Living arrangements can influence many aspects of a person’s social, economic, employment and community life, as well as impacting on their health and wellbeing. Women’s living arrangements are as diverse as women themselves, between cohabiting in marriage or partnership, being the majority sole parent carer of children or living alone. Women’s unequal economic conditions, exposure to violence and abuse, maternity and divorce are some of the factors that contribute to lower percentages of women than men owning their own homes.
Information about living arrangements in Australia includes;
- In 2006, sixty-eight percent of Victorian occupied private dwellings were family households, 23.3% were lone person households and 3.8% were group households.
- Almost 35% of occupied private dwellings were fully owned, 34% were being purchased and 23.9% were rented.
- Women headed 87% of sole parent families with children under the age of fifteen.
- Many female sole parents spend over 30% of their income on housing; this financial pressure can lead to poorer psychological health, as women in these situations, more than other women, are likely to experience debilitating psychological health problems.
- The proportion of women living alone appears to be increasing. Low fertility rates, smaller families, higher incidence of childlessness and increased divorce rates are all impacting factors. In 2006, women made up 54.5% of all lone person households, with more women than men living alone after the age of 55.
- Poor health status is strongly correlated with socio-economic disadvantage. In 2005, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that women living in areas of greatest socio-economic disadvantage had a higher rate of partner violence (28,100 or 2%) than those living in areas of least socio-economic disadvantage (14,400 or 0.9%).
- Women living in areas of greatest socio-economic disadvantage are found to give birth at a younger age than women living in less disadvantaged areas.
- More Victorian women (22,750) than men (13,850) are clients of the Supported Accomodation Assistance Program (SAAP); a support program helping people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Women have a mean age of 32 years (men: 34 years).
Women with disabilities
- While gender breakdowns are not reported, during 2005-2006 13,600 Victorians with disabilities sought accomodation support.
Women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds
- Of 36,050 Victorians receiving services for homelessness or risk of homelessness during 2005-2006, just over 82% (29,700) were born in Australia. Of the 6,350 poeple born overseas, most were women, with the highest percentages recorded for women born in North Africa and the Middle East, Southern and Eastern Europe and South-East Asia.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children escaping domestic violence, sexual abuse and partners using drugs, can find it difficult to access appropriate housing services and live transiently. Homeless women and children stay with family and friends in overcrowded houses because there is nowhere else to go. This situation leaves them vulnerable to further experiences of violence and abuse.
Women's Health Victoria's December 2008 edition of the Clearinghouse Connector provides links to external resources that highlight a number of the social and economic issues women face in relation to housing.
 Loxton D, Mooney R & A. Young (2006) The psychological health of sole mothers in Australia. Medical Journal of Australia, 184(6): 265-68. VIewed 9 March 2008, http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/184_06_200306/lox10718_fm.html
 Office for Women (2009). Women in Australia 2009. Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Canberra. Viewed 15 June 2009, http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/our-responsibilities/women/publications-articles/general/women-in-australia/women-in-australia-2009
 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007) Women’s Experience of Partner Violence, Australian Social Trends, 2007. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Cat. No. 4102.0. Viewed 9 March 2008, http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/ADE8C301B6BA85ABCA25732C00207E92?opendocument
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2007) Homeless people in SAAP: SAAP National Data Collection annual report 2005-06, Victoria supplementary tables. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Viewed 12 May 2008, http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/index.cfm/title/10461
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2007) Disability support services 2005-06: National data on services provided by the Commonwealth State/Territory Disability Agreement. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Viewed 12 May 2008, http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/index.cfm/title/10488
 Cooper, L. & M. Morris (2005) How to help Indigenous families into stable housing and sustainable tenancies. Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), Melbourne, Research and Policy Bulletin, 56. Viewed 9 March 2008, http://www.ahuri.edu.au/publications/projects/p40158