We’ve all heard about the difficulty of buying into the housing market in recent times and the subsequent decreases in home ownership rates (in NSW, from 68% in 2004 to 63% in 2014). With less people able to afford a home in the current market, there have been increases in the numbers of people looking to rent in New South Wales, and particularly Sydney.
We were delighted to be commissioned by Churches Housing and Shelter NSW to uncover the story of rental unaffordability in New South Wales. Through this research, we discovered that finding an available, affordable rental property is becoming increasingly difficult, particularly for those in the bottom 20% of income earners.
The decrease in the availability of rental properties over the last decade or so, has been influenced by a number of factors. Rental prices have increased due to the increased numbers of people looking to rent, and in past decades, rental prices have grown faster than income.
The infographic particularly highlights the difficulties for the bottom 40% of income earners in looking for appropriate rental properties. The term ‘rental stress’ is used to describe those in the bottom 40% who are spending over 30% of their income in housing costs. In 2013-14 NSW had the highest proportion of low income households experiencing rental stress, at 76% (compared to 68% nationally). For these households, rental stress can impact on other areas of life, including health care, schooling, diet and in the worst case can sometimes lead to homelessness.
Owning your own four bedroom house on a decent block of land with a big backyard and outdoor swimming pool used to be the quintessential 'Great Australian Dream'. But with rising property prices and increased living costs, that dream is being redefined.
what is the Average Australian Profile?
The average full time annual income in Australia is $80,000, which is bumped up a bit because of high income earners. Even though we are living longer now than a generation ago, the average retirement age is little changed, at 61.5 years.
The cost of housing is up with average rent prices per week at $485/week and the average house price (capital city) is $765,730. In Melbourne it is well above this and in Sydney it is around $1 million. This is where the challenge is for Australians: 40 years ago the average house price was around 5 time’s average earnings and now you can see it is almost 10 times the average annual fulltime earnings.
Other than affordability, what else are Aussies looking for?
Lifestyle is key. People are opting to live in higher density areas for the sake of convenience and location- within close proximity to transport, restaurants – the café culture as it has been called. Our Urban Living Index shows a strong correlation between the most urban/densified suburbs and those with the highest liability ratings.
Australians are opting for a lifestyle of Minimalism - we are 'decluttering' our lives and putting more value on the intangibles like travel. Generation Y aren’t opting for a big home with garages to store all their stuff but more of a focus on the easy-livability of apartment living. Indeed many baby boomers are downsizing from their larger homes in the suburbs to this style of living too.
Renting, as opposed to buying, what some of the benefits?
The ability to change locations easily is well regarded – the average Australian renter stays just 1.8 years per home. Our research shows that 1 in 3 renters are actually 'choice renters' and they choose to rent for lifestyle reasons, not primarily for affordability reasons. These choice renters are twice more likely to be living in medium and high density housing than the average Australian and they are almost 10 years younger than the average Australian. The ability to upsize and downsize easily and the flexibility to travel for extended periods of time is a driver for them. ‘Rentvesting’ is also becoming a ‘thing’. This is where people choose to rent in an area they like, but buy somewhere more affordable and use this as an investment
Generation Y are struggling to attain the Great Australian Dream – are they going to be ok?
There is a challenge emerging of "generational inequity" as shown by this infographic:
Gen Y’s have the least wealth of the working generations and their proportion of Australia’s wealth is less than half their demographic share, while the Baby Boomers who are a quarter of the population, own more than half of Australia’s wealth. (More information on this topic can be found here)
This is why Gen Y is reinventing the Aussie Dream and while they do still like the idea of owning something of their own, it is not just the big home with the back yard in the suburbs. But many in this generation will be absolutely fine thanks to the massive intergenerational wealth transfer set to happen in the next 20 years as those aged over 65 transfer much of their total wealth of $2.5 trillion.