AUSTRALIANS on low incomes have the cheapest average housing costs in the country but still spend a greater chunk of their weekly pay on putting a roof over their heads, an Australian Bureau of Statistics report shows.
Housing Occupancy and Costs Australia, released on Wednesday, revealed that since 1994-95 the proportion of households that owned their home outright dropped from 42 to 31%, those with a mortgage increased from 30% to 37% and households renting privately increased from 18% to 25%.
The report also showed housing costs for private renter households increased by $25, or 8%, from $322 in 2009-10 to $347 in 2011-12, though the proportion of income spent on housing costs remained steady at 20%.
In fact, home owners with a mortgage and private renters spent the same proportion of their income on housing costs in 2011/12 as they did in 1994/95.
Mortgage holders who owned their home with a mortgage had the highest housing costs, averaging $432 per week, which represented 18% of their gross household income. Those without a mortgage had the lowest costs paying $40 per week or 3% of their income on housing costs.
Average housing costs for owners with a mortgage have been stable since 2007-08, the report shows.
But the report showed Australia's poorest people were being stretched.
While lower income households had lower housing costs per week on average, these costs represented a greater proportion of household income.
Lower income households with a mortgage paid $314 a week on average, or 26% of their gross weekly income on housing costs, while those renting from a private landlord paid on average $295 per week, or 30% of gross weekly income.
The report also highlighted the divide in housing costs between the cities and regional areas - average housing costs in Australia's cities were 44% higher than elsewhere in the country.
Households in the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, Western Australia and New South Wales reported average housing costs above the national average, while average housing costs in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania were below the national average. Housing costs in Queensland were similar to the national average of $265 per week.
The report's release came as the Greens unveiled a housing policy it claimed would deliver 85,000 new rental homes during the next 10 years which it claimed would help 220,000 renters and ease pressure in the market.
Greens housing spokesman Senator Scott Ludlam, who is also a renter, said the almost one in three Australians who rent have been ignored by the old parties.
"The old parties need to face the facts - Australia is now a nation of renters," Senator Ludlam said.
"There are 2.4 million households in one of the most stretched rental markets in the world. Renters shouldn't be treated like second class citizens."
The fully costed Greens Rental Supply Boost will fund 70,000 new homes under the National Rental Affordability
Scheme and 15,000 new homes through a Convert To Rent program that will finance the conversion of empty properties into renovated low-cost rental homes.