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2021 Census: Apartment living rises but fewer homes owned outright

The way Australians live is becoming increasingly diverse, with fewer households owning their home outright and more people living in apartments, according to the 2021 Census.

Released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the data showed 10.8 million private dwellings counted in the 2021 Census, an increase of almost one million homes since 2016.

Detached houses are still our home of choice, making up 70 per cent of all dwellings, while apartments comprised 16 per cent and townhouses 13 per cent.

But more Australians are living in higher-density housing than previously, with apartments accounting for 30.9 per cent of the increase in private dwellings since the last Census in 2016.

More than 2.5 million people, or 10.3 per cent of the population, now live in apartments, including 550,592 people in Australia’s 368,943 highrise apartments.

The Census also revealed 66 per cent of households own their home outright or with a mortgage.

But there has been a decline in the number of households that own their home outright, falling from 41.6 per cent in 1996 to 31 per cent in 2021.

Meanwhile, households with a mortgage have risen from 26.2 per cent in 1996 to 35 per cent.

Many alternative dwellings were also counted on Census night, including 58,155 caravans and 29,369 cabins or houseboats.

Source: ABS

What else the 2021 Census revealed

Where we live

Australia has doubled in size over the past 50 years, with the 1971 Census counting 12.4 million people, while in 2021 that increased to 25.5 million people.

Almost 80 per cent of Australians live in the eastern states of Queensland, NSW, Victoria and the ACT.

NSW continues to be the most populated state with more than eight million people, closely followed by Victoria with 6.5 million people and Queensland with 5.1 million.

The Northern Territory has the fewest residents at 232,605 residents.

Two-thirds of people counted were in Greater Capital Cities, with Sydney remaining the largest city in Australia with 5.2 million people, followed by Melbourne with 4.9 million and Brisbane with 2.5 million people.

Source: ABS

Our age and sex

The median age of Australians was 38 years, with men making up 49.3 per cent of the population and women making up 50.7 per cent.

The median age of females is two years older than males at 39 years compared to 37 years.

Source: ABS

Families and households

The average number of people per household has declined marginally over the past five years, falling from 2.6 in 2016 to 2.5 in 2021.

The 2021 Census counted 5.5 million couple families, of which 53 per cent had children living with them, including 2.5 million families with children under 15.

The proportion of single-parent families increased slightly from 14.5 per cent in 1996 to 15.9 per cent in 2021 to reach 1.06 million.

More than 23,000 same-sex marriages were counted in the 2021 Census.

Work and income

The national median personal income has risen $143 per week since 2016 to $805 per week.

The ACT has the highest median personal income at $1203 per week, while Tasmania has the lowest at $701 per week.

More than 9.6 million people earn below the national median personal income or do not earn any income.

Source: ABS


For the first time, the Census collected data on 10 common long-term health conditions, with more than eight million people reporting they had been diagnosed with at least one condition.

The most commonly reported long-term health condition in Queensland, Victoria, the ACT and WA was a mental health condition. 

Arthritis was the most commonly reported long-term health condition in NSW, SA and Tasmania, while in the Northern Territory it was asthma.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.