Housing serviceability


Theme: Secure
Dimension: Having financial security and access to housing


Proportion of housing costs to household gross income, by tenure

Why does this matter

Beyond homelessness, we have other ways of measuring housing stress, including serviceability. Measuring housing serviceability is not straightforward since Australians rent, buy or access housing in a variety of ways. The simplest and most common measure of housing stress refers to the relationship between housing costs (that is, the prices of rent or mortgage payments) and household incomes.

Has there been progress

In the past two decades, real absolute housing costs have increased for all tenure types. The most recent ABS release (2019–20) on housing is some years old. In it, the average weekly costs for housing were $379 for renters and $493 for owners with a mortgage.1

However, since the COVID‑19 pandemic, there has been a marked increase in housing costs across the board that is not captured in the ABS release. The median weekly cost for rent in June 2023 (according to CoreLogic data) was $589, while housing costs for many households with a mortgage have been affected by the current interest rate tightening cycle.2

In 2019–20, the share of gross household income spent on housing was around 20.2 per cent for private renters, 19.5 per cent for renters from a housing authority and 15.5 per cent for owners with a mortgage. In that year around a third of Australian households either rented (31.4 per cent), owned their home outright (29.5 per cent) or were homeowners with mortgages (36.8 per cent).

How does this differ across cohorts 

These cost-to-income ratios have generally remained steady over the last several years prior to the COVID‑19 pandemic. However, these averages can mask incidence of housing stress across different groups of households or regions. For instance, nearly half (46.7 per cent) of low-income earners who rent, spend more than 30 per cent of their weekly income on housing costs.

In 2019‑20, 17.4 per cent (or 618,400) of Australian household homeowners with mortgages spent more than 30 per cent of their gross household income on housing costs compared to only 2.8 per cent (or 79,800) of homeowners without mortgages.

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2019-20) Housing Occupancy and Costs, accessed 28 June 2023.

2 CoreLogic (2023) Housing affordability report, accessed 26 June 2023.

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