Informality, the marginalised and regulatory inadequacies

a case study of tenants' experiences of shared room housing in Sydney, Australia

Zahra Nasreen*, Kristian J. Ruming

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Shared housing emerges as an important housing choice for low-to-middle income tenants experiencing difficulties accessing housing in competitive and unaffordable formal rental markets. Shared room housing–where two or more non-related tenants share sleeping spaces, such as bedrooms or partitioned living rooms–is a growing subcategory of shared housing in cities of the Global North. Shared room tenancies are arranged under multi-layered sub-letting rental arrangements that often lack written tenancy agreements and formal protection. Despite evidence that more people are living in shared room housing, there is limited research that explores the experiences of those living in these informal arrangements and the relationship with policy/regulatory frameworks that seek to govern shared housing practices. This paper addresses this gap by investigating tenants’ motivations for living, and the challenges they face, in informal shared room housing in Sydney. The study finds that shared room housing offers flexibility and rental affordability for tenants marginalised from the formal rental market; however, it also raises a series of issues, such as tenure insecurity, exploitation, health and safety risks, and lack of access to formal dispute resolution services. The paper identifies regulatory and enforcement challenges in informal shared room housing and calls for policy reforms.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Housing Policy
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Aug 2020


  • housing affordability
  • Housing informality
  • shared housing regulations
  • shared room housing
  • Sydney

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