13.5 million spare bedrooms in Australia


COVID19 has reignited the debate about product size, with some jumping on the bandwagon advocating that there will be a lot more demand for smaller housing products and, in particular, studio and one-bedroom apartments. bedroom

Given it costs much more to build and supply small residences when compared to larger housing floorplates, I think it would make more sense to provide more homes that can be satisfactorily shared rather than single roosts.

Also, one place which seems to have escaped much attention is the underutilisation of our existing housing stock.

Three tables this post.

Table 1: Housing utilisation by product type, Australia

Housing productBedrooms neededSpare bedrooms
One +NoneOneTwoThree +
Detached house3%13%30%37%17%
Townhouse, villa or duplex4%22%47%25%2%
Matusik + ABS 41300, table 7.1.

Table 1 tells me four out of five (78%) Australian households have one or more spare bedrooms.  Even smaller digs have spare capacity.

Table 2: Housing utilisation by tenure, Australia

Housing tenureBedrooms neededSpare bedrooms
One +NoneOneTwoThree +
Owner resident2%12%31%37%18%
Private landlord7%31%37%19%4%
Public housing6%35%41%16%2%
Matusik + ABS 41300, table 7.1.

Table 2 outlines, as one would expect, spare capacity in our owner resident homes, but private landlords have a lot of spare bedrooms too and many are not maximising their rental returns.

Table 3: Housing utilisation by household type, Australia

Household typeBedrooms neededSpare bedrooms
One +NoneOneTwoThree +
Family, dependent kids6%27%43%21%3%
Multi-generational family26%35%21%12%6%
Lone person0%13%30%40%17%
Matusik + ABS 41300, table 7.1.

Table 3 tells me that people living alone or in a couple household have a higher proportion of spare bedrooms when compared to families with children at home.

Table 3 also shows that one in four (26%) multi-generational homes want more sleeping quarters to house adult relatives.

End note

There are currently about 10 million households in Australia, which house about 13.5 million spare bedrooms.

We should be exploring housing incentives and relaxing regulations to maximise the use of our existing homes.

It would help if the town planning mindset changed from dwellings per hectare to people per hectare.

If such a measure was a planning benchmark, then we would do much more to capitalise on our existing infrastructure and underutilised existing housing stock.


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Michael is director of independent property advisory Matusik Property Insights. He is independent, perceptive and to the point; has helped over 550 new residential developments come to fruition and writes his insightful Matusik Missive

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