National Social Housing Survey, 2018; Quality Statement

Identifying and definitional attributes

Metadata item type:Quality Statement
METeOR identifier:705807
Registration status:AIHW Data Quality Statements, Endorsed 21/01/2019

Data quality

Quality statement summary:


The 2018 National Social Housing Survey (NSHS) collects information from tenants of four social housing programs—public housing (PH) (also referred to as ‘public rental housing’), community housing (CH) (also referred to as ‘mainstream community housing’), state owned and managed Indigenous housing (SOMIH) and Indigenous community housing (ICH—Queensland only).


  • The NSHS provides information on characteristics of tenants, information about their housing histories, the suitability of the housing to the household’s needs, their satisfaction with the services provided by their housing provider and information about their household’s use of other health and community services.
  • The response rate for the mail-out/online component of the 2018 survey was 35.5%; for face-to-face it was 56.4%. Some non-response bias is expected, but this bias has not been measured.
  • Both sampling and non-sampling errors should be considered when interpreting results.
  • There are major methodological differences between cycles of the NSHS affecting comparability over time.
Institutional environment:

The 2018 NSHS was managed jointly by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and states and territories. Lonergan Research undertook the fieldwork on behalf of the AIHW and states and territories.

The AIHW is an independent corporate Commonwealth entity under the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Act 1987 (AIHW Act), governed by a management Board, and accountable to the Australian Parliament through the Health portfolio.

The AIHW is a nationally recognised information management agency. Its purpose is to create authoritative and accessible information and statistics that inform decisions and improve the health and welfare of all Australians.

The AIHW enables other organisations to improve their policies and services and achieve their goals by making better use of evidence—a fundamental requirement for good decision making. It collects and reports information on a wide range of topics and issues, ranging from health and welfare expenditure, hospitals, disease and injury, mental health, ageing, homelessness, disability and child protection.

The AIHW also plays a role in developing and maintaining national metadata standards. This work contributes to improving the quality and consistency of national health and welfare statistics. The AIHW works closely with governments and non-government organisations to achieve greater adherence to these standards in administrative data collections to promote national consistency and comparability of data and reporting.

One of the main functions of the AIHW is to work with the states and territories to improve the quality of administrative data and, where possible, to compile national data sets based on data from each jurisdiction, to analyse these data sets and disseminate information and statistics.

Compliance with confidentiality requirements in the AIHW Act, Privacy Principles in the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and its data governance arrangements ensures that the AIHW is well positioned to release information for public benefit while protecting the identity of individuals and organisations. It also ensures that data providers can be confident that the AIHW will adhere to data supply terms and conditions.

For further information see the AIHW website


Data are not collected annually. Surveys for PH and CH were conducted in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018. Surveys for SOMIH were conducted in 2005, 2007, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018. The survey for ICH was conducted for the first time in 2018 (Queensland only).

The 2018 fieldwork for the combined mail-out/online components was conducted from 3 April to 25 June for the Australian Capital Territory and from 3 April to 16 July for all other jurisdictions. Fieldwork for the SOMIH face-to-face component was undertaken in New South Wales from 23 April to 4 June and in Queensland from 30 April to 4 June. For the ICH tenants in Queensland, face-to-face interviews were conducted from 28 May to 16 July.

Data on the characteristics of the household and its members relate to the time of the survey. Data on tenant satisfaction relate to the 12 months up to the time of the survey.


Published results from the 2018 NSHS will be available on the AIHW website (Housing assistance), and the Productivity Commission’s annual Report on government services. Access to the confidentialised unit record file may be requested through the AIHW Ethics Committee.

Users can request additional disaggregations of data which are not available online or in reports (subject to the AIHW’s confidentiality policy and other conditions) via the AIHW’s online customised data request system at: Depending on the nature of the request, requests for access to unpublished data may incur costs. They may also require approval from the AIHW Ethics Committee and/or states and territories.

General enquiries about AIHW publications can be directed to


Information to aid in interpretation of 2018 NSHS results will be available on the AIHW website including the 2018 NSHS methodological report, code book and other supporting documentation.


The 2018 NSHS was conducted among tenants from PH (all jurisdictions), CH (all jurisdictions except the Northern Territory), SOMIH (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania) and ICH (Queensland only). The 2018 NSHS is the first to include ICH tenants from any state or territory.

The data were collected via a combination of mail-out self-completed paper questionnaires, online self-completed questionnaires and face-to-face interviews. PH and CH tenants completed the survey via a combined mail-out/online methodology for all jurisdictions. For SOMIH tenants, surveys were completed via a combined mail-out/online methodology for two jurisdictions (South Australia and Tasmania) and face-to-face interview in the other two jurisdictions (New South Wales and Queensland). Queensland ICH tenants completed the survey via face-to-face interviews.

All remoteness areas were included in the sample. For the postal component of the survey, the speed of delivery to, and returns from, more remote locations may have affected the number of responses received from tenants in these areas.


Response rates
Response rates are a key factor contributing to the accuracy of estimates produced from the 2018 NSHS. Higher response rates often lead to estimates that are more accurate.

For PH, CH and SOMIH (South Australia and Tasmania only), 26,532 questionnaires were sent to tenants using the combined mail-out/online approach. Of these, 8,825 responses were categorised as being complete and useable (2,798 online responses and 6,027 paper responses). The 2018 response rate for the combined mail-out/online approach was 35.5% (2 percentage points higher than in 2016).

In 2018, 32% of all surveys were completed online—higher than the 2016 online proportion of 20%.

For the two jurisdictions where SOMIH tenants completed the survey face-to-face (New South Wales and Queensland), 2,033 interviews were attempted and 1,065 completed, with an overall response rate of 52.4%.

For Queensland ICH tenants, 744 attempts were made to conduct a face-to-face interview, of which 501 interviews were completed—a response rate of 67.2%.

The 2018 response rates varied across jurisdictions (see table below). A low response rate does not necessarily mean that the results are biased. If the non-respondents are not systematically different in terms of how they would have answered the questions, there is no bias. However, given the relatively low response rates for this survey, it is likely there is some bias in the estimates. No adjustments have been made to mitigate potential non-response bias.

Table: Response rate, by program type and jurisdiction, 2018


Total responses

Response rate

Public housing

























Community housing






















State owned and managed Indigenous housing

NSW (face-to-face)



Qld (face-to-face)









Indigenous community housing

Qld (face-to-face) 501 67.2%


Scope and coverage

The 2018 NSHS was designed to meet minimum reliability objectives for key variables for each participating jurisdiction/housing program.

Sample design
Stratified sampling was undertaken to reduce sampling error and maximise the chance that jurisdiction/program sample targets were met.

In 2018, minimum sample quotas were employed for remoteness-based strata for the first time. This will improve the reliability of estimates for some of the jurisdiction/program/remoteness-based populations that have smaller populations.

Quotas were set for each jurisdiction/housing strata. In PH they were 500 for each jurisdiction, except Queensland, where it was 1,000. For CH they were 350 for each jurisdiction, except South Australia (700) and Queensland (500). In SOMIH: 500 for New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia; and 200 for Tasmania. ICH in Queensland was also 500.

After the initial mail-out, a booster sample of 873 overall was lodged, comprising New South Wales PH (40), Queensland PH (200), the Australian Capital Territory PH (100), Western Australia PH (88), Queensland CH (82) and Western Australia CH (238).


Consistent with the 2016 NSHS, a grouped weighting methodology was employed. Population groups were created across three variables: housing type, jurisdiction and remoteness. The weighting was calculated as: the number of households in each population group divided by the number of usable survey responses. All population counts were confirmed by the jurisdictions.

Sampling error
The estimates are subject to sampling error. Relative standard errors (RSEs) are provided with estimates from the 2018 NSHS to assist the reader assess the reliability of the estimates. Only estimates with RSEs of less than 25% are considered sufficiently reliable for most purposes. Results subject to RSEs of between 25% and 50% should be considered with caution and those with relative standard errors greater than 50% should be considered as unreliable for most purposes.

Non-sampling error
In addition to sampling errors, the estimates are subject to non-sampling errors. These can arise from errors in reporting of responses (for example, failure of respondents’ memories or incorrect completion of the survey form), or the unwillingness of respondents to reveal their true responses. The survey findings are based on self-reported data. They can also arise from coverage, interviewer or processing errors. It is also expected there is some level of non-response error, where there are higher levels of non-response from certain subpopulations.

Missing data
Some survey respondents did not answer all questions, either because they were unable or unwilling to provide a response. The survey responses for these people were retained in the sample, and the corresponding values were set to missing. Cleaning rules resulted in the imputation of responses for some missing values.


For the 2018 NSHS, caution should be used when comparing trend data or data between jurisdictions due to differences in response rates and non-sampling error.

The 2018 NSHS sampling and stratification methods were similar to the 2016 survey: a sample was randomly selected from each strata.

As in 2016, the data collected for SOMIH was sourced using two methodologies (via mail-out in two jurisdictions and via face-to-face interview in two jurisdictions). Trend data from before 2016 and comparisons between jurisdictions should therefore be interpreted with caution.

Surveys in this series commenced in 2001. Over time, modifications have been made to the survey’s methodology and questionnaire design. As noted above, the sample design and the questionnaire of the 2018 survey differ in a number of important respects from previous versions of the survey.

Refer to data quality statements and technical reports for the relevant historical surveys before comparing data across surveys.

Source and reference attributes

Submitting organisation:

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Relational attributes

Related metadata references:

Supersedes National Social Housing Survey, 2016; Quality Statement AIHW Data Quality Statements, Archived 21/01/2019