Falling house prices unlikely to increase home ownership: AHURI

Falling house prices unlikely to increase home ownership: AHURI
Falling house prices unlikely to increase home ownership: AHURI

Current seemingly high rates of home ownership in Australia are masking a long-term problem of serious housing inequality between older and younger generations and between wealthier and poorer households, new AHURI research reveals.

The research, ‘Australian home ownership: past reflections, future directions’, undertaken for AHURI by researchers from Swinburne University of Technology examines the growth of home ownership and its tenure dominance in Australia after the Second World War, together with its fading, most notably for younger households (ages 25–44) over the last four decades.

While Australia’s overall home ownership rate appears to have held up well—it was 68 per cent in 1976 and 67 per cent in 2016—the rate is projected to decline to around 63 per cent for all households by 2040, and to 51 per cent for households in the 25–55 age bracket, down from 60 per cent in 1981.

‘A housing system in which one half—predominantly older homeowners—acquires wealth and the other half—generally younger renters—doesn’t, is a recipe for long-term social problems’ says lead researcher Professor Terry Burke of the Swinburne University of Technology.

The research suggests that while no single policy failure, single political decision or single market or state failure has eroded the ability to achieve the ownership dream, the change has come from complex shifts throughout the entire institutional environment.

While weakening affordability has been an important factor in this erosion, other factors should not be neglected including an increase in casualised employment, a financial and tax environment favouring rental investors, the emergence of new housing products largely designed for rental living, the inability of housing supply to match population and household growth, and the financialisaton of housing.

‘Broadly, Australia now has an institutional environment which no longer supports ownership as it did in the past,’ says Professor Burke. ‘This means the housing system will become more inequitable irrespective of what incremental housing policy reforms are made. Given this, we have to rethink what sort of housing system is appropriate for Australia’s future.’

‘Either we embrace fundamental and broad-based reforms to rebuild ownership or we accept a retreat from its historical dominance, moving to a system which has more balance between rental and ownership—what we can call a dual tenure system.’

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