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Census: Household size

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As mentioned yesterday, over the coming week or two, we will try to demystify the 2016 Census results.

This post, we look at household size.

What’s going on is quite different to what we are often told.

Many seem to be caught in the wrong mindset.


Type 2006 2016
% population living in housing type Average
household size
% population living in housing type Average
household size
Houses 83% 2.77 79% 2.79
Attached* 7% 2.07 11% 2.19
Apartments 9% 1.77 9% 1.94
Other** 1% 1.84 1% 1.98
Total 100% 2.57 100% 2.59

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

Some observations:

  • As we found out yesterday, fewer of us are living in detached houses, yet some 79% of us still do.  The big change has been in those opting to live in more condensed digs, but attached together on the ground, and not in the air.
  • One surprising finding – well, to be honest, not to us or the more consistent Missive reader – was that average household size has increased.  Overall, we are living in more crowded homes, not emptier ones.  This trend is likely to accelerate as the housing market reaches its current cyclical peak and low affordability, in concert with rising costs, starts to bite into household budgets. 
  • Household size has teeth. It isn’t just some statistical proclivity. For example, most planning regimes, these days, aim to increase housing density.  They want to get more people living in their community.  They often use somewhat dubious targets and terminology – notably, ‘dwellings per hectare’ – to measure its success.  Now, if getting more bums on seats is the aim, then maybe ‘occupants per hectare’ would be a more apt descriptor and measurement.
  • So, if the aim was to increase the local population by, say, 100,000, then you would need to build some 36,000 new houses (100,000 divided by 2.79 people per house); or 46,000 new townhouses or similar; or 52,000 new apartments.
  • Apart from the increased development risk – and in particular, sales risk – associated with higher density housing development, the need to build some 50% more apartments than houses to get the same lift in local residents, is something that’s worth investigating further.
  • Given what the 2016 Census is already telling us, it is high time to take a hard look at our settlement patterns, the dwelling stock that we are supplying and future housing needs.

You may also be interested in Reading:

Census: Dwelling trends

About 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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