20 April 2012
Research unveils Melbourne's rooming house boom
New RMIT University analysis has revealed a dramatic 236 per cent increase in the number of people living in rooming houses in Melbourne in the past five years.
The research by Professor Chris Chamberlain, from the Centre for Applied Social Research at RMIT, shows the rooming house population increased from about 3,700 in 2006 to more than 12,500 in 2011.
The analysis reveals the number of boarding houses across metropolitan Melbourne grew from an estimated 358 in 2006 to 1,451 last year, with most of the growth concentrated in the city's suburbs.
Professor Chamberlain detailed his research in a keynote address at the inaugural Homelessness Research Conference, hosted by RMIT and the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI).
The findings - which estimate the number of people living in rooming houses in Australia is now about 70,000 - are in contrast to Australian Bureau of Statistics' census data that indicates the rooming house population fell 29 per cent from 2001 to 2006 (from 23,750 to 16,830).
Professor Chamberlain said his research involved analysis of council records of registered rooming houses, interviews with council and welfare workers, as well as field visits to more than 250 boarding houses.
"About 75 per cent of registered rooming houses in Melbourne are small family homes accommodating four to nine people, which look no different from other properties in the same street," he said.
"Census collectors often misclassify these dwellings, resulting in statistics that do not reflect the reality of the rooming house boom.
"The current method of counting the boarding house population across Australia is fundamentally flawed - we need to rethink our approach to make sure this vulnerable group does not remain hidden."
The research - funded by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) - also showed:
- a six-fold increase in the number of rooming house tenants in inner-suburban Melbourne (from 922-1,461 people in 2006 to 8,417 people in 2011)
- a five to six-fold rise in the number of properties operating as boarding houses in inner-suburban Melbourne (from 117-183 in 2006 to 1,049 in 2011)
- the rooming house population is becoming more diverse, with growing numbers of single parents, aged pensioners, unemployed people and students living in boarding houses.
The research shows the number of boarding houses across metropolitan Melbourne has increased rapidly, with most of the growth concentrated in the city's suburbs. Image ©iStockphoto.