We have more housing than we can poke a stick at

There are just over 9 million private dwellings across Australia.

At any one time about 85% or 7.8 million of them are occupied on a full-time basis.  A further 425,000 (5%) are used by visitors on a frequent basis, but for short periods of time, and 10% or 935,000 private dwellings are not used on a regular basis at all.

I repeat, one out of every ten private dwellings across Australia is not used on a permanent basis.

They are “unoccupied” according to the national statistician.

What is even harder to believe is that the numbers and proportion of unoccupied private dwellings have increased across Australia over the last five years.

There were 830,000 unoccupied dwellings in 2006.

One would have thought that given the GFC and so on,  that many owners would have either sold or rented out these underutilised assets.  But that does not seem to be the case.

Where are these unoccupied properties?

The quick reply to these stats would be that most of these unoccupied dwellings are apartments in coastal markets like the Gold Coast and Cairns.

And whilst the proportion of unoccupied stock is higher in the regional coastal cities/towns – i.e. 13% on the Sunshine Coast; 11% on the Gold Coast and in Cairns, still 8% or close to 450,000 private dwellings in our eight capitals cities are not being used on a regular basis.

Overseas investors who would rather lock it up and not rent it out?  Maybe.  There are, for example, 142,000 unused private dwellings in Melbourne compared to 119,000 across Sydney.

Some of our regional centres – and more so than our coastal markets – have a high proportion of locked-up dwellings.

Eighteen per cent of Geelong’s private dwellings are unoccupied; one in eight of Ballart’s dwellings are also not used on a frequent basis as is the case for many dwellings in the regional towns across South Australia (average 22%); Western Australia (average 17%) and Tasmania (17%).  These are mostly family holiday accommodations – the second home or “batches” as they are called in New Zealand.

It seems a real waste if you ask me.

We discussed this topic years ago – in our Snapshot publication – that perhaps instead of a baby bonus, the government should have implemented a housing bonus, incentivising owners to fully utilise their housing assets.

Frankly, a stick would be better than a carrot, with much higher land tax being charged on those residential properties not under regular occupation.  We cannot keep on giving out money!

Let me complete this missive with some other related housing statistics.

  •  One quarter of the Australian population lives alone; a further 27% live in couple-only households and just a 40% of our households have children living at home.
  •  There are 2.63 people, on average, per household, which has increased from the 2006 Census results – the first increase since WWII, but it is down from 3.5 people per dwelling fifty years ago.
  •  There are now 3.1 bedrooms per dwelling, which continues to increase and is up by almost a whole bedroom since the late 1950s.  More telling is that today there are 2.35 million homes in Australia with four or more bedrooms, which is up from 2 million similarly sized private dwellings just five years ago.  Today, one in three Australian dwellings hold four or more bedrooms!
  •  Yet, three out of five (57%) of our lone person households live in detached housing, whilst four out of five (78%) of our couple-only households do.  Most of these single and couple households live in three or four bedroom properties.

Now there is nothing wrong with this.  Julia and I – we are both in out late 40s – are empty nesters this year again, and we live in a large detached house on acreage in Brisbane’s west.  I believe that if you can afford such space then it is your choice and why not enjoy it.

But the official statistics show – again – that we continue to overcapitalise in our housing stock in this country.   And so much for our chronic shortage of housing supply or that we are doing it tough when it comes to our housing market.

We have more housing than we can poke a stick at!


End notes

If you want to keep your comments private and confidential contact me directly on [email protected]

Or give us the goods from the front lines – let us know what’s happening out there via twitter –@michaelmatusik #propertypulse.  You’ll have about 110 words after these two handles to share your comment/property news.

You can listen to me on Kevin Turner’s Real Estate Talk and his real estate show between 8am and 9am most Saturday mornings on 4BC1116.

Michael Matusik is the director of independent property advisory Matusik Property Insights and writes the  Matusik Missive which is free, however, reprinting, republication or distribution of any portion of this material, or inclusion on any website, is strictly prohibited without the written permission of Matusik Property Insights and may incur a charge.



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Michael Matusik


Michael is director of independent property advisory Matusik Property Insights. He is independent, perceptive and to the point; has helped over 550 new residential developments come to fruition and writes his insightful Matusik Missive

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