Millions More to Live Alone, Pressure on Housing | Louis Christopher

The number of households in Australia is projected to increase by 4.3 million over the next 25 years, with people living alone expected to be a significant driver, which will add to demand for more affordable housing.

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According to new projections from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the number of households will rise to 12.7 million in 2036, an increase from 8.4 million households in 2011, with the ageing population behind a big increase in sole-person households.

Indeed, as the population ages, the number of Australians living alone is projected to experience the most rapid increase of all household types, rising by up to 65 per cent over the next 25 years to be between 3.3 and 3.4 million households by 2036, up from 2.1 million in 2011, the ABS said last week.

At the same time, couple-only families are projected to experience the largest increase of all types of families over the next 25 years, jumping to 3.8 million families in 2036, up 64 per cent from 2011.

This is mainly related to the ageing of the population, with baby boomers becoming ’empty nesters’ as their children leave home, according to the ABS.

So much so that the number of couple families without children is projected to overtake the number of couple families with children and become the most common family type in Australia, possibly as soon as 2023, the ABS said.

So what does this all mean for the property market?

Even more pressure on housing.

As the population grows, more and more people will live in single-person households rather than live together under one roof.

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This will boost demand for one and two-bedroom units in particular as the need for smaller dwellings rises with the median age of Australia’s population.

The median age is forecast to rise to 40.1 years in 2036, up from 37.2 years in 2011, while the proportion of the population aged 65 years and over is projected to be 20% in 2036 compared with 14% in 2011.

Developers here will have a big opportunity to cash in on this ageing trend and build even greater numbers of high-density accommodation to house sole person households.

And while developers will still build housing estates with pools and playgrounds, we can expect to see even more estates with golf courses and health centres.

More generally, Australia’s population is projected to increase by 45% to reach 32.4 million people in 2036 from 22.3 million people in 2011.

That represents population growth of almost 2% a year, which will still mean ongoing strong demand for houses.

Most of the population will remain concentrated in the bigger cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

So unless there is any drastic change by governments towards solving the housing unaffordability crisis, younger Australians will still struggle to own their own home.

money-houseBut will our golden oldies be able to afford their own accommodation? Not necessarily the way housing costs are going.

The ageing of the population will mean comparatively fewer people are in the workforce, with one in five being aged over 65 in 2036 rather than one in seven in 2011.

We can expect to see more seniors renting and more reverse mortgages being taken out as inevitably, some baby boomers will struggle to find their own funds to buy a home and will opt to share ownership with a bank or forgo the dream.

On April 14, the Senate Economics References Committee is due to deliver its report on affordable housing.

This report is expected to highlight shortfalls in affordable and age-appropriate housing, a shortfall which needs to be addressed to ensure older Australians remain healthy and productive.


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Louis is recognised as one of Australia’s most respected and impartial research property analyst. He has extensive knowledge and experience of property and is regularly quoted in the media on his insights and is director of SQM Research.

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