One million Australians living in poor housing

Peter Terlato 31 August 2016

Public Housing poor Melbourne

There's a considerable "hidden fraction" of Aussies living in sub-par conditions.

A new household study indicates one million Australians are living in poor or very poor quality housing.

The national data, derived from the Household Income and Labour Dynamic (HILDA) survey, serves as a harsh reminder of pre-war conditions in late 1940's Australia.

Housing slums were common in Australia less than a century ago, particularly in inner city areas and throughout country towns.

"The same conditions that gave rise to substandard housing in the 19th century are returning in the 21st century, with a likely similar outcome," Study co-author and University of South Australia Business School Professor Andrew Beer says.

Of the one million Aussies living in sub-standard housing, more than one in ten (100,000) reside in dwellings regarded as very poor or derelict.

Lead author Associate Professor Emma Baker, from the University of Adelaide's School of Architecture & Built Environment, says health and housing go hand in hand.

"There is a strong body of research linking poor quality housing to measurable impacts on mental, physical and general health," she says.

"We know that damp, cold or mould in homes can cause or exacerbate respiratory illnesses like asthma, and overcrowding can promote communicable disease, but just living in poor quality housing has been linked to anxiety, depression, and a range of other mental health conditions."

So, who suffers these conditions? Typically younger people, those with disabilities and ill health, low-income earners, part-time workers, the unemployed, Indigenous people and renters.

"Many of these groups are likely to have a pressing need for housing that improves or supports their health and wellbeing. People with an existing illness or disability, for example, were almost twice as likely to live in very poor condition dwellings as people without a disability or illness," Professor Baker says.

However, improving living standards can directly lead to improvements in a person's health and lifestyle.

The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community.

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Picture: TK Kurikawa / Shutterstock.com

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