Housing is a key determinant of the poor health of Aboriginal Australians. Most Aboriginal people live in cities and large towns, yet research into housing conditions has largely focused on those living in remote areas. This paper measures the prevalence of housing problems amongst participants in a study of urban Aboriginal families in New South Wales, Australia, and examines the relationship between tenure type and exposure to housing problems.
Cross-sectional survey data was provided by 600 caregivers of 1406 Aboriginal children aged 0–17 years participating in Phase One of the Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH). Regression modelling of the associations between tenure type (own/mortgage, private rental or social housing) and housing problems was conducted, adjusting for sociodemographic factors.
The majority (60%) of SEARCH households lived in social housing, 21% rented privately and 19% either owned their home outright or were paying a mortgage (“owned”). Housing problems were common, particularly structural problems, damp and mildew, vermin, crowding and unaffordability. Physical dwelling problems were most prevalent for those living in social housing, who were more likely to report three or more physical dwelling problems than those in owned (PR 3.19, 95%CI 1.97, 5.73) or privately rented homes (PR 1.49, 1.11, 2.08). However, those in social housing were the least likely to report affordability problems. Those in private rental moved home most frequently; children in private rental were more than three times as likely to have lived in four or more homes since birth than those in owned homes (PR 3.19, 95%CI 1.97, 5.73). Those in social housing were almost half as likely as those in private rental to have lived in four or more homes since birth (PR 0.56, 95%CI 0.14, 0.77). Crowding did not vary significantly by tenure type.
The high prevalence of housing problems amongst study participants suggests that urban Aboriginal housing requires further attention as part of efforts to reduce the social and health disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal Australians. Particular attention should be directed to the needs of those renting in the private and social housing sectors, who are experiencing the poorest dwelling conditions.