The number of single-person households in Australia is rising dramatically, despite the soaring cost of renting, poor housing affordability in many locations and rising interest rates, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data.

Census figures showed that single-person households accounted for 24.3% of total households in the last Census, up from 23.3% in 2001, 22.2% in 1996 and 19.5% in 1991, while the number of group or share households remained fairly steady over the same period.

BIS Shrapnel's Emerging Trends in Residential Market Demand, 2008 report, which analysed the data from the 2006 Census and compared it with the findings of the last three Censuses, said the number of single-person households is growing significantly within the first home occupier (20-34 years), upgrader (35-49 years) and empty nester (50-64 years) segments.

BIS Shrapnel believed that this, and the rising number of single-person households, is having a marked impact on dwelling choice. Angie Zigomanis, BIS Shrapnel senior project manager and report author, pointed to a rise in the number of people living in flats, units or apartments - which has been gathering momentum since the 1991 Census - as a potential cause of more single-person households.

"The 20-34-year-olds and 65-plus-year-olds have an increasing and greater propensity for living in medium and high density dwellings and will continue to drive demand for these dwellings."

Zigomanis added that the 20-34-year-old demographic was the most likely to be renting, up from 49.2% of these households in 1991 to 52.9% in 2006. There is also an increasing proportion of 20-34-year-olds who are still living in the family home. BIS Shrapnel believed it is likely - given the further deterioration of affordability since 2006 due to higher interest rates and rising rents - that this trend could have accelerated.