Australia’s cohort of renters grew 64% over the first 16 years of the century, according to researchers at the University of Adelaide – twice the rate of homeownership.

For the first time in generations, there are now as many Australians who rent as there are outright homeowners.

Professor of Housing Research at the University of Adelaide, Emma Baker, there is a considerable knowledge gap about the life of renters “beyond the front door”.

“For a long time, we have lived with this notion that Australians are homeowners – now we have to adjust to the fact that future Australians are more likely to be renters,” she says.

“The problem is, we just haven’t known much about who rents, why they rent or what they are renting.”

In a bid to address the absence of a large-scale collection of information, Prof Baker has launched the country’s first national Rental Housing Conditions dataset.

The project, funded by the Australian Research Council and Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, reflects that renting has moved from being a transitional proposition to something far more permanent.

Users can access the Rental Housing Conditions dataset through the Australian Data Archive.

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The information generated in this database features descriptions of renting households right across Australia.

The dataset reveals who Australia’s renters are, what they want and what they can afford – but also looks at the diversity of the country’s housing quality and our rental market conditions.

Profiling renter-submitted data

As an adjunct to Prof Baker’s project, a citizen science initiative has been set up that profiles images and descriptions of accommodation renters have submitted.

The initiative asked participants where they live and whether they reside in a free-standing house, a semi, a terrace, a townhouse or a flat.

Renters can also nominate how old their property is and how many bedrooms it has.

Participants can also list any repairs the rental might need or issues between them and their landlord.

Prof Baker said the dataset would become an invaluable resource in informing future policy on housing, community support and infrastructure spending.

She conducted the research in partnership with UniSA, the University of Melbourne, Curtin University, UTS, Swinburne University of Technology and Torrens University Australia.