hasn’t gained market share.  It remains at 14%.
  • However, there is some devil in the detail here, with walk-up units actually falling by 56,000 dwellings since 2006, whilst the number of mid-to-high rise apartments has lifted by 194,000 new homes. In short, the older six packs have been knocked down to make way for bigger, taller and shinier new apartments. 
    [Imported] WP Advertize it Free Strategy ad 10 July 2014 (Desktop #44800)
  • Yet, the 2016 Census results strongly suggest that we remain a nation holding onto our suburban setting. We seem to like a strong nexus with the ground.  We want our own bit of dirt.
  • A lot of us are looking towards more compact housing solutions, but living in an apartment seems a step too far for many. It seems to work if there is a strong local market match and the higher density is ‘offset’ by the appropriate local amenity.
  • And of course, it works if you are an overseas buyer, especially from Asia, and/or you wish to lock the joint up. The recent FIRB change back to a 50% overseas sales limit on new housing is a step in the right direction.  But I think more still needs to be done. For mine, housing should be for Australian citizens first.

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