Australia:9 million homes with 2.6 occupants – this is the Australian housing market


Housing affordability is a major concern for many Australians.

Negative gearing, foreign investment and immigration are just some of the factors identified as pushing house prices beyond the reach of younger people in particular.

That’s despite interest rates being at historically low levels, banks being willing to lend more than in the past, and a higher number of two-income households.

So, what are the facts about housing in Australia?

ABC Fact Check investigates.


There are approximately 9,000,000 dwellings in Australia. The 2011 Census found that 67 per cent of households own their home or are purchasing it through a mortgage – most of the rest are renters. That home ownership figure was 1.1 percentage points lower than the 2006 Census. Tasmania has the highest home-ownership rate at 70 per cent, and the Northern Territory the lowest at 46 per cent.


The proportion of home ownership has been fairly stable for more than fifty years, after rising from 53 per cent in 1947 to 63 per cent in 1954 and hitting 70 per cent in 1961.

  Photo: 67 per cent of households own their home. (Reuters: David Gray)


The level of home ownership increases with age: for those aged 15 to 24 only 22 per cent own or are buying a home, while 75 per cent rent. It’s pretty much 50-50 between 25 and 34, and by the age of 75 close to 85 per cent of people own their home outright, less than 3 per cent have a mortgage and less than 10 per cent are renting.


One way to assess housing prices over time is to compare them to income. In 1981-82 the median after tax household income was around $15,000 while the median dwelling price was $48,000. That works out as a price-to-income ratio of close to three, or in other words in 1981-82 it took a little over three years’ take-home pay to buy a house. Nationally that ratio has now passed six, or more than twice as much, and in places like Sydney it went above nine during the property boom of the early 2000s.


A measure of housing affordability is the per cent of income spent on housing. In March 2015, an average of 31.5 per cent of income was spent on home loan repayments, while renters paid an average of 24.8 per cent of their income.


While our homes are getting more expensive, they are also getting bigger. New homes in Australia are bigger on average than anywhere else in the world at 245 square metres for new freestanding homes and 215 square metres for new homes overall – up around ten per cent in a decade.


We have more spare rooms; in 1976 there were 3.1 people per household in Australia, that has since fallen to around 2.6, yet the average number of bedrooms per dwelling has risen in that time from 2.8 to 3.1.


Sydney has the hottest property market in Australia. In the year to December 2014 prices in Sydney shot up 12.2 per cent. The next largest increase was Brisbane’s 5.3 per cent, followed by Melbourne’s 4.5 per cent. All other capitals had growth of 2.5 per cent or less. The average price of residential dwellings across Australia was $571,500 at the end of 2014.

Homebuyers at an auction in Sydney Photo: An Auctioneer yells out bids in front of a crowd of potential buyers during an auction for a house in the Sydney suburb of Cammeray. (Reuters: David Gray)


While in dollar terms people with mortgages spend the most per week on housing at around $408, that represents only 18 per cent of their income. Renters spend an average of $275 but that’s a higher proportion of their income at 20 per cent.


Owners like free-standing homes. Of owner-occupied households, 88 per cent live in separate houses, compared with 57 per cent of renters.


Three-quarters of Australia’s almost $2 trillion in household debt is borrowing for housing. In 1990 housing represented only 47 per cent of household debt.


Less than 3 per cent of Australian households have investment loan debt, compared to around one third of households with home loan debt, and 12 per cent with debt over property other than their home.


Homeless person
Photo: A homeless person sleeping rough. There are over 100,000 homeless Australians. (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

More than 100,000 Australians are regarded as homeless.

On Census night 2011, 6,813 were sleeping out in tents or improvised dwellings, 17,721 homeless people were in boarding houses and a similar number, 17,369, were staying at someone else’s home temporarily.

Fifty-six per cent of homeless people are males; 44 per cent are females. Sixty per cent of homeless people are aged under 35, and one quarter are Indigenous Australians.



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