The great Australian dream of owning a home lives on.
And ABS’s recent Housing Occupancy and Costs statistics give us a good snapshot of how many of us own a home and how many rent.
The latest stats show that in 2019–20
- 66% of Australian households owned their own home with or without a mortgage.
- 31% of households rented their home.
- Average weekly housing costs were: $493 for owners with a mortgage; $54 for owners without a mortgage; and $379 for renters.
Other interesting findings
- Two-thirds (66%) of Australian households owned their own home with or without a mortgage. This was consistent with ownership in 2017–18 (66%).
- Almost one-third (31%) of Australian households rented their home in 2019–20, a decrease from 32% in 2017–18.
- Average weekly housing costs decreased to $493 for owners with a mortgage (down $5 per week from $498 in 2017–18 inflation-adjusted) and no change was observed for owners without a mortgage ($54). Housing costs for renters increased by $2 between 2019–20 ($379) and 2017–18 ($377 inflation-adjusted).
- Household spending of their gross weekly income on housing costs decreased from 13.9% (2017–18) to 13.6% in 2019–20. While owners with a mortgage spent 16% and renters spent 20% of their income on housing costs. This was consistent with the amount spent on mortgages and rent in 2017–18.
- The average number of persons per household remained stable at 2.6, and the average number of bedrooms per dwelling decreased from 3.2 to 3.1.
- Applying the Canadian National Occupancy Standard for housing utilisation, almost one in twenty-five (4%) Australian households required at least one additional bedroom to meet the requirements of the household, while more than three quarters (77%) of households had at least one bedroom spare.
- One in five households (21%) owned one or more residential properties other than their usual residence. Of those that owned another residential property, almost three-quarters (68%) owned a single property, while one in twenty-five (4%) owned four or more properties.
- There was a 6% increase in recent first home buyers where the main reference person for the household was aged under 35 (61%), compared to 2017–18 (55%).
It's all to do with demographics
The trends in tenure type are more or less in line with the change in demographics and life cycle stages.
This means that the decline in homeownership levels over the last two decades should not be of great concern as it is in part related to the changing demographics with more young people in Australia
You see...as teens we start off as tenants, eventually moving to home purchases with a mortgage during the family formation stage of our lives and finally we end up acquiring outright ownership of our home in our 50s.
Currently, Zoomers (born 1999-2018) and Millennials (born 1984-1998) make up 47% of the total population.
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They are the largest generational groups in Australia, which explains why the proportion of renters is increasing.
However, moving forward, more Millennials will be contemplating home ownership as they enter the family formation stage of their lives and, in general, they'll be moving out of apartments into houses or townhouses, and in many cases to our urban fringes dues to affordability constraints.
The bottom line
Interestingly when compared to other countries, the homeownership rate in Australia isn’t particularly high or low.
Largely agrarian and industrial economies like Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria have high homeownership rates, while highly urbanised service economies like Switzerland, Germany, and South Korea have relatively low homeownership rates.
However there is an important benefit of homeownership that mini forget - homeowners don’t suffer from poverty in old age.
The Grattan Institute found that you are much less likely to retire in financial comfort when you are a renter.
This means the more Australians who own their homes, the less we need to subsidise renter-retirees through the age pension system.
And we know there’s not enough money in the public coffers to support the vast number of Boomers moving into retirement over the next decade.