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Census paints picture of changing housing needs 08/07/2017

Understanding the demographics of our population and the characteristics of our households is critical in determining future housing needs and adequately planning for urban development.

Understanding the demographics of our population and the characteristics of our households is critical in determining future housing needs and adequately planning for urban development.

That is why the latest census data is so important as it provides us with greater insight into our population.

According to the 2016 census, even though population growth had slowed in Western Australia in recent years, we experienced a 10.5 per cent increase in our population (compared with 2011) to 2.47 million people.

A growing population will require an increase in housing stock and it is important that we look at the composition of that population so that we can determine what people’s housing and lifestyle needs are likely to be.

With just 2.6 people per household in WA and only 0.8 children per family, the number of people per dwelling is decreasing.

Despite this fact, WA housing is dominated by larger homes, with 44 per cent of existing homes having more than four bedrooms and the average number of bedrooms per dwelling sitting at 3.3. This provides a clear picture of the disparity between the existing housing stock and actual household sizes.

The development industry is working hard to provide a greater diversity of housing choices, particularly in the medium and higher density space to better cater for more compact households.

However, the statistics showed while the number of semi-detached townhouse and terrace-style homes had increased to 14.1 per cent of dwellings (from 10.6 per cent in 2011), 79.7 per cent of people still lived in a single detached dwelling.

It will be important in the coming years that we address this disparity and continue to work toward providing housing stock that better suits smaller household sizes.

Another important aspect of our growing population is the increasing cohort of people aged over 65.

The proportion of people aged over 65 in WA was 12.3 per cent in 2011 and grew to 14 per cent in 2016.

Therefore, not only do we need to look at household size to determine the right types of housing to build, we also need to look at age and the changing needs of an older population.

Older people need to be provided with more options to ‘age in place’ and downsize into more appropriate accommodation within their own area when they are ready. We also need to work toward reducing our reliance on the private vehicle and getting more people using public transport.

The census shows we have 1.9 vehicles per dwelling, despite having an average household size of just 2.6 people.

Hopefully we can continue to influence more people to use public transport as better access and more options are provided.

Overall, we can learn from this data and ensure that our planning and development is in line with our population’s changing needs.

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