Overcrowded housing looms as a challenge for our cities

Overcrowding is an inevitable and often overlooked result of the affordable housing shortage in our cities.

When a dwelling requires four or more extra bedrooms to reasonably accommodate occupants, the standard commonly used in Australia defines that as severe overcrowding. In 2011, 41,390 Australians lived in severely overcrowded dwellings, an increase of one-third from 2006. This increase occurred mostly in cities where house prices had risen sharply.

Our recent research, to be published soon, examined where overcrowded housing is located in our capital cities. We found:

  • Sydney and Melbourne are most affected by concentrated overcrowding
  • levels of overcrowding are highest in middle-city areas (except in Adelaide)
  • overcrowding overlaps strongly with socioeconomic disadvantage.

What exactly do we mean by overcrowding?

Pressure in the affordable housing sector has led to increases in overcrowding. Media reports describe situations of “ten people in a two-bed unit”, “58 beds crammed into 19 dirty, makeshift rooms” and “ten people shoehorned into one bedroom, tenants sleeping in bathrooms, and in one case, a pantry”.

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