Senin, 22 Februari 2010

Owners, renters, repairs and defects

Time for some charts and graphs – these come from the ABS's survey of housing mobility and conditions 2007-08, a new survey that is a veritable treasure trove of data about housing. We'll present more of it in further posts; first up, let's look at what it says about dwellings with structural defects, repairs and maintenance, and residents' satisfaction with their homes.

For present purposes, I've lumped all the owners (ie those subject to a mortgage, and those who are not) together, but I've left the tenants of private landlords distinct from the public housing tenants, because that's where the surprise is.

What's not surprising, I'm afraid, is that private tenants and public housing tenants are both more likely than owners to live with 'major structural defects' in their dwellings, as shown in figure 1.

(Figure 1. Major structural problems (%). ABS Australian Housing Mobility and Conditions 2007-08, table 14. Click on image for a better view.)

The surprising thing, for me at least, is that difference between the results for private rental and public housing is not greater. The troubles that the State and Territory housing authorities, such as our own Housing NSW, have had with properly maintaining their dwellings have been well-known for years. It seems that the private landlords have not been doing that much better.

It's a similar story with repairs and maintenance. For most categories of repairs and maintenance, owners got the work done more often than did either private tenants or public housing tenants. (Interestingly, the exception was plumbing, and electrical work was a fairly close call. I suspect that's because this sort of work is rarely cosmetic, and the repair work is being done in response to problems that obviously – and legally, as a matter of contract – need to be fixed. Good luck getting painting done.)

(Figure 2. Repairs and maintenance (%). ABS Australian Housing Mobility and Conditions 2007-08, table 15. Click on image for a better view.)

And this time, in each category of repair the public housing tenants actually received a greater degree of service than the private renters. I suppose that stands to reason: because public housing's maintenance problems are so well known, these landlords have been more on the job in recent years. And I'm sure the relative insecurity of private renting is a factor: many repairs go undone because private renters are afraid they'll lose their tenancy if they ask for them.

Finally, who's satisfied and who's not satisfied with their housing. Again, no surprises that the owners are most satisfied: in fact, 91 per cent are 'satisfied' or 'very satisfied' with their dwelling. Rather fewer tenants – 78.3 per cent, the same for private tenants and public housing tenants – felt the same way.

(Figure 3. Satisfaction (%). ABS Australian Housing Mobility and Conditions 2007-08, table 16. Click on image for a better view.)

Of course, one might say '78.3 per cent satisfied or very satisfied – that's pretty good, isn't it?' On the contrary, because this is about something that looms as large in people's lives as the place they live and call home, I think we should mark these results pretty hard and say that if a quarter of people renting are not satisfied with their houses, that's not good. (And I must say I'm a little dubious that such a relatively large proportion of private tenants can actually maintain that delicately poised state of Zen-like ambivalence 'neither satisfied nor dissatisfied'. I suspect they're being polite. Or perhaps they are just weary, watching the paint peel.)