THE AGE 29 August
by Matt Wade
The share of Australian families that rent has drawn level with those who own their homes outright, as a growing number of young people appear to be giving up on the dream of buying a house.
The proportion of households that are outright home owners has fallen from almost 42 per cent in the mid-1990s to 30.9 per cent in 2011-12, new Bureau of Statistics figures show. That is the lowest proportion collected by the bureau’s survey of housing occupancy and costs, which started in 1995.
The share of renters has risen nearly 5 percentage points to 30.3 per cent in the same period. The proportion of households paying off a mortgage has risen from 30 per cent to 37 per cent.
Sydney University housing expert Judy Yates attributed the decline in total home ownership – from 71 per cent to 67 per cent since the mid 1990s – to the spiralling cost of housing. ”This is all about affordability,” she said.
But Associate Professor Yates said the decline in the share of outright home owners was also being driven by well-established families using their mortgages to fund other purchases, especially investment properties.
CommSec chief economist Craig James said Generation Y – now aged in their 20s – seemed to have a different outlook on home ownership to previous generations: ”There has been a major change in attitudes concerning home ownership, with renting continuing to be preferred – either because Generation Y is choosing a different lifestyle or because the cost of purchasing a home continues to lift.”
Associate Professor Yates said the rising proportion of renters would exacerbate wealth disparities. Figures released by the Bureau of Statistics last week showed 90 per cent of families in the least wealthy fifth of Australian households were renters. In Sydney, the proportion of renters (34.6 per cent) is now higher than the share of households that own their home outright (26.8 per cent).
The average number of bedrooms in Australian households has grown from 2.9 to 3.1 since the mid 1990s. More than three-quarters of Australian households had at least one spare bedroom.
The survey of nearly 15,000 Australian households found one in five were spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing costs, a proportion experts describe as financial ”housing stress”. Average housing costs in capital cities were 44 per cent higher than in regional areas.